Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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ABM, a facility services company with employees throughout the U.S., has thousands of janitorial workers at hundreds of California job sites. Plaintiffs, present or former ABM employees, on behalf of themselves and similarly situated Californians, filed suit in 2007, alleging that ABM violated California labor laws by failing to properly record and compensate employees for meal breaks; requiring employees to work split shifts without appropriate compensation; and failing to ensure that employees were reimbursed for expenses incurred when traveling between work sites. In 2010, plaintiffs moved for class certification of a general class of ABM workers and subclasses of such workers who had been subjected to particular violations. The court found plaintiffs’ expert evidence inadmissible, denied the class certification motion, and denied plaintiffs’ motion under Code of Civil Procedure 473(b), to supplement the evidence concerning the expert's qualifications. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that materials submitted before the class certification hearing were sufficient to qualify plaintiffs’ expert in database management and analysis; it was error for the court to completely disregard plaintiffs’ proffered expert evidence of common practice, rather than accepting it for what it was and weighing it against any individualized inquiries that might properly have defeated plaintiffs’ request for class certification. The proposed classes were ascertainable and plaintiffs’ allegations presented predominantly common questions. View "ABM Industries Overtime Cases" on Justia Law

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Governor Brown—faced with a statewide crisis involving the significant underfunding of public pension systems—signed into law the Public Employee Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA) in an attempt to curb what were seen as pervasive abuses in public pension systems, including those governed by the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937 (CERL), Gov. Code 31450. Public employees and public employee organizations in Alameda, Contra Costa, and Merced Counties challenged the constitutionality of PEPRA as applied to certain CERL plan members who were hired before PEPRA’s effective date (legacy members). The court of appeal rejected an argument that the pension boards possess the ability to include additional pay items in compensation earnable, unmoored by the language of CERL, then remanded for determinations of the reasonableness of PEPRA’s detrimental changes when applied to the vested rights of legacy members. The court examined statutory amendments with respect to in-service leave cash-outs; express exclusion of so-called terminal pay from compensation earnable; express exclusion or payments for additional services rendered outside of normal working hours, whether paid in a lump sum or otherwise, from compensation earnable; and exclusion from compensation earnable “[a]ny compensation determined by the board to have been paid to enhance a member’s retirement benefit.” View "Alameda County Deputy Sheriff's Association. v. Alameda County Employees Retirement Association" on Justia Law

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A Public Records Act request in this case was made on behalf of Fowler Packing Company, Inc. (Fowler) and Gerawan Farming, Inc. (Gerawan) in response to the 2015 enactment of Assembly Bill 1513 (AB 1513) codified in Labor Code section 226.2 (Stats. 2015, ch. 754, § 5 (2015 - 2016 Reg. Sess.) eff. Jan. 1, 2016). AB 1513 addressed the issue of minimum wages for employees paid on a piece-rate basis (i.e., paid per task) and included safeharbor provisions that provide employers with an affirmative defense against wage and hour claims based on piece-work compensation so long as back pay is timely made. The safe-harbor provisions contained carveouts that placed the safe-harbor provisions out of reach for several California companies including Fowler and Gerawan. The Public Records Act request at the heart of this case sought in pertinent part: “Any and all public records referring or relating to communications between the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency, its officers, and its staff and the United Farm Workers of America regarding AB 1513;” “Any and all public records referring or relating to the statutory carve out for any ‘claim asserted in a court pleading filed prior to March 1, 2014,’ as codified in AB 1513 section 226.2(g)(2)(A);” and, “Any and all public records referring or relating to AB 1513” and Fowler and Gerawan. The trial court ordered the Agency to produce “an index identifying the author, recipient (if any), general subject matter of the document, and the nature of the exemption claimed” to justify withholding information in response to a request for documents under the Public Records Act. The Agency petitioned for writ relief to the Court of Appeal to prevent disclosure of the identities of the parties with whom the Agency communicated confidentially in formulating AB 1513, the substance of these communications, and communications with the Office of Legislative Counsel (Legislative Counsel) during the drafting process. The Court of Appeal granted a stay and issued an alternative writ to allow consideration. Based on the California Supreme Court’s guidance in Times Mirror Co. v. Superior Court (1991) 53 Cal.3d 1325, the Court concluded the trial court’s order erred in requiring disclosure of matters protected by the deliberative process and attorney work product privileges. Accordingly, the trial court was directed to vacate its order directing the Agency to produce an index disclosing the author, recipient, and general subject matter of documents generated relating to the process of drafting AB 1513. View "Labor & Workforce Development Agency v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant, J. Brent Arave, brought several claims under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) against his former employers, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. (Merrill Lynch), Bank of America (BoA), his supervisor Joseph Holsinger, and a human resources supervisor, Katherine Anderson (collectively, defendants). He sought to recover damages caused by discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also sought damages for nonpayment of wages, and whistleblower retaliation. A jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants on all counts that had survived summary judgment and dismissal. The trial court denied Arave’s post-trial motions and awarded defendants, as prevailing parties, costs, expert witness fees, and attorney fees incurred defending against Arave’s wage claim. Arave appealed, alleging numerous alleged evidentiary errors, issues with the trial court’s jury instructions, counsel misconduct, and related claims that he maintained, warranted reversal of the outcome against him. Defendants cross-appealed, contending the trial court abused its discretion when it determined Arave’s FEHA claims were not frivolous and denied them attorney fees on those claims. After careful consideration, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court in all respects but two. The Court concluded the trial court erred by awarding $83,642.68 in costs and expert witness fees though it found Arave’s FEHA claims were nonfrivolous, and therefore reversed the order making the award. However, because a portion of the award could be attributable to Arave’s wage claim, and the trial court erred by awarding $97,500 in attorney fees on the wage claim without determining whether that claim was frivolous, the matter was remanded for the trial court to make those apportionments, as appropriate. View "Arave v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, etc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal held that plaintiff's dismissal of his individual Labor Code claims with prejudice foreclosed his standing under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA). In this case, plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, Reins, alleging individual and class claims for wage and hour violations. While arbitration was pending, plaintiff settled his individual claims and dismissed those claims with prejudice. The court explained that plaintiff, by accepting the settlement and dismissing his individual claims against Reins with prejudice, essentially acknowledged that he no longer maintained any viable Labor Code-based claims against Reins. Therefore, plaintiff no longer met the definition of "aggrieved employee" under PAGA. View "Kim v. Reins International California, Inc." on Justia Law

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Cornell, a severely obese woman, was fired from the Berkeley Tennis Club after having worked there for over 15 years. She sued the Club under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA; Gov. Code 12900), for disability discrimination and failure to accommodate her disability, disability harassment, and retaliation; wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, based on her three FEHA claims; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and defamation. The trial court granted the Club summary adjudication of all claims. The court of appeal reversed in part. The Club had the initial burden to produce evidence that Cornell could not establish at least one element of each claim and failed to sustain this burden on the claims requiring Cornell to show that her obesity has a physiological cause. The court properly granted summary adjudication of the FEHA claims alleging that the Club failed to accommodate Cornell’s disability and retaliated against her; the claims alleging that the Club terminated her in violation of public policy based on the FEHA harassment and retaliation claims; and the claim alleging that the Club intentionally inflicted emotional distress on Cornell. View "Cornell v. Berkeley Tennis Club" on Justia Law

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The trial court granted appellant ZB, N.A.'s (ZB) motion to arbitrate respondent Kalethia Lawson's wage and hour claim, which was brought under the provisions of the Private Attorneys General Act (the PAGA), Labor Code section 2698 et seq. The fact Lawson's PAGA claim, of necessity, included not only Labor Code violations committed with respect to her employment, but violations with respect to other employees, and that the arbitration ordered by the trial court included those violations, did not alter the fact the trial court ordered that Lawson's claim be arbitrated. The Court of Appeal held that an order granting a motion to arbitrate is not appealable, and it had no appellate jurisdiction over the trial court's order compelling arbitration. View "Lawson v. ZB, N.A." on Justia Law

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The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) appealed a decision granting the Yuba City Unified School District’s (District) petition for writ of mandate and setting aside CalSTRS’s decision to collect overpayments mistakenly made to some of the District’s retirees. The superior court held that the three-year statute of limitations set forth in Education Code section 22008(c) barred collection of the overpayments because a 2005 letter CalSTRS sent one of the retirees demonstrated actual notice of the payment issues. The Court of Appeal disagreed: the letter did not reflect actual notice of the specific payment issues raised in this proceeding. The Court concluded inquiry notice would have been sufficient to start the limitation period contained in section 22008(c). Whether CalSTRS had inquiry notice in this case is a question of fact that was not addressed at the administrative level or by the superior court. As such, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Yuba City Unified School Dist. v. Cal. State Teachers' Ret. System CA/3" on Justia Law

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Appellants-defendants San Diego County Office of Education (Office) and Randolph Ward appealed a judgment in favor of plaintiff-respondent Rodger Hartnett that reinstated his employment and awarded him $306,954.99 in back pay, benefits, and prejudgment interest. Defendants contended: (1) collateral estoppel precluded the trial court from granting Hartnett's requested relief; (2) the court misinterpreted Education Code section 45306 in its decision; and (3) the court improperly determined the amount of Hartnett's back pay without remanding that issue to the Office's personnel commission (the commission), for the commission to make factual findings on the issue. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court's sole ground for granting Hartnett's petition, that the commission did not proceed in a manner required by law because it did not conduct an investigation, was not supported by section 45306. Office and Ward were entitled to judgment in their favor. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded for the trial court to enter judgment in defendants’ favor. View "Hartnett v. San Diego County Office of Education" on Justia Law

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Respondent Denise Duncan sued Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Wal-Mart) for personal injuries she sustained at one of Wal-Mart’s stores while acting within the course and scope of her employment with Acosta, Inc. (Acosta). The trial court entered judgment finding Wal-Mart liable for Duncan’s injuries. Under Labor Code sections 3852 and 3856, appellant Hartford Accident & Indemnity Company (Hartford) applied for a lien on Duncan’s judgment to obtain reimbursement for the workers’ compensation benefits it paid Duncan, including medical expenses and temporary disability payments for lost wages. Although the judgment included compensation for Duncan’s medical expenses, it did not include compensation for Duncan’s lost wages because she did not seek those damages at trial. The court granted Hartford a lien on Duncan’s judgment, but reduced the lien amount to exclude the indemnity payments for lost wages. Hartford appealed the trial court’s postjudgment order, arguing the court exceeded its authority by reducing the lien amount for any item other than reasonable attorney fees and costs. The Court of Appeal agreed because section 3856’s plain language and the case law applying it granted Hartford a first lien on the judgment in the amount it paid Duncan for worker’s compensation benefits. Duncan’s choice not to seek lost wages at trial did not diminish Hartford’s lien rights under the workers’ compensation statutory scheme. View "Duncan v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law