California News & Analysis

  • SCOTUS rules class arbitration must be expressly authorized

    A recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court raises the bar for workers who want to pursue claims in arbitration on a classwide basis. In a case that began in federal district court in California, the Supreme Court overturned a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal (whose rulings apply to all California employers) in favor of an employee who argued his employer's arbitration agreement was ambiguous on the issue of classwide arbitration. Now, under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which applies in both state and federal courts, an arbitration agreement must affirmatively authorize class arbitration for a court to compel it. This is a clear victory for employers.

  • California's strict ABC test for independent contractor classification applies retroactively

    The 9th Circuit recently held the California Supreme Court's landmark 2018 decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, which makes it significantly harder for companies to classify their workers as independent contractors, applies retroactively. Accordingly, Dynamex's stringent ABC test will be applied to independent contractor classification disputes under the California Wage Orders, even if the claims arose before the Dynamex decision was issued.

  • The law (and juries) protects whistleblowers

    As painful and expensive as they may ultimately prove to be for their employers, whistleblowers have a valuable role to play: They expose wrongdoing. They are in many ways the eyes and ears of society, seeing and hearing things from the inside that no one from the outside can access. They can set wrong to right.

  • Giants strike out with preemption defense against claims by ballpark security guards

    Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) preempts state law claims for violation of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) as well as claims that require interpretation of a CBA's provisions. In the following case, a security guard at AT&T Park filed a class action lawsuit against the San Francisco Giants claiming the team discharged security guards at the end of every homestand, at the end of the baseball season, and at the end of any other event at the park at which they worked, and they were therefore entitled to be paid all final wages when those assignments ended. The Giants argued the security guard's case was preempted by Section 301 because its CBA with the union had to be interpreted to determine whether and when the security guards were discharged. The court of appeal agreed with the Giants, but the California Supreme Court gave the guard another at bat.

  • What's in a name? Maybe a lot more than you realize

    All too often, it seems, you've discovered negative reviews about your company on Glassdoor or Indeed, readily available for your employees, job candidates, and customers to read. You're tired of seeing them. You're tired of feeling employee disaffectionin the workplace. Instead, you want to be known as the best place to work in your area, an organization with an "engaged culture." But how do you begin changing the perceptions—or maybe even the realities—of your workplace?

  • Feeling stressed? Take it outside

    We all need a breath of fresh air sometimes. The favorable temperatures and sunny conditions in California are a perfect cure for employees' work-related stress. This article addresses the unwanted consequences of work stress, and the benefits of encouraging employees to spend time outside.

  • Healthcare network settles disability and pregnancy discrimination suit for $1.75M

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced that California-based Family Health Care Network agreed to pay $1.75 million and furnish other relief to settle a systemic disability and pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the agency. The network operates over 20 healthcare sites throughout California.

  • Workplace Trends

    NFIB speaks out against predictive scheduling laws. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) issued a statement in March in opposition to state and local laws requiring employers to provide hourly workers their work schedules weeks in advance. The organization said such laws aren't always possible or realistic for small businesses. "It severely limits owners' control over their scheduling decisions and urgent business needs," the statement said. The organization pointed to laws in Oregon, Seattle, and San Francisco and said the unpredictability of staff needs in certain industries like construction and hospitality raises concerns. "The laws not only prevent employers from adjusting to market changes, bad weather, or other demands outside their control, but they also prevent employees from picking up additional work hours at a moment's notice or requesting unanticipated time off," the statement said.

  • Union Activity

    AFL-CIO calls proposed overtime rule a setback for working people. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke out in March against the Trump administration's proposed rule to set a new salary threshold for employees eligible for overtime pay. The administration's proposed rule would require that employees make at least $35,308 a year to be exempt from overtime eligibility under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Exempt workers also must perform work that is executive, administrative, or professional in nature. The Obama administration had proposed a rule setting the threshold at $47,476 a year, but the proposal was struck down by a federal judge. "Lowering the threshold ignores the economic hardships faced by millions of working families," Trumka said. "This disappointing announcement is part of a growing list of policies from the Trump administration aimed at undermining the economic stability of America's working people."

  • Employee bound by arbitration agreement despite refusal to sign it

    An employee argued she wasn't bound by an arbitration agreement because she informed her employer she wouldn't sign it even though she intended to remain employed by the company. The court of appeal rejected her argument, finding she maintained her employment status for almost three weeks after she was informed that her continued employment constituted acceptance of the arbitration agreement and she was therefore bound by the agreement. The court also rejected her argument that the agreement was a "take-it-or-leave-it contract of adhesion" on the grounds that it didn't involve surprise or other sharp practices. Moreover, because the employee was employed at will, the employer could unilaterally change the terms of her employment as long as it gave her notice of the change.