California News & Analysis

  • Extortion may be exception to at-will doctrine, California appeals court rules

    An employee was threatened with termination unless he donated a substantial amount of money to his managers' reelection campaign. After making only a modest donation, he was fired. He then sued for wrongful termination based on extortion. A California appellate court recently decided that even though the former employee was employed at will, he might have a "property right" to continued employment because of the extortion.

  • CA governor confers COVID-19 'presumption' for all who worked during shelter in place

    On May 6, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a controversial Executive Order (EO) that added a workers' compensation dimension to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ignoring the legislature, the governor ordered that any coronavirus-related illness would be presumed to arise "out of and in the course of employment" for any employee who tested positive for or was diagnosed with the illness within 14 days of performing labor or services for a publicor private-sector employer.

  • To avoid COVID-19 lawsuits, best practices are critical

    As the COVID-19 pandemic spread throughout the country, many employers responded to the unprecedented and uncertain situation by furloughing and laying off some or all of their workers. The actions already have spurred labor and employment lawsuits. And more are likely on the horizon, including as employees start returning to work. Here are a few of the prevailing trends in recent coronavirus-related labor and employment litigation and proactive steps you can take to help avoid a lawsuit.

  • Cybersecurity takes on even more importance during pandemic

    As COVID spring turns to COVID summer, many employees are growing accustomed to working from home. Thank goodness the technology exists to work remotely, but it's not as simple as just making sure employees have access to a computer and Internet connection at home. Cybersecurity must be a priority as well. The office is likely a more secure environment than an employee's home, so it's crucial employees know how to work safely in the new business "normal."

  • California News in Brief

    Newsom announces COVID-19 workers' comp. Governor Gavin Newsom announced in early May that workers who contract COVID-19 while on the job may be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits. Newsom signed an order creating a time-limited rebuttable presumption for accessing workers' comp benefits applicable to Californians who must work outside their homes during a stay-at-home order. Workers will be eligible for the rebuttable presumption if they test positive for COVID-19 and the diagnosis is confirmed by a positive test within 14 days of them performing labor or services at a workplace after the stay-at-home order was issued on March 19. The presumption will stay in place for 60 days after the issuance of the May 6 Executive Order. (For detailed coverage of this Executive Order, see "CA governor confers COVID-19 'presumption' for all who worked during shelter in place" on pg. 3.)

  • Walking the fine line between worker safety, bias claims

    Public health experts are laying out a medically wise blueprint for repopulating the workplace. Among the recommendations is delaying the return of "vulnerable populations," which include all older workers and anyone with an "underlying medical condition." We can also anticipate calls for establishing a hiring preference for workers who can document they have coronavirus antibodies and for refusing shifts to anybody with a fever or a cough.

  • Court rejects $16M punitive damages award, upholds $1.7M award for defamation

    A California jury ordered Allstate Insurance Company to pay a former employee nearly $1 million for wrongful discharge, $1.7 million for defamation, and almost $16 million in punitive damages. Allstate appealed, arguing it didn't violate Section 432.7 of the California Labor Code by terminating the employee for his participation in an Arizona domestic violence program, substantial evidence didn't support his defamation claim, and the punitive damages award was excessive compared to the compensatory damages he was awarded. Let's take a look at how the California Court of Appeal dealt with those arguments.

  • Business owner can't escape bond requirement by claiming indigence

    When an employer doesn't pay wages as required by law, an employee may file a civil action in court or a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner. Either party may appeal a decision or award by the labor commissioner to a superior court, which will consider the matter with no deference to the labor commissioner's findings. To file an appeal, however, an employer must post an "undertaking"either a bond or a cash depositin the amount of the labor commissioner's award. The issue in the following case was whether the employer and its owner could prove they were entitled to an exception to that requirement because they lacked sufficient funds to provide an undertaking in the amount of the $2.5 million award.

  • Lack of clear communication with self-represented worker revives case

    A trial court failed to provide clear and understandable instructions about the deadline for filing an amended complaint to a college professor who was acting as his own attorney in a race and sexual orientation discrimination and retaliation case against his employer. According to the court of appeal, when the employee didn't file his amended complaint by the deadline, the court wrongfully dismissed his case.

  • Despite COVID-19 layoffs, some employers find ways to ease the blow

    The COVID-19 pandemic has caused employers to shed workers in unprecedented numbers. When businesses closed or drastically cut services, millions of workers lost paychecks. But some employers have taken steps to protect workers still on the job and provide relief for others on reduced schedules or out of work altogether.