Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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In this action alleging that a utilization reviewer caused Plaintiff additional injuries by denying his treating physician’s request to continue prescribing certain medication for his injuries without authorizing a weaning regimen or warning him of possible side effects of abruptly ceasing the medication, the Supreme Court held that the workers’ compensation law provided the exclusive remedy for the employee’s injuries and thus preempted the employee’s tort claims. Plaintiff sustained a work-related back injury that caused him chronic pain, anxiety and depression. A mental health profession prescribed Klonopin to treat the anxiety and depression. Two years later, a utilization reviewer determined that Klonopin was medically unnecessary and decertified the prescription. After Plaintiff immediately stopped taking the medication he suffered a series of four seizures. Plaintiff filed a complaint asserting several tort claims. Defendants demurred, arguing that the claims were preempted by the Workers’ Compensation Act. The trial court sustained the demurrer. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment insofar as it permitted Plaintiffs to amend their complaint to bolster their claim that Defendants were liable in tort for failure to warn, holding that because the acts alleged did not suggest that Defendants acted outside of the utilization review role contemplated by statute, Plaintiff’s claims were preempted. View "King v. CompPartners, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue was what standards of review apply to the Public Employment Relations Board’s (PERB) legal interpretations and findings of fact when a final decision by PERB under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA), Cal. Gov’t Code 3500 et seq., is appealed. The Supreme Court held (1) PERB’s legal findings are entitled to deferential review, and PERB’s factual findings are “conclusive” “if supported by substantial evidence”; and (2) governing bodies or representatives properly designated are required to engage with unions on matters within the scope of representation prior to arriving at a determination of policy or course of action, even if that action is not a formal one taken by the governing body itself. Here, unions filed unfair practice claims after San Diego’s mayor sponsored a citizen’s initiative to eliminate pensions for new municipal employees and denied union demands to meet and confer over the measure. The Court of Appeal annulled PERB’s finding that the failure to meet and confer constituted an unfair labor practice. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the MMBA applied to the mayor’s official pursuit of pension reform as a matter of policy; and (2) the Court of Appeals improperly reviewed PERB’s interpretation of the governing statutes de novo and took an unduly constricted view of the duty to meet and confer. View "Boling v. Public Employment Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted the Ninth Circuit’s request for certification and answered (1) California’s wage and hour statutes and regulations have not adopted the de minimis doctrine found in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); and (2) the relevant wage order and statutes do not permit application of the de minimis principle on the facts of this case. Here, an employer required an employee to work “off the clock” for several minutes per shift. The employer moved for summary judgment on the ground that the employee’s uncompensated time was so minimal that the employer was not required to compensate him. The district court concluded that the de minimis doctrine applied and granted summary judgment for the employer. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit asked the Supreme Court to answer whether the FLSA’s de minimis doctrine applies to claims for unpaid wages under California Labor Code sections 510, 1194, and 1197. The Supreme Court held (1) the pertinent statutes and wage order have not incorporated the de minimis doctrine set forth in the FLSA; and (2) while California has a de minimis rule that has operated in various contexts, that rule is not applicable under the facts of this case. View "Troester v. Starbucks Corp." on Justia Law

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At issue was what standard applies in determining whether workers should be classified as employees or as independent contract for purposes of California wage orders. Two drivers filed this purported class action alleging that Dynamex Operations West, Inc. had misclassified its delivery drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. The trial court ultimately certified a class action embodying a class of Dynamex drivers who, during a pay period, did not themselves employ other drivers and did not do delivery work for other delivery businesses or for the drivers’ own personal customers. The court of appeal upheld the trial court’s class certification order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court properly concluded that the “suffer or permit to work” definition of “employ” contained in the wage order may be relied upon in evaluating whether a worker is an independent contractor; (2) in determining whether, under the suffer or permit to work definition, a worker is properly considered the type of independent contractor to whom the wage order does not apply, it is appropriate to look to the so-called “ABC” test utilized in other jurisdictions; and (3) the trial court’s certification order was correct as a matter of law under a proper understanding of the suffer or permit to work standard. View "Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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At issue was what standard applies in determining whether workers should be classified as employees or as independent contract for purposes of California wage orders. Two drivers filed this purported class action alleging that Dynamex Operations West, Inc. had misclassified its delivery drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. The trial court ultimately certified a class action embodying a class of Dynamex drivers who, during a pay period, did not themselves employ other drivers and did not do delivery work for other delivery businesses or for the drivers’ own personal customers. The court of appeal upheld the trial court’s class certification order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court properly concluded that the “suffer or permit to work” definition of “employ” contained in the wage order may be relied upon in evaluating whether a worker is an independent contractor; (2) in determining whether, under the suffer or permit to work definition, a worker is properly considered the type of independent contractor to whom the wage order does not apply, it is appropriate to look to the so-called “ABC” test utilized in other jurisdictions; and (3) the trial court’s certification order was correct as a matter of law under a proper understanding of the suffer or permit to work standard. View "Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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In calculating an employee’s overtime pay rate when the employee has earned a flat sum bonus during a single pay period, the divisor for purposes of calculating the per-hour value of the bonus should be the number of nonovertime hours the employee worked during the pay period, rather than the number of hours the employee actually worked during the pay period, including overtime hours, or the number of nonovertime hours that exist in the pay period, regardless of the number of hours the employee actually worked. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant, his former employer, alleging that Defendant had not properly computed his overtime pay under California law. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the trial court should look for “persuasive guidance” to a federal regulation explaining how to factor a flat sum bonus into an employee’s regular rate of pay and that its formula for calculating overtime compensation was complaint with the relevant federal regulation. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, thus favoring the formula that allocates an employee’s bonus to the nonovertime hours worked, rather than to all hours worked. View "Alvarado v. Dart Container Corp. of California" on Justia Law

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The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), 29 U.S.C. 651 et seq., does not preempt unfair competition and consumer protection claims based on workplace safety and health violations when, as in California, there is a state plan approved by the federal Secretary of Labor. The Division of Occupational Safety and Health charged Solus Industrial Innovations, LLC with five violations of state occupational safety and health regulations. The District Attorney of Orange County subsequently filed this action for civil penalties under the state’s unfair competition law (UCL), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 17200, and fair advertising law (FAL), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 17500. The court of appeal concluded that the federal OSH Act preempted the district attorney’s UCL and FAL claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was no implied or express preemption of the district attorney’s UCL and FAL claims. View "Solus Industrial Innovations, LLC v. Superior Court of Orange County" on Justia Law

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The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), 29 U.S.C. 651 et seq., does not preempt unfair competition and consumer protection claims based on workplace safety and health violations when, as in California, there is a state plan approved by the federal Secretary of Labor. The Division of Occupational Safety and Health charged Solus Industrial Innovations, LLC with five violations of state occupational safety and health regulations. The District Attorney of Orange County subsequently filed this action for civil penalties under the state’s unfair competition law (UCL), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 17200, and fair advertising law (FAL), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 17500. The court of appeal concluded that the federal OSH Act preempted the district attorney’s UCL and FAL claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was no implied or express preemption of the district attorney’s UCL and FAL claims. View "Solus Industrial Innovations, LLC v. Superior Court of Orange County" on Justia Law

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For the reasons set forth in a companion case issued today, Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board, the Supreme Court held that the court of appeal correctly rejected Employer’s defense that Union had abandoned its employees and thus forfeited its status as bargaining representative. In this case, Employer refused to bargain with the labor union that its employees had elected as their bargaining representative under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA). The Agricultural Labor Relations Board (Board) rejected Employer’s abandonment defense and determined that Employer’s refusal constituted an unfair labor practice under the ALRA. The Board ordered Employer to pay make-whole relief under Cal. Labor Code 1160.3. The court of appeal affirmed the Board’s rejection of Employer’s abandonment defense but reversed the Board’s make-whole relief award. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the court of appeal (1) properly rejected Employer’s abandonment defense, but (2) did not accord the Board sufficient deference as to the issue of make-whole relief and improperly exercised the Board’s remedial authority. View "Tri-Fanucchi Farms v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The Agricultural Labor Relations Act’s (ARLA) “mandatory mediation and conciliation” (MMC) statute neither violates equal protection nor unconstitutionally delegates legislative power. Further, employers may not refuse to bargain with unions - whether during the ordinary bargaining process or during MMC - on the basis that the union has abandoned its representative status. In this case, the United Farm Workers’ of America (UFW) filed an MMC request with the Agricultural Labor Relations Board after failing to reach a collective bargaining agreement with Gerawan Farming, Inc. Mediation also failed to produce an agreement, and therefore, the mediator submitted a report fixing the contractual terms. The Board adopted the report in its final order. The court of appeal concluded (1) the MMC statute on its face violates equal protection principles and improperly delegates legislative authority, and (2) an employer may not defend against a union’s MMC request by challenging the union’s certification as bargaining representative on the basis of abandonment. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the MMC statutes is not unconstitutional; and (2) an employer may not raise an abandonment defense to an MMC request. View "Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law