News & Analysis

CA Supreme Court: Arbitrator decides availability of classwide arbitration

An African-American car salesman filed a class action lawsuit charging discrimination, harassment, and retaliation against his employer. The dealership asked the court to compel arbitration based on arbitration agreements signed by the employee. The trial court decided that the agreements did not permit class claims. The California Court of Appeal reversed, finding that it was for the arbitrator, not the court, to decide if class claims could be asserted. The California Supreme Court agreed, concluding that allowing the arbitrator to decide the class claim issue did not conflict with federal arbitration law.

For whom the statute equitably tolls: When is it too late for FEHA suit?

A former employee who sues under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) may have extra time to file his lawsuit if he has enough facts to show that equitable tolling applies.

California court refuses to dismiss employee's harassment, retaliation claims

In affirming a trial court's order denying the Regents of the University of California's (UC) anti-SLAPP motion (SLAPP stands for "strategic lawsuit against public participation"), the California Court of Appeal held that the denial was proper because the university's alleged wrongdoing didn't arise out of protected conduct. The university insisted that all of its conduct involving the employee who filed the suit was protected and that her lawsuit was designed to chill the exercise of its right to handle complaints made about one of its resident doctors. But the employee countered that the significant part of her complaint was the university's harassment and retaliation.

9th Circuit revives postal worker's ADA claim against union

An unhappy employee thought her union wasn't doing enough to pursue her claims against the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). After she was fired, she filed two separate lawsuits against the union. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings apply to all California employers) affirmed the dismissal of the first lawsuit, but in a more recent decision, it breathed new life into her claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

9th Circuit gives sex discrimination claimant second bite at apple

When a trial court dismisses a lawsuit "with prejudice," that means the claimant is barred from filing another action based on the same underlying situation. The second action would be blocked by the legal principle of "res judicata," signifying that the issues have already been adjudicated. But a recent decision of the 9th Circuit indicates that certain circumstances may permit a claimant a second try.

From LBJ to LGBT: the evolution of Title VII

In the landmark sexual harassment case Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist wrote about Title VII, "The prohibition against discrimination based on sex was added to Title VII at the last minute . . . and we are left with little legislative history to guide us in interpreting the Act's prohibition against discrimination based on 'sex.'" Since then, the interpretation of Title VII's prohibition of discrimination based on sex has expanded far past barring the exclusion of women. Here's a look at that evolution and the possible next expansion of Title VII.

Summer blockbusters show HR the importance of rule breakers

People go to movies for an escape. So I don't see too many trial movies ― too much like work. Ever notice how often HR issues appear on screen as well?

California Supreme Court ruling discourages SLAPP lawsuits

An unfortunate element of the litigiousness of our society is the fact that lawsuits can be used to squelch the right of citizens to speak out on matters of public concern. In 1992, the California Legislature enacted legislation to nip such litigation ― called strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) ― in the bud. California's "anti-SLAPP" statute was designed to enable defendants in SLAPP lawsuits to have the cases dismissed early in the judicial process by filing an anti-SLAPP motion rather than having to go through the expense, time, and risk of litigation. Anti-SLAPP motions have further bite and provide more than an ounce of prevention because they require plaintiffs to pay attorneys' fees if the motion is successful.

Who is the employer? The devil is in the documents

This recent disability discrimination decision from the California Court of Appeal underscores the need to clearly identify the legal employer of your employees, which may not be limited to the company identified on their W-2s. All documents issued to employees, including handbooks, benefits documents, and disciplinary communications, should clearly and consistently identify the proper employer, as a pair of alleged employers learned when they attempted to have a lawsuit under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) dismissed.

Not fair: Del Mar Fairgrounds employees claim entitlement to overtime pay

Both federal and state law requires employers to pay employees overtime. However, the laws are very different, and each contains many exemptions. Some of the more common exemptions, such as those for professional, administrative, or executive employees, are similar under both laws. But even then, there are critical differences. On the other hand, some of the exemptions are industry-specific and unusual. In the following case, the court examined whether employees who worked for a California state agency that owned and operated the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego were exempt from California and federal overtime laws.