Articles Posted in Labor & Employment 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

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The Supreme Court granted reviewing this PAGA action to consider the scope of discovery available in PAGA actions. The court held that, in non-PAGA class actions, the contact information of those a plaintiff purports to represent is routinely discoverable without any requirement that the plaintiff first show good cause, and nothing in the characteristics of a PAGA suit affords a basis for restricting discovery more narrowly. The court thus reversed the trial court’s discovery order denying Plaintiff’s motion seeking contact information for fellow California employees in other state Marshalls of CA, LLC stores in this representative action seeking civil penalties on behalf of the State and aggrieved employees statewide for alleged wage and hour violations. The court held that Marshalls did not meet its burden of establishing cause to refuse Plaintiff an answer to his interrogatory seeking the identity and contact information of his fellow Marshalls employees. View "Williams v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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Independent contractors are not categorically excluded from Cal. Gov’t Code 1090, which prohibits public officers and employees from making contracts in which they have a financial interest when they act in their official capacities. The prosecution in this case charged Dr. Hossain Sahlolbei with violation of section 1090 for allegedly influencing the hospital where he worked as an independent contractor to hire another doctor and then profiting from that doctor’s contract. The trial court dismissed the 1090 count. The Court of Appeal upheld the dismissal, concluding that because Sahlolbei was not an employee of the hospital section 1090 did not apply. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) liability under the statute can extend to independent contractors who have duties to engage in or advise on public contracting; and (2) Sahlolbei’s duties brought him within the scope of the statute. View "People v. Superior Court of Riverside County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered questions certified to it by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the construction of the state’s day of rest statutes, which prohibit an employer from causing his or her employees to work more than “six days in seven” but do not apply “when the total hours of employment do not exceed 30 hours in any week or six hours in any one day thereof.” The Court answered (1) periods of more than six consecutive days of work that stretch across more than one workweek are no per se prohibited; (2) the exemption for employees working shifts of six hours or less applies only to those who never exceed six hours of work on any day of the week; and (3) an employer “causes” its employee to go without a day of rest when it induces the employee to forgo rest to which he or she is entitled. View "Mendoza v. Nordstrom, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a claim alleging a discriminatory decision is not subject to a motion to strike simply because it contests an action or decision that was arrived at following speech of petition activity or that was thereafter communicated by means of speech or petitioning activity. Plaintiff, a tenure-track assistant professor, filed suit under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act for national origin discrimination and failure to receive a discrimination-free workplace after his application for tenure was denied. The Board of Trustees of the California State University responded with a motion to strike, arguing that the communications that led up to the decision to deny Plaintiff tenure were protected activities. The trial court denied the motion, but the Court of Appeal reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that “a claim may be struck only if the speech or petitioning activity itself is the wrong complained of and not just evidence of liability or a step leading to some different act for which liability is asserted.” View "Park v. Board of Trustees of California State University" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants, alleging that she was unlawfully terminated from employment. The complaint set forth two causes of action, one based on Cal. Health & Safety Code 1278.5(g) and one based on wrongful termination in violation of public policy. At issue in these proceedings was whether there was a right to a jury trial as to Plaintiff’s cause of action authorized by section 1278.5(g). The trial court denied a jury trial on the section 1278.5(g) cause of action. Plaintiff then filed a petition for writ of mandate in the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal ruled in Plaintiff’s favor, holding, inter alia, that the trial court erred in determining that there was no right to a jury trial in an action based on section 1278.5(g). The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) a trial court ruling denying a requested jury trial may be challenged prior to trial by a petition for an extraordinary writ; but (2) there is no right to a jury trial in a cause of action for retaliatory termination under section 1278.5(g) when a plaintiff seeks damages in such an action. Remanded. View "Shaw v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Leticia Flethez, a former employee of San Bernardino County, filed an application with San Bernardino County Employees Retirement Association (SBCERA) for a service-related disability retirement and allowance. In 2010, SBCERA granted Flethez’s application for service-related disability retirement benefits, effective as of the date of his initial application in 2008. Flethez challenged the starting date for his benefits. An administrative hearing was held, but SBCERA maintained the original 2008 date as the effective date of Flethez’s disability retirement benefits. Flethez filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking a writ ordering SBCERA to grant him service-related disability retirement benefits effective as of his last day of work with the County. The superior court issued a peremptory writ ordering SBCERA to grant Flethez a service-connected disability retirement allowance retroactive to 2000. As part of Flethez’s damages, the superior court awarded Flethez prejudgment interest under Cal. Civil Code 3287(a), to be retroactively calculated from the same starting date. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment to the extent it awarded section 3287(a) interest on all of Flethez’s retroactive disability retirement benefits starting from the first date of those benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the superior court erred in its award of prejudgment interest. View "Flethez v. San Bernardino County Employees Retirement Ass’n" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs worked as security guards for Defendant. Defendant required that guards keep their pagers and radio phones on even during off-duty rest periods required under Cal. Labor Code 226.7 and Industrial Welfare Commission wage order 4-2001. Defendant also required Plaintiffs to be responsive to calls when needs arose. Plaintiffs sued Defendant alleging that Defendant failed to provide the rest periods that Plaintiffs were entitled to receive under state law. The trial court granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs. The Court of Appeal reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that California law requires employers to relieve their employees of all work-related duties and employer control during ten-minute rest periods. View "Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a retired employee of the State Department of Justice, filed suit against the State and State Controller’s Office on behalf of herself and a class of resigned and retired state employees who did not receive their final wages within the time period set out in Cal. Labor Code 202 and 203. Under these statutes, an employer must make prompt payment of the final wages owed to an employee who is “discharged” or “quits” his or her employment. The trial court sustained Defendants’ demurrer, concluding that because Plaintiff had “retired” from her job, she had not stated a claim for statutory penalties under section 203. The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that sections 202 and 203 apply when an employee “quits to retire.” The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) sections 202 and 203 apply when employees “retire” from their employment; and (2) Plaintiff’s decision to name the State as a defendant rather than the Department of Justice was not a basis for dismissing her suit. View "McLean v. State" on Justia Law