Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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The superior court challenged the Board's decision that certain court personnel rules and regulations violated the Trial Court Employment Protection and Governance Act, and therefore constituted unfair practices. The Court of Appeal affirmed the Board's decision invalidating the rule prohibiting the distribution of literature during nonworking time in working areas, because the rule was ambiguous. Furthermore, the invalidation of the ambiguous rule did not violate the separation of powers doctrine. The court otherwise set aside the Board's remaining conclusions where the remaining workplace rules were consistent with the state of the law. The court held that a trial court's interest in appearing impartial constitutes special circumstances justifying restrictions on clothing and adornments worn by court employees. The court also held that the solicitation during working hours rule was not ambiguous; and the restriction on displaying writings and images was appropriate. View "Fresno Superior Court v. PERB" on Justia Law

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Moustafa applied for a license to be a registered nurse and disclosed she had been convicted of four misdemeanors that were subsequently dismissed under Penal Code section 1203.4. The Board of Registered Nursing her a probationary license as a result of three of those convictions—two for petty theft and one for vandalism--and the conduct underlying the convictions. Moustafa opposed the restriction. The trial court, relying on Business and Professions Code section 480(c), which bars a licensing board from denying a license “solely on the basis of a conviction that has been dismissed pursuant to Section 1203.4,” ruled in favor of Moustafa. The court of appeal reversed, reasoning that until July 2020, when legislation amending section 480 takes effect, the Board may deny or restrict a license based on the conduct underlying a dismissed conviction, but only when the conduct independently qualifies as a basis for denying a license. Conduct does not necessarily so qualify merely because it involves some act of theft, dishonesty, fraud, or deceit. Conduct qualifies only if it substantially relates to the applicant’s fitness to practice nursing. Applying this standard, the Board could restrict Moustafa’s license based on the conduct underlying the petty thefts, but not on the conduct underlying the vandalism. View "Moustafa v. Board of Registered Nursing" on Justia Law

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Lindh, a law enforcement officer, took blows to the head during training. He subsequently had severe headaches lasting between several hours and two days. A month later, Lindh suddenly lost most of the vision in his left eye. Two treating physicians did not believe the vision loss was related to the blows. Dr. Kaye, a neuro-ophthalmologist, the Qualified Medical Examiner (QME), agreed with the other physicians, that Lindh’s “blood circulation to his left eye was defective,” absent the injury,” Lindh likely would have retained a lot of his vision. He agreed that even had Lindh not suffered the blows, he could have lost his vision due to this underlying condition; it was “unlikely” Lindh would have suffered a vision loss if he had not had the underlying “vascular spasticity,” a rare condition. His professional opinion was that: 85% of the permanent disability was due to his old condition and 15% was due to the work injury. The ALJ rejected that analysis and found Lindh had 40 percent permanent disability without apportionment between his underlying condition and the work-related injury. The Board affirmed, concluding that the preexisting conditions were mere risk factors for an injury entirely caused by industrial factors; the QME had “confused causation of injury with causation of disability.” The court of appeal ordered an apportioned award. Dr. Kaye’s opinion was consistent with the other physicians' opinions, that it was unlikely the trauma caused the loss of vision. Whether an asymptomatic preexisting condition that contributed to the disability would, alone, have inevitably resulted in disability, is immaterial. View "City of Petaluma v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board" on Justia Law

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The trial court granted a motion for summary judgment brought by defendant AMN Services, LLC (AMN), and denied motions for summary adjudication of one cause of action and one affirmative defense brought by plaintiff Kennedy Donohue, individually and on behalf of five certified plaintiff classes she represented (together Plaintiffs). AMN, a healthcare services and staffing company, recruits nurses for temporary contract assignments. AMN employed Donohue as a nurse recruiter in its San Diego office between September 2012 and February 2014. During the first few weeks of Donohue's employment in September 2012, for any noncompliant meal period, Team Time, AMN's timekeeping system, assumed a Labor Code violation, and the recruiter automatically received the full statutory meal period penalty payment. At all relevant times after mid-September 2012, if a recruiter's meal period was missed, shortened, or delayed, Team Time automatically provided a drop-down menu that required the recruiter's response: if the recruiter indicated that she chose not to take a timely 30-minute meal period, AMN did not pay a meal period penalty; however, if the recruiter indicated that she was not provided the opportunity to take a timely 30-minute meal period, then AMN paid the full statutory meal period penalty. The operative second amended complaint, filed on behalf of Donohue individually and a class of similarly situated AMN employees and former employees, alleged: (1) failure to provide meal and rest periods; (2) failure to pay overtime and minimum wage; (3) improper wage statements; (4) unreimbursed business expenses; (5) waiting time penalties; (6) unfair business practices; and (7) civil penalties authorized by the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA). In her appeal, Donohue challenged the grant of AMN's motion for summary judgment and the denial of her motion for summary adjudication of one of the causes of action. On appeal, Donohue also challenged what she characterized as the trial court's "fail[ure] to hear a proper motion for reconsideration" of the summary judgment and summary adjudication rulings. After review, the Court of Appeal found it lacked jurisdiction to hear the rejection of Donohue's motion for reconsideration; the Court found no issues of material facts and affirmed summary judgment in favor of AMN. View "Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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Wilmot commenced employment with the Fire Protection District in 1985. He was a member of the retirement program, administered by the Contra Costa County Employees’ Retirement Association (CCERA). In 2012, Wilmot decided to retire. His final day on the job was December 12; he applied for a service retirement” to CCERA the following day. On January 1, 2013, the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act took effect, mandating the complete or partial forfeiture of pension benefits/payments if a public employee is convicted of “any felony under state or federal law for conduct arising out of or in the performance of his or her official duties.” (Gov. Code 7522.72(b)(1).) In February 2013, Wilmot was indicted. In April 2013, the CCERA approved his retirement application, fixing Wilmot’s actual retirement as December 13, 2012. Wilmot began receiving pension checks. In December 2015, pled guilty to embezzling county funds for 12 years, ending in December 2012. CCERA reduced Wilmot’s monthly check in accordance with the forfeiture provision. The court of appeal held that the forfeiture provision applies to Wilmot and declined to address whether it would amount to an unconstitutional impairment of his employment contract or an ex post facto law for someone in a different situation. Finishing the last day of work does not automatically make a public employee a “retired” former employee. View "Wilmot v. Contra Costa County Employees' Retirement Association" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued a staffing company that provided employees for public recycling facilities under contracts with Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, in a class action under the Labor Code. The trial court found that the prevailing wage law did not apply and the Labor Code section 226.7 remedy was the exclusive remedy for shortened meal periods, an additional hour of pay at their regular rate. The court of appeal reversed. The prevailing wage law applies; plaintiffs were engaged in “public work” within the meaning of the Labor Code. The amount of back pay to which plaintiffs are entitled for that violation, and whether plaintiffs are entitled to additional damages arising from the breach, are matters for the trial court on remand. The remedy for improper shortening of meal periods consists of one additional hour of pay for every shortened meal period under section 226.7 plus payment of wages for actual time worked during the shortened meal period. Plaintiffs are not entitled to be compensated for the time during which they were free from employer control. Because plaintiffs were entitled to wages for actual time they were required to work during their meal periods, defendants may be subject to “waiting time penalties” that apply when an employer willfully fails to pay any wages of an employee who is discharged or quits (section 203(a)). Defendants are also subject to civil penalties (section 1197.1) for payment of wages less than the legal minimum. View "Kaanaana v. Barrett Business Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were class representatives of current and former employees of defendant Pacific Bell Telephone Company who installed and repaired video and internet services in customers’ homes. They appealed a judgment in favor of defendant following cross-motions for summary judgment or summary judgment. Plaintiffs sought compensation for the time they spent traveling in an employer-provided vehicle--loaded with equipment and tools--between their homes and a customer’s residence (the worksite) under an optional and voluntary Home Dispatch Program. The trial court, like federal courts that have considered the question under California law, concluded the travel time was not compensable. The Court of Appeal agree and affirmed, finding: (1) the Home Dispatch Program was not compulsory; and (2) simply transporting tools and equipment during commute time was not compensable work where no effort or extra time is required to effectuate the transport. View "Hernandez v. Pacific Bell Telephone Co." on Justia Law

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In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal noted that effective January 1, 2019, Code of Civil Procedure section 998 will have no application to costs and attorney and expert witness fees in a Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) action unless the lawsuit is found to be "frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless when brought, or the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so." In regard to the litigation that predated the application of the amended version of Government Code section 12965(b), the court held that section 998 does not apply to nonfrivolous FEHA actions and reversed the order awarding defendant costs and expert witness fees pursuant to that statute. View "Huerta v. Kava Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Edward Manavian held a career executive assignment (CEA) position as chief of the Criminal Intelligence Bureau (Bureau), part of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Assignment by appointment to such a position does not confer any rights or status in the position other than provided in Article 9 . . . of [Government Code] Chapter 2.5 of Part 2.6.” The rights conferred by article 9 are the rights of all civil service employees relating to punitive actions, except that the termination of a CEA is not a punitive action. CEA positions are part of the general civil service system, but an employee enjoys no tenure. Manavian’s job description was to cooperate with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to prevent terrorism and related criminal activity. However, Manavian’s relationships with state and federal decisionmakers were not good. The director and deputy director of the state Office of Homeland Security refused to work with Manavian. Richard Oules, Manavian’s superior, decided to terminate Manavian’s CEA position because of his dysfunctional relationship with federal and state representatives, and because of Manavian’s hostility toward Oules. Manavian sued, his complaint contained a long list of grievances. Manavian also claims that certain actions he took in liaising with other state and federal homeland security representatives, then reporting potentially illegal policy proposals, were protected by the California whistleblower statutes. The Court of Appeal concluded that the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act (POBRA) protections were not triggered by the termination of Manavian’s CEA position, and that he was not protected as a whistleblower. View "Manavian v. Dept. of Justice" on Justia Law

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Ramos, an experienced litigator and patent practitioner with a doctorate in biophysics, was hired as a Winston law firm “Income Partner.” After allegedly being denied recognition for her work, excluded from opportunities for career advancement, evaluated based on the success of her male colleagues, and denied compensation and bonuses to which she was entitled, Ramos sued, asserting discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, and anti-fair-pay practices. Winston moved to compel arbitration under the partnership agreement Ramos signed after joining the firm. Ramos argued she was an “employee,” not a partner, so that precedent (Armendariz) applied and that the arbitration provision failed to meet Armendariz's minimum requirements arbitration of unwaivable statutory claims. The trial court found that Ramos was “in a partnership relationship” for purposes of the motion, severed provisions related to venue and cost-sharing, and granted Winston’s motion. The court of appeal reversed. Under the Armendariz analysis, the agreement is unconscionable and the taint of illegality cannot be removed by severing the unlawful provisions without altering the nature of the parties’ agreement. Provisions requiring Ramos to pay half the costs of arbitration, pay her own attorney fees, restricting the ability of the arbitrators to “override” or “substitute its judgment” for that of the partnership, and the confidentiality clause, are unconscionable and significantly inhibit Ramos’s ability to pursue her unwaivable statutory claims. View "Ramos v. Superior Court" on Justia Law