News & Analysis

Court of appeal reminds CA employers to follow their own policies

The California Court of Appeal has sent employers a message to be vigilant in following their policies and attentive to employees who request time off for medical conditions. A recent ruling against the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) made clear that an employer bears the burden to inquire further when an employee makes an ambiguous request for time off for a medical condition. The case also shows how broad the duty to accommodate can be and how dangerous it is to make any derogatory comments about disabilities.

Court of appeal holds firm in favor of medical group

Summary judgment (i.e., stopping a lawsuit short of trial) is not generally easy for an employer to obtain, but when the facts are strong enough, it can be done. In the following case, a nurse complained that her employer failed to promote her and later terminated her based on her race. The employer offered evidence demonstrating that the nurse had not been promoted because no management position was available, and she was terminated because of her poor performance. The trial court granted the employer's motion for summary judgment, and the court of appeal affirmed, finding from the undisputed facts that the employer's actions were based on legitimate nondiscriminatory business reasons.

9th Circuit OK's class action for sales workers' wage claims

A wage and hour lawsuit styled as a class action may go forward on that basis only if it meets requirements ensuring that class treatment would be manageable and fair to all parties. A trial court applies prescribed standards to make the determination. The class certification decision either limits the action to the named individual claimants or authorizes a defined class to pool their claims. Class certification obviously results in a far greater financial risk to the targeted employer. A recent ruling of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings apply to all California employers) reviewed and upheld class action status for the wage claims of a group of sales associates.

9th Circuit nixes former employee's contract, ERISA claims

The 9th Circuit recently sounded the death knell on a retiree's employment contract claims for the simple reason that he had waited too long to pursue them. Further, his attempt to show an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) violation was groundless.

9th Circuit reinstates arbitration ruling against employer

Demonstrating once again the judicial deference granted to labor arbitration decisions, the 9th Circuit recently upheld the decision of an arbitration panel that an employer—despite efforts to withdraw—couldn't escape extensions of a labor agreement negotiated by a multiemployer association of which it had been a member.

Incompetent employees lead to misrepresentation claim against employer

On June 16, 2016, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court allowed a lawsuit under the federal False Claims Act (FCA) to proceed against Universal Health Services. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit alleged that too few of Universal's employees who provided counseling services were properly licensed or supervised, and the company had not disclosed violations of "staff qualifications and licensing requirements." Although the company made no express promise that its staffing was adequate to the tasks, its submission of bills to its government clients was an implied representation that it was "legally entitled to payment" and therefore met the "material legal requirements." Because of that implied representation, Universal's failure to disclose its staffing and supervision inadequacies could violate the FCA under the common-law definition of "misrepresentation."

Defamation, Jennifer Lawrence, and the 'science oven': nuking SLAPP claims in California

They say that anybody can sue anyone for anything, and that's almost right. But some lawsuits can be dismissed right out of the gate, if they're deemed Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or SLAPP suits. Early examples of SLAPP lawsuits include defamation cases brought by big tobacco companies against scientists who claimed that smoking causes cancer because such lawsuits stopped many smoking opponents from speaking out. In response, anti-SLAPP statutes were passed in many states across the country.

9th Circuit: 'In lieu' benefits cash-outs must be included in 'regular rate' calculations

Calculating an employee's "regular rate of pay" is important for many reasons, among them determining the employee's overtime pay rate. That calculation may not be so easy, however. On June 2, 2016, the 9th Circuit issued a decision in Flores v. City of San Gabriel in which it found that cash-outs of unused portions of health insurance premiums must be included in the calculation of an employee's regular rate of pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), for both publicand private-sector workers.

Staples ripped apart by $16 million age discrimination jury verdict

On May 26, 2016, a California appellate court upheld a jury verdict of $3.2 million in compensatory damages and $13 million in punitive damages awarded to a former Staples employee who claimed he was a victim of age discrimination.

California adds several new employment laws to the books

In the last two months, California Governor Edmund G. Brown has signed several bills, resulting in laws that will have an impact on various issues facing employers in California. Here is an overview of several of those laws.