Articles Posted in Labor & Employment 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

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At issue in this case was California wage order requirements that an employer provide suitable seating for employees under certain circumstances. In two related federal appeals, the Ninth Circuit certified three questions to the Supreme Court regarding wage orders stating that “[a]ll working employees shall be provided with suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats.” The Court answered the questions as follows: (1) the “nature of the work” refers to an employee’s tasks performed at a given location for which a right to a suitable seat is claimed, and if the tasks being performed at a given location reasonably permit sitting and provision of a seat would not interfere with the employee’s tasks that require standing, a seat is called for; (2) whether the nature of the work “reasonably permits” sitting is a question to be determined objectively based on the totality of the circumstances; and (3) if an employer argues that there is no suitable seat available, the burden is on the employer to show that compliance is infeasible. View "Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc." on Justia Law

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As a condition of her employment with Defendants, Plaintiff signed an agreement to resolve any employment-related disputes through arbitration. After Plaintiff resigned, she filed a complaint against Defendants, alleging that she suffered harassment, discrimination, and retaliation during the course of her employment. Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration. Plaintiff opposed the motion, asserting that it was unconscionable. The trial court agreed with Plaintiff and denied the motion to compel arbitration. The court of appeal reversed. The primary issue before the Supreme Court was whether the arbitration agreement was unconscionable because of a clause in the agreement providing that, in the event a claim proceeds to arbitration, the parties are authorized to seek preliminary injunctive relief in the superior court. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the arbitration agreement was not unconscionable because the clause did no more that restate existing law. View "Baltazar v. Forever 21, Inc." on Justia Law

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As a condition of her employment with Defendants, Plaintiff signed an agreement to resolve any employment-related disputes through arbitration. After Plaintiff resigned, she filed a complaint against Defendants, alleging that she suffered harassment, discrimination, and retaliation during the course of her employment. Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration. Plaintiff opposed the motion, asserting that it was unconscionable. The trial court agreed with Plaintiff and denied the motion to compel arbitration. The court of appeal reversed. The primary issue before the Supreme Court was whether the arbitration agreement was unconscionable because of a clause in the agreement providing that, in the event a claim proceeds to arbitration, the parties are authorized to seek preliminary injunctive relief in the superior court. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the arbitration agreement was not unconscionable because the clause did no more that restate existing law. View "Baltazar v. Forever 21, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether Cal. Labor Code 4458.2, which provides workers’ compensation benefits to certain peace officers injured in the line of duty, applies to both volunteer peace officers and to regularly sworn, salaried officers. While employed as a police officer by the City of Marysville, John Larkin sustained injuries in the course of duty. A workers’ compensation judge determined that Larkin was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits but not to the maximum indemnity levels available under section 4458.2 because section 4458.2 did not apply to regularly sworn, salaried officers like Larkin. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board denied Larkin’s petition for reconsideration. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a review of the legislative history governing the relevant statutory provisions of section 4458.2 leads to the conclusion that the statute does not extend maximum disability indemnity levels to regularly sworn, salaried peace officers. View "Larkin v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd." on Justia Law