Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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In this declaratory relief action, the trial court ruled the Orange County Department of Education (Employer) had to pay approximately $3.3 million in additional contributions to fund pension benefits promised to its employees. Employer argued the Court of Appeal should independently review the legal issues raised in its complaint because the judgment arose from an order granting a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Applying this standard, the Court nevertheless reached the same conclusion as the trial court: the requested payment from Employer, which related to an unfunded liability of its employees’ pension benefits, was permissible and did not violate the California constitution. View "Mijares v. Orange Co. Employees Retirement System" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jorge Fierro filed suit on behalf of himself and others like him against defendant Landry's Restaurants, Inc., seeking remedies for what Fierro alleged to be Landry's Restaurants's violations of specified California labor laws and wage orders. Landry's Restaurants demurred to the complaint on the basis that each of the causes of action was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. As to Fierro's individual claims, the trial court overruled the demurrer, concluding that the statute of limitations defense did not appear affirmatively on the face of the complaint. As to the class claims, the trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend on the basis that a prior class action with identical class claims against Landry's Restaurants had been dismissed for failure to bring the case to trial in five years as required by Code of Civil Procedure sections 583.310 and 583.360. Under the "death knell" doctrine, Fierro appealed that portion of the order sustaining without leave to amend the demurrer to the class claims. Previously, the Court of Appeal issued an opinion reversing the order on the basis that the applicable statutes of limitations on the class claims had been tolled. However, the California Supreme Court granted review and transferred the matter to the Court of Appeal with directions to vacate the opinion and to reconsider the cause in light of the United States Supreme Court's opinion in China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh, 138 S.Ct. 1800 (2018) an opinion issued following the filing of the appellate court's opinion but before issuance of the remittitur. After vacating its decision, the Court of Appeal requested and received supplemental briefing from the parties as to the potential application of China Agritech to the issues presented in this appeal. In determining whether the statutes of limitations barred Fierro's class claims, the Court of Appeal concluded there was no basis on which to apply equitable (or any other form of) tolling. Although that determination will result in at least some of the class's claims being time-barred, on the record, the Court could not say that all of the class's claims were untimely. Thus, the Court reversed the order sustaining Fierro's demurrer without leave to amend and remanded for further proceedings in which the trial court could decide, on a more developed record, issues related to class certification and/or timeliness of class claims. View "Fierro v. Landry's Restaurant, Inc." on Justia Law

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Former employees of Dark Horse filed suit alleging wage and hour claims on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated employees. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's denial of plaintiffs' motion for class certification. The court held that, in denying the motion for class certification, the trial court used improper criteria or erroneous legal assumptions, which affected its analysis of whether plaintiffs' claims and one of defendant’s defenses presented predominantly common issues, suitable for determination on a class basis. Accordingly, the court remanded to the trial court to reconsider and redetermine the motion for class certification. View "Jimenez-Sanchez v. Dark Horse Express, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff worked as an anesthesiologist at the hospital, beginning in 1991. In 2011, the California Department of Public Health conducted an unannounced “medication error reduction plan” survey at the hospital, found that Plaintiff was responsible for numerous deficiencies regarding the use of the drug droperidol and that the deficiencies “placed patients at risk for undue adverse medical consequences,” and declared that the hospital was in “immediate jeopardy.” The medical group that is responsible for providing the hospital with physicians agreed to remove Plaintiff from the anesthesia schedule pending further investigation. Plaintiff went through required remediation, returned to work, and continued to improperly use the drug. The practice group terminated his “staff privileges, membership, or employment” with the hospital “based on a medical disciplinary cause or reason” without giving prior notice and a hearing under Business and Professions Code section 809. The trial court awarded Plaintiff damages. The court of appeal affirmed. A hospital may not avoid its obligation to provide notice and a hearing before terminating a doctor’s ability to practice in the hospital for jeopardizing the quality of patient care, by directing the medical group employing the doctor to refuse to assign the doctor to the hospital View "Economy v. Sutter East Bay Hospitals" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit challenging the on-call scheduling practices of her former employer, Tilly's, as violating wage order No. 7-2001, which regulates the wages, hours, and working conditions in the mercantile industry. The Court of Appeal held that the on-call scheduling alleged in this case triggered Wage Order 7's reporting time pay requirements. The court found that on-call shifts burdened employees, who cannot take other jobs, go to school, or make social plans during on-call shifts—but who nonetheless received no compensation from Tilly's unless they ultimately are called in to work. The court noted that this was precisely the kind of abuse that reporting time pay was designed to discourage. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's judgment of dismissal and remanded for further proceedings. View "Ward v. Tilly's, Inc." on Justia Law

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After EDI assigned plaintiffs to pack produce for San Miguel Produce, plaintiffs filed suit against San Miguel for labor law violations. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's denial of EDI and San Miguel's joint motion to compel arbitration, holding that the arbitration was mandated. The court held that EDI and San Miguel were co-employers with an identity of interests and mutual responsibility for complying with state law governing employers in the produce packing industry, and it was inconsequential that plaintiffs chose not to name EDI as a defendant. In this case, plaintiffs had agreed to arbitrate all disputes arising from their employment and, at all relevant times, EDI was plaintiffs' employer. The court remanded with directions to stay the court proceedings and to order the parties to arbitrate their dispute. View "Vasquez v. San Miguel Produce, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that she was terminated in retaliation for having brought to the attention of Defendant’s management and the Board of Equalization defendant’s failure to pay use taxes (Labor Code section 1102.5). Proceeding as if the case turned on whether Plaintiff correctly accused Defendant of failing to pay use taxes, Plaintiff pursued and Defendant resisted efforts to obtain copies of Defendant’s tax returns. The court of appeal held that Defendant had not “waived the privilege against forced disclosure of tax returns” and that no exception to that privilege applied. In moving for summary judgment Defendant did not address Plaintiff’s allegation that she was terminated in retaliation for raising the tax-avoidance issue, nor did it seek to establish an affirmative defense to the claim. The motion was granted on the theory that Plaintiff could not prove her case without the tax returns. The court of appeal reversed. Defendant made no attempt to demonstrate that the reason Plaintiff was discharged was not the reason she alleges, nor has it argued that discharge for that reason would not violate section 1102.5(b) or fundamental public policy. Firing a “whistleblower” for complaining of the employer’s willful failure to pay taxes that are due would support a right to relief under both of Plaintiff’s causes of action. View "Siri v. Sutter Home Winery, Inc." on Justia Law

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Frederick Theodore Rall III, a political cartoonist and blogger, filed suit against the Los Angeles Times after it published a "note to readers" and a later more detailed report questioning the accuracy of a blog post plaintiff wrote for The Times. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of defendants' anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) motions to strike the complaint. The court held that The Times' articles were published in a public forum and concerned issues of public interest, and thus the written statements were protected free speech activity. Furthermore, the articles were absolutely privileged under Civil Code section 47, subdivision (d), because they were a fair and true report of an LAPD investigation that was central to the substance of the articles. Therefore, plaintiff failed to produce evidence demonstrating a probability of prevailing on his defamation claims. In regard to plaintiff's wrongful termination claims, the court held that plaintiff's employment claims arose directly from The Times's protected First Amendment conduct: deciding not to publish plaintiff's work. Therefore, plaintiff failed to establish a probability of prevailing on the merits of his employment claims. View "Rall v. Tribune 365 LLC" on Justia Law

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Southwestern Community College District (District) and its governing board (Board) (together Southwestern) demoted Arlie Ricasa from an academic administrator position to a faculty position on the grounds of moral turpitude, immoral conduct, and unfitness to serve in her then-current role. While employed by Southwestern as the director of Student Development and Health Services (DSD), Ricasa also served as an elected board member of a separate entity, the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD). The largest number of incoming District students were from SUHSD, and the community viewed the school districts as having significant ties. As a SUHSD board member, Ricasa voted on million-dollar vendor contracts to construction companies, such as Seville Group, Inc. (SGI) and Gilbane Construction Company, who ultimately co-managed a bond project for the SUHSD. Before and after SGI received this contract, Ricasa went to dinners with SGI members that she did not disclose on her Form 700. Ricasa's daughter also received a scholarship from SGI to attend a student leadership conference that Ricasa did not report on her "Form 700." In December 2013, Ricasa pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of violating the Political Reform Act, which prohibited board members of local agencies from receiving gifts from a single source in excess of $420. Ricasa filed two petitions for writs of administrative mandamus in the trial court seeking, among other things, to set aside the demotion and reinstate her as an academic administrator. Ricasa appealed the denial of her petitions, arguing the demotion occurred in violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act (the Brown Act) because Southwestern failed to provide her with 24 hours' notice of the hearing at which it heard charges against her, as required by Government Code section 54957. Alternatively, she argued the demotion was unconstitutional because no nexus existed between her alleged misconduct and her fitness to serve as academic administrator. Southwestern also appealed, arguing that the trial court made two legal errors when it: (1) held that Southwestern was required to give 24-hour notice under the Brown Act prior to conducting a closed session at which it voted to initiate disciplinary proceedings, and (2) enjoined Southwestern from committing future Brown Act violations. The Court of Appeal concluded Southwestern did not violate the Brown Act, and that substantial evidence supported Ricasa's demotion. However, the Court reversed that part of the judgment enjoining Southwestern from future Brown Act violations. View "Ricasa v. Office of Admin. Hearings" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued defendant Tender Heart Home Care for failure to pay overtime wages under the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights (Labor Code 1450, DWBR), which requires that domestic work employees receive overtime wages for all hours worked more than nine hours per day or 45 hours per week. The trial court granted Tender Heart summary adjudication on the DWBR cause of action, finding the undisputed facts demonstrated Plaintiff was an independent contractor rather than an employee of Tender Heart for purposes of the DWBR. The court of appeal reversed. The DWBR contains two alternative definitions of employment: (1) when the hiring entity exercises control over the wages, hours, or working conditions of a domestic worker; or (2) when a common law employment relationship has been formed. The trial court erred in exclusively applying the “common law” test to determine the issue. Under the appropriate tests, there is a dispute of fact as to whether Plaintiff was Tender Heart’s employee. The court rejected Tender Heart’s argument that the undisputed facts establish it is a non-employer employment agency. View "Duffey v. Tender Heart Home Care Agency" on Justia Law