Justia California Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal reversing the trial court's ruling granting Defendant's motion to strike Plaintiffs' prevailing wage allegations, holding that Plaintiffs' belt sorting qualified as "public works" Cal. Labor Code 1720, subd.(a)(2).Plaintiffs were contract workers who acted as belt sorters for a county sanitation district. Plaintiffs brought a class action suit alleging failure to (1) pay minimum and/or prevailing wages, (2) pay overtime at prevailing wage rates, (3) provide meal periods, and (4) pay all wages owed at the time of termination. At issue was whether Plaintiffs' work fell within the definition of public works in section 1720(a)(2) entitling them to prevailing wage compensation. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to strike. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiffs' labor qualified as public work under section 1720(a)(2). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals did not err. View "Kaanaana v. Barrett Business Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court decided two questions of law related to meal periods for employees and, in light of its holdings, reversed the judgment of the court of appeals.Plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit against Defendant alleging various wage and hour violations, including that meal period claim at issue on this appeal. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, holding (1) an employer cannot engage in the practice of adjusting the hours that an employee has actually worked to the nearest present time increment in the meal period context; and (2) time records showing noncompliant meal periods raise a rebuttable presumption of meal period violations, including at the stage of summary judgment. View "Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court responded to a question posed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by answering that the Court's decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, 4 Cal.5th 903 (2018), applies retroactively.In Dynamex, the Supreme Court held that the standard commonly known as the "ABC test" applies under California law in determining whether workers should be classified as employees or independent contractors for purposes of obligations imposed by California's wage orders. In concluding that the standard set forth in Dynamex applies retroactively the Supreme Court relied primarily on the fact that Dynamex addressed an issue of first impression and did not change a settled rule upon which the parties had relied. The Court further concluded that the retroactive application of the ABC test to cases pending at the time Dynamex became final was not improper or unfair. View "Vasquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising International, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that when Norma and James Gund suffered a violent attack after being asked by law enforcement to check on a neighbor who had called 911 requesting help, the only remedy available to the Gunds was through workers' compensation.When members of the public engage in "active law enforcement service" at the request of a peace officer, California treats those members of the public as employees eligible for workers' compensation benefits. However, workers' compensation becomes an individual's exclusive remedy for his or her injuries under state law. At issue in this case was whether the Gunds were engaged in "active law enforcement service" when they assisted law enforcement by checking on a neighbor who had called 911, walked into an active murder scene, and had their throats cut. The Supreme Court held that the Gunds engaged in active law enforcement under California Labor Code 3366 even though the peace officer allegedly misrepresented the situation, and therefore, their only remedy was through workers' compensation. View "Gund v. County of Trinity" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the California Public Employees' Pension Reform Act's (PEPRA), Stats. 2012, ch. 296, 1, amendment of the County Employees Retirement Law (CERL), Cal. Gov. Code 31450 et seq., did not violate the contract clause under a proper application of the California Rule and declined to reexamine and revise the California Rule.At issue was whether a provision of PEPRA amending CERL's definition of "compensation earnable," which affected the pensions of persons who were first employed by a county prior to the effective date of PEPRA, violated the contract clause. The Supreme Court held (1) county employees have no express contractual right to the calculation of their pension benefits in a manner inconsistent with the terms of the PEPRA amendment; (2) the challenged provisions added by PEPRA met contract clause requirements; and (3) the test announced in Allen v. City of Long Beach, 45 Cal.2d 128 (1955), as explained and applied in this case, remains the law of California. View "Alameda County Deputy Sheriff's Ass'n v. Alameda County Employees' Retirement Ass'n" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning the application of various California wage and hour laws to flight attendants who work primarily outside California's territorial jurisdiction, the Supreme Court held that California's wage statement laws apply only to flight attendants who have their base of work operations in California.Plaintiffs, flight attendants for Delta Air Lines, Inc., filed a putative class action in federal court alleging that Delta violates California labor law by failing to pay its flight attendants minimum wage. The federal district court ruled in favor of Delta. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit asked that the Supreme Court resolve unsettled questions of California law underlying Plaintiffs' claims. The Supreme Court held (1) California's wage statement laws apply only to flight attendants who have their base of work operations in California, and the same is true of California laws governing the timing of wage payments; and (2) whether or not California's minimum wage laws apply to work performed on the ground during Plaintiffs' brief and episodic stops in California, the challenged pay scheme complies with the state requirement that employers pay their employees at least the minimum wage for all hours worked. View "Oman v. Delta Air Lines, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the question of whether Plaintiffs, pilots and flight attendants who resided in California but performed most of their work in airspace outside California's jurisdiction, were entitled to California-compliant wage statements depended on whether Plaintiffs' principal place of work was in California.Plaintiffs worked for a global airline based outside California. Plaintiffs were not paid according to California wage law but according to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement entered under federal law. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the airline-employer was required to provide Plaintiffs with wage statements that met the requirements of California law. The Supreme Court held (1) workers are entitled to California-complaint wage statements if they are based for work purposes in California; and (2) for interstate transportation workers who do not perform a majority of their work in any one state, this test is satisfied when California serves as the workers' base of work operations, regardless of their place of residence or whether a collective bargaining agreement governs their pay. View "Ward v. United Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal affirming the judgment entered for Employer in this labor dispute, holding that employees do not lose standing to pursue a claim under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), Cal. Lab. Code 2698 et seq., if they settle and dismiss their individual claims for Labor Code violations.Employee sued Employer in a putative class action alleging several causes of action and seeking civil penalties under PAGA. Employer successfully moved to compel arbitration of the "individual claims" for Employee's own damages. The court dismissed Employee's class claims. After arbitration was complete, Employee accepted Employer's statutory offer to settle Employee's individual claims. Employee then dismissed his individual claims, leaving only the PAGA claim for resolution. Employer then moved for summary adjudication. The district court granted the motion, concluding that Employee was no longer an "aggrieved employee" with PAGA standing because his rights had been "completely redressed" by the settlement and dismissal of his own claims. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff's settlement of individual Labor Code claims did not extinguish his PAGA standing; and (2) claim preclusion did not apply under these circumstances. View "Kim v. Reins International California, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted the request of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to decide a question of California law regarding Industrial Welfare Commission wage order No. 7-2001 (Wage Order 7), which requires employers to pay their employees a minimum wage for all "hours worked," concluding that time spent on the employer's premises waiting for, and undergoing, mandatory exit searches of bags, packages, or personal technology devices voluntarily brought to work purely for personal convenience by employees is compensable as "hours worked" within the meaning of Wage Order 7.Employees filed a class action complaint against Employer, Apple Inc., alleging that Employer failed to pay them minimum and overtime wages for time spent waiting for and undergoing Employer's exit searches in violation of California law. A federal district court granted summary judgment for Employer. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit asked the Supreme Court to address the state law issue. The Supreme Court concluded that, in the instant case, Employees' time spent on Employer's premises waiting for, and undergoing, required exit searches of packages, bags, or personal technology devices, such as iPhones, brought to work purely for personal convenience, is compensable as "hours worked" within the meaning of Wage Order 7. View "Frlekin v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case addressing whether the limitation under Cal. Unemp. Ins. Code 1253.3 that public school employees are not eligible to collect unemployment benefits under certain circumstances applies to substitute teachers and other public school employees during the summer months the Supreme Court held that a summer session does not fall within the period of unemployment benefits ineligibility mandated by 1253.3 if the summer session constitutes an "academic term."Under section 1253.3, public school employees are ineligible to collect unemployment benefits during "the period between two successive academic years or terms" if the employees worked during "the first of the academic years or terms" and received "reasonable assurance" of work during "the second of the academic years or terms." Each claimant in this case filed for unemployment benefits for the period between May 27, 2011 and August 15, 2011. The court of appeals concluded that summer sessions are not "academic terms" under section 1253.3, and therefore, the claimants were not eligible for benefits. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a summer session is an "academic term" within the meaning of the statute if the session resembles the institution's other academic terms based on objective criteria such as enrollment, staffing, budget, instructional program or other objective characteristics. View "United Educators of San Francisco, AFT/CFT v. California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board" on Justia Law