News & Analysis

Class dismissed! Arbitration agreement allows dismissal of class action

Arbitration agreements continue to be a useful tool for California employers. The following case illustrates how a carefully crafted arbitration agreement can lead to the dismissal of a class claim and halt a representative Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) action pending the resolution of the employee's individual claims.

Court of appeal refuses to enforce arbitration provision in employee handbook

A hotel worker sued her former employer for sexual harassment, discrimination, and wrongful termination. The hotel asked the trial court to compel arbitration of her claims based on an arbitration provision in its employee handbook. The court denied the hotel's petition to compel arbitration, finding that neither the language of the handbook nor the signed acknowledgment form created an enforceable agreement to arbitrate between the hotel and the worker. The court of appeal affirmed the decision.

NLRA bars 'separate proceedings' for arbitration of wage and hour claims

May an employer require workers to agree to arbitrate all employment disputes in "separate proceedings"? Not if the requirement interferes with the employees' ability to act together in addressing issues related to terms and conditions of their employment. According to a recent 2-1 decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings apply to all California employers), denial of a collective action by employees for their mutual benefit runs afoul of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

9th Circuit nixes judge's duplicative award in retaliation case

When an employee wins an employment case, the jury typically decides the amount of damages. But certain claims—those labeled "equitable"—are decided by the trial judge, who may then impose a remedy. The 9th Circuit recently considered what happens when a jury awards damages and the trial judge then adds duplicative damages as an equitable remedy. The panel decided there could be no "double-dipping" and limited damages to those awarded by the jury.

A story with legs: Fox News' $20M settlement provides warnings for employers

Fox News understands the life of a news story. It knew that former anchor Gretchen Carlson's claims of sexual harassment against former CEO and chairman Roger Ailes would draw headlines for months, as would the ultimate resolution of the claims. In news parlance, Carlson's claims had "legs." So, too, would reports of a major settlement of the action. On September 6, Fox News compressed the story of Carlson's suit with news of the $20 million settlement of her claims—hoping both stories would rise and fall over the Labor Day weekend and become a dim memory long before election night.

Game changer for pension reform: Court allows 'reasonable' changes in benefits

In a ground-breaking decision issued in August, the California Court of Appeal shot down a constitutional challenge brought by employees and their unions against the Marin County Employees' Retirement Association's (MCERA) action to eliminate certain forms of "spiking"-type payments from being included in the calculation of employees' final compensation. "Spiking" is a practice whereby public employees use a variety of methods to inflate their income in order to increase their retirement benefits. Upon review, the court issued an extraordinarily strong opinion rejecting a challenge to MCERA's action and to the California Public Employees' Pension Reform Act (PEPRA) itself.

California adds several more workplace laws

During the last week of July 2016, California Governor Edmund G. Brown signed several employment bills into law. This article outlines some of the recent legal changes and their impact on (or opportunity for) California employers.

New paid sick leave ordinances in effect for Los Angeles and San Diego

Following in the footsteps of other California cities, San Diego and Los Angeles recently adopted sick leave ordinances that differ in key respects from the California Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014. Employers covered by the California law and a city ordinance need to comply with both.

California Supreme Court provides clarity in class action attorneys' fee award

Often, the prosecuting law firm is the biggest winner in class action litigation, sometimes receiving a multimillion-dollar award while class members receive pennies. The California Supreme Court recently addressed the issue of how class counsel should be paid: Is the award based on the hours worked, the result obtained, or some other mode of calculation? The supreme court found that trial courts have great discretion to review and approve attorneys' fees in common-fund cases.

Concealed firearms: Are custodial deputies exempt from permit requirement or not?

In California, a person cannot carry a concealed weapon without a permit. However, there are exemptions from that rule, including one for peace officers. The California Legislature created the peace officer exemption in part to benefit people serving in that capacity because they may face threats of violence to themselves or their families while they aren't working.