Justia California Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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In this action brought by a physician alleging that the defendant hospitals and medical staff members unlawfully retaliated against him for raising concerns about patient care the Supreme Court held that Defendants were not entitled to wholesale dismissal of Plaintiff's claims under the anti-SLAPP law.Defendants sought to strike Plaintiff's retaliation claims under the anti-SLAPP statute, arguing that any claim arising from the peer review process targets protected speech or petitioning activity and therefore must be afforded anti-SLAPP protection. The trial court granted Defendants' motion. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that the anti-SLAPP statute does not protect actions taken with a retaliatory motive. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that Defendants demonstrated that some, but not all, of the claims collected was unlawful acts of retaliation in Plaintiff's first cause of action arose from protected speech or petitioning activity. View "Bonni v. St. Joseph Health System" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the court of appeal and its award of costs on appeal, holding that a claim for failure to promote brought under the harassment provision of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal. Gov. Code 12940, subd. (j), 12960, accrues, and thus the statute of limitations begins to run, at the point when an employee knows or reasonably should know of the employer's allegedly unlawful refusal to promote the employee.Plaintiff alleged that her employer passed her over for promotions because she refused to have sex with the company's executive vice-president, Michael Kelso. The trial court granted summary judgment for Kelso, finding no triable issue of fact as to Kelso's statute of limitations defense. The court of appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Kelso and two other defendants and awarded costs on appeal to all three defendants. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in concluding that the statute of limitations began to run when Plaintiff's employer offered a promotion to someone else and she accepted it; and (2) the court of appeal erred in awarding costs on appeal to Defendants without first finding that Plaintiff's underlying claim was objectively groundless. View "Pollock v. Tri-Modal Distribution Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that "regular rate of compensation" under Cal. Lab. Code 226.7(c), like "regular rate of pay" under Cal. Lab. Code 510(a), encompasses all nondiscretionary payments, such that the calculation of premium pay for a noncompliant meal, rest, or recovery period, like the calculation of overtime pay, must account for not only hourly wages but also for nondiscretionary payments for work performed by the employee.Plaintiff, who was employed by Defendant as a bartender, filed a class action suit alleging that Defendant, by omitting nondiscretionary incentive payments from its calculation of premium pay, failed to pay her for noncompliant meal or rest breaks in accordance with her "regular rate of compensation," as required by section 226.7(c). The trial court granted summary adjudication for Defendant, concluding that "regular rate of compensation" in section 226.7(c) is not interchangeable with the term "regular rate of pay" under section 510(a), which governs overtime pay. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the term “regular rate of compensation” in section 226.7(c) has the same meaning as “regular rate of pay” in section 510(a) and therefore encompasses all nondiscretionary payments for work performed by the employee, not just hourly wages. View "Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, LLC" on Justia 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