Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
by
Non-California residents and former crew members of a vessel filed suit alleging violations of California state wage and hour laws against their employers and the owners of the vessel (petitioners). The trial court denied petitioners' motion for summary judgment on the theories that Louisiana rather than California law governed the employment relationships at issue, and that either the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or the dormant commerce clause preempted California law with respect to these employees. The Court of Appeal granted petitioners' writ of mandate, holding that the trial court erred because Louisiana law, rather than California law, was applicable in this case. The court held that Louisiana's interest in the application of its laws was stronger than California's interest. Among other things, the employment relationships were formed in Louisiana, between Louisiana-based employers and non-resident employees who traveled to that state to apply for, and accept employment. Furthermore, they received training and orientation in Louisiana and the administrative aspects of their employment were performed in that state. View "Gulf Offshore Logistics, LLC v. Superior Court of Ventura County" on Justia Law

by
Temporary staffing agency FlexCare, LLC assigned Lynn Grande to work as a nurse at Eisenhower Medical Center (Eisenhower). According to Grande, during her employment at Eisenhower, FlexCare and Eisenhower failed to ensure she received her required meal and rest breaks, wages for certain periods she worked, and overtime wages. Grande was a named plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against FlexCare brought on behalf of FlexCare employees assigned to hospitals throughout California. Her own claims were based solely on her work on assignment at Eisenhower. FlexCare settled with the class, including Grande, and Grande received $162.13 for her injuries, plus a class representative incentive bonus of $20,000. Grande executed a release of claims, and the trial court entered a judgment incorporating the settlement agreement. About a year later, Grande brought a second class action alleging the same labor law violations, this time against Eisenhower, who was not a party to the previous lawsuit. FlexCare intervened in the action asserting Grande could not bring the separate lawsuit against Eisenhower because she had settled her claims against them in the prior class action. The trial court held a trial narrowed to questions as to the propriety of the lawsuit, and ruled Eisenhower was not a released party under the settlement agreement and could not avail itself of the doctrine of res judicata because the hospital was neither a party to the prior litigation nor in privity with FlexCare. Eisenhower petitioned for a petition for a writ of mandate and FlexCare appealed the trial court’s interlocutory order. The Court of appeal concurred with the trial court on grounds that Eisenhower and FlexCare were not in privity, preventing Eisenhower from blocking Grande’s claims under the doctrine of res judicata, and Eisenhower was not a released party under the settlement agreement. Therefore the appellate court denied mandamus relief. View "Grande v. Eisenhower Medical Center" on Justia Law

by
Sun Pacific appealed the trial court's judgment after a jury awarded damages against it for injuries sustained by an employee of one of its independent contractors. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court prejudicially erred because it did not instruct the jury on the Privette/Hooker doctrine as it applies to either negligence or premises liability. In this case, the trial court instructed the jury that Sun Pacific was liable if its failure to use reasonable care was a substantial factor in harming the employee, but did not say that that principle only applied to the hirer of an independent contractor if its negligent exercise of retained control over safety conditions affirmatively contributed to the harm. Furthermore, the trial court told the jury that Sun Pacific was liable if its negligent use or maintenance of the property was a substantial factor in harming the employee, but did not say that these principles would only apply to Sun Pacific if the hazard were concealed. Therefore, the court held that each instruction was an incorrect statement of law and Sun Pacific has not forfeited its contention. The court also held that the trial court's error was prejudicial. The court held that Sun Pacific was entitled to a mitigation of damages of instruction; the court reversed and remanded for a new trial on the negligence cause of action; and the court directed the trial court to enter judgment in favor of Sun Pacific on the premises liability cause of action. View "Alaniz v. Sun Pacific Shippers, L.P." on Justia Law

by
Brome started with the California Highway Patrol in 1996; he transferred offices twice. Other officers subjected Brome, who was openly gay, to derogatory comments; singled him out for pranks; and refused to provide him with backup assistance. Brome filed administrative complaints, including with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The incidents continued. Brome won the Solano Area Officer of the Year Award in 2013, but the Patrol never displayed his photograph, in a break from office practice. Through 2014, Brome complained to his superiors. The problems continued and Brome feared for his life during enforcement stops, experienced headaches, muscle pain, stomach issues, anxiety, and stress, and became suicidal. Brome went on medical leave and filed a successful workers’ compensation claim. He took industrial disability retirement. The court dismissed his claims under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (Gov. Code 12900), as untimely, rejecting Brome’s claim that he was constructively discharged. The court of appeal reversed. The filing of the workers’ compensation claim could equitably toll the one-year deadline for filing his discrimination claim; equitable tolling would not prejudice the Patrol. After years of harassment, Brome was struggling to recover; although 11 months elapsed, Brome can meet the good faith requirement. While it is not the only possible conclusion, there is enough evidence for a reasonable trier of fact to conclude that the Patrol knowingly permitted the conditions and should have known that a reasonable employee would resign. View "Brome v. California Highway Patrol" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed the superior court's denial of administrative mandamus relief in an action stemming from the Appeals Board's decision finding that the company violated various state regulations. The court held that the superior court properly applied the substantial evidence standard of review. The court also held that, based on an examination of the administrative record, substantial evidence supported the Appeals Board's findings that the company freely and voluntarily consented to the inspection; Cal/OSHA's failure to preserve the original inspection file did not deprive the company of due process; and the violations underlying the four contested citations were properly classified. View "Nolte Sheet Metal v. Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed the district court's judgment denying a petition for writ of mandate pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure sections 1085 and 1094.5. Plaintiff alleged that the Department improperly extended his probation; he became a permanent employee 12 months after his hire date; and as a permanent employee, he was entitled to a hearing before discharge. The court held that there was no prohibition against the Department acting unilaterally so long as the other requirements of rule 12.02(B) of the Los Angeles County Civil Service Rules were met; rule 12.02 expressly permits the Department to exclude from the calculation of the probationary period, those times when an employee is absent from duty, and makes no reference as to whether that absence is paid or unpaid; the court interpreted the term "absent from duty" to mean that an employee is missing from his or her obligatory tasks, conduct, service, or functions, arising from his or her position, here, the position of deputy sheriff; and plaintiff failed to articulate what, if any, duties he was required to perform during the period he was on Relieved of Duty status. View "Amezcua v. L.A. County Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Carla St. Myers worked as a nurse practitioner at a rural clinic that was part of a medical center owned and operated by defendant Dignity Health. During the three years she worked there, she submitted over 50 complaints about working conditions and was also the subject of several investigations based on anonymous complaints. All the investigations concluded the complaints against St. Myers were unsubstantiated and no action was taken against her. She found another job and resigned. But claiming her resignation was a constructive termination due to intolerable working conditions, St. Myers sued Dignity Health and Optum360 Services, Inc., setting forth three causes of action for retaliation under various statutory provisions and constructive discharge in violation of public policy. The complaint sought both general and punitive damages. The trial court granted the separate motions of Dignity Health and Optum360 for summary judgment and St. Myers appealed those judgments. As to Optum360, the Court of Appeal found St. Myers failed to establish a triable issue of material fact that Optum360 was her employer, a prerequisite under the pleadings for all her claims. As to Dignity Health, the Court found St. Myers failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to any adverse employment action. Accordingly, the Court affirmed summary judgment. View "St. Myers v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

by
An employee of the city struck and killed a pedestrian while the employee, driving his own car, was driving to work. On the day of the accident, the employee was driving to his workplace at the Hyperion Treatment Plant, a job that did not require him to be in the field or use his personal automobile for his employment. The city moved for summary judgment, arguing that the coming and going rule insulated it from liability. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to the city, holding that plaintiffs failed to adduce sufficient facts upon which they could establish a triable issue of fact on their claim that the employee's accident was a foreseeable event arising from or relating to his employment for the city at its water plant laboratory. In this case, nothing about the enterprise for which the city employed the employee made his hitting a pedestrian while commuting a foreseeable risk of this enterprise. Therefore, the going and coming rule was created for this type of situation and was applicable in this case, precluding plaintiffs' claim of vicarious liability against the city. View "Bingener v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Mohammed Noori sued his former employer, Countrywide Payroll & HR Solutions, Inc., for violations of California law relating to mandated information on employee itemized wage statements. Plaintiff alleged, amongst other things, that Countrywide violated Labor Code Section 226(a) by: (1) providing wage statements bearing an acronym instead of the full legal name of the employer; and (2) failing to maintain copies of accurate itemized wage statements. The trial court granted Countrywide’s demurrer. THe Court of Appeal determined plaintiff’s complaint indeed stated a claim under the Labor Code for failure to provide the employer’s name: the wage statements listed “CSSG,” the abbreviation of a fictitious business name. Furthermore, the Court concluded plaintiff satisfied the notice requirement for bringing his action under the Private Attorneys General Act. View "Noori v. Countrywide Payroll & HR Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Beau Gordon, a professional roofer, fell 35 feet through a "camouflaged hole" in a warehouse roof he was inspecting. For the resulting head injury, a jury awarded Gordon approximately $875,000 against the building's owner, ARC Manufacturing, Inc. (ARC) and Joseph Meyers. The primary issue on appeal was whether the trial court correctly refused to instruct on primary assumption of risk where, as here, defendants did not hire or engage Gordon. The Court of Appeal concluded that primary assumption of risk did not apply, rejected appellants' other contentions, and affirmed the judgment. View "Gordon v. ARC Manufacturing, Inc." on Justia Law