News & Analysis

California court decision shows one-sidedness of recovering attorneys' fees

The California Court of Appeal recently reversed an award of attorneys' fees in favor of a manager who was sued as an individual defendant. In doing so, the court clarified who is entitled to attorneys' fees under the California Labor Code. In musical parlance, the trial court bought the argument that the employee was a "Working Class Hero," but the court of appeal decided he was more like a "Big Boss Man" under the fee-shifting statutes.

Court upholds contract, business interference claims against Apple

Apple, Inc., allegedly convinced an employer to terminate an employee in retaliation for his resistance to Apple's allegedly illegal anticompetitive conduct. The issues on appeal were whether (1) an employee whose at-will employment was terminated because of Apple's interference must allege that the company's conduct was independently wrongful to state a contract interference claim and (2) Apple's allegedly anticompetitive conduct may constitute independently wrongful acts to support a business interference claim, even if the employee wasn't harmed by that conduct.

Court upholds civil restraining order against unruly parent

A school board member and parent of a middle school student had several hostile interactions with the school principal. The principal sought a civil restraining order against the parent. The trial court determined that the parent's aggressive conduct constituted a credible threat of violence against the principal that was likely to recur if a restraining order was not issued. The California Court of Appeal affirmed the decision.

Is your workplace a McGrew's Zoo? HR tips from Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss isn't a typical source of HR advice, but who would be a better teacher on the quirks of human behavior? In honor of the Great Seuss, we want to spend a little time reflecting on the workplace zoo. We know Dr. Seuss the environmentalist from The Lorax. We know Dr. Seuss the equal rights advocate from Horton Hears a Who. But what about Dr. Seuss the HR guru? The wondrous world of Dr. Seuss may seem like pure make-believe. But then again, maybe it's not. You probably can find many of Dr. Seuss' fantastical creatures right in your own workplace.

Are you being nosy or burying your head in the sand?

With the myriad requirements that employers consider employees' need for accommodations for religious, disability, or family leave reasons, it's necessary to know some personal information about your employees. On the other hand, simply asking for information can be considered a violation of certain employment laws. What's an employer to do?

Concealment of rate of pay invalidates pension 'spiking' effort

Under California's Public Employees Retirement Law (PERL), retiring employees' pension benefits are determined partly by the amount of their final salary. Overseeing one of the world's largest public pension systems, the California Public Employees Retirement System's (CalPERS) administration and legal operations are vigilant in their efforts to prevent employees and their employers from "spiking" pension benefits through artificial inflation of employees' final salary. This case is a textbook example.

Acknowledgment of receipt sufficient to enforce arbitration agreement

In a recent California Appellate Court decision, what began as an otherwise uncomplicated employment case resulted in an arbitration agreement win for employers. The court distinguished and reversed a prior appellate court decision, and in doing so, it recognized some leeway for employers that haven't obtained employee signatures on separate arbitration agreements. Signing an acknowledgment of receipt that specifically references a separate arbitration clause and then commencing employment may be sufficient to require arbitration.

Top 10 tips when undergoing a reduction in force

Reductions in force (RIFs) and layoffs are an unfortunate business reality. A downturn in business, a change in business plans or systems, or some other internal or external factors may drive the need to reduce personnel. And when you have to fire employees, there's always a risk of employment-related claims, particularly claims of unlawful employment discrimination or retaliation. You can minimize that risk, however, by carefully considering these 10 tips.

Is employer investigation covered by attorney-client privilege?

An employer retained an attorney to investigate a former employee's harassment and discrimination claim, but it specifically directed her not to provide legal advice on which course of action to take based on the investigation findings. In that situation, is the investigation report protected from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege? Assuming it is privileged, does the employer's assertion of the "avoidable consequences" defense waive that privilege?

Extrinsic evidence shows class claims not covered by waiver

Since the U.S. Supreme Court held class arbitration waivers to be enforceable in 2011, many arbitration agreements have been modified to include such waivers. Doing so has allowed employers to streamline the resolution of disputes that otherwise would be in an overburdened court system for years.