California News & Analysis

  • PAGA lawsuit claiming Labor Code violations isn't preempted by NLRA

    Employees' claims that Google violated their free speech rights by requiring them to comply with certain confidentiality rules aren't preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and may proceed under the California Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). According to the court of appeal, California's strong local interest in workers' freedom to seek other employment, combat wage discrimination, and report workplace violations brought the employees' claims outside the scope of NLRA preemption.

  • Through the grapevine: Workers can't get double recovery for break violations

    The employees who filed the following case were farm laborers who were paid on a piece-rate basis for each grapevine they pruned. Under California law, employees paid on a piece-rate basis must be separately paid at least the minimum rate of pay for all rest periods they take. The employees sued because they hadn't been separately compensated for their rest breaks, asking the court to award them both the actual minimum wages for the rest breaks for which they weren't paid as well as the additional one-hour premium payment authorized by Labor Code Section 226.7. However, the court pruned back their claims.

  • Imagining postpandemic workplace: Comfy, sterile, or mix of both?

    Everybody—from CEOs to frontline workers, design specialists to space planners, Gen Z and Millennials to Boomers—is wondering what the post-COVID workplace will look like. Despite the myriad ideas floating around, the consensus seems to be that only time will tell. Another largely agreed upon notion: The "new normal" will be noticeably different from the offices people abandoned at the beginning of the pandemic.

  • Ready for office holiday celebration? Remember to party 2020 style

    The holiday season is upon us, but it just doesn't seem so festive this year. Many employees are still isolated as they work from home. Essential workers are in the workplace but worried about the risks they face by being there. A big party to relieve the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic certainly would be wel-come—but difficult in the era of social distancing. Difficult doesn't mean impossible, however. Here are some ideas.

  • California News in Brief

    Newsom signs COVID worker protection bills. Two coronavirus- related bills—one expanding access to workers' compensation and another requiring employers to notify local officials and employees of outbreaks in the workplace—received Governor Gavin Newsom's signature on September 17.

  • NLRB General Counsel clamps down on union organizing strategies

    With the percentage of unionized workplaces at an all-time low, pure necessity has compelled unions to modernize their approach to organizing American workplaces. Especially in liberal communities where employers can be tagged with the political and economic stigma of being "antiunion," the modern union playbook gives union organizers many ideas for gaining an advantage in organizing workers.

  • The fatal case of the unprepared posse

    Police detective mysteries have been the staple of primetime television for decades, maybe because each of us wishes a little that we could be the civilian helping solve a crime or save someone from danger. But of all the who-done-it answers, nobody ever tells you who pays the medical bills and lost wages from any injury caused by the caper. Until now. And just like most detective stories, our injured heroes win—but they don't win much.

  • Despite recent court decisions, questions remain for religious employers

    The U.S. Supreme Court issued two decisions recently that were welcome news for religious organizations and other employers that rely on religious convictions as they conduct their business. One decision bolstered the "ministerial exception," a doctrine stemming from the First Amendment that prevents government interference in religious organizations' ability to hire and fire employees. The other decision says certain private employers with religious or moral objections to birth control can exclude contraception coverage in their employer-sponsored health plans even though the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates such coverage for most employers.

  • Incivility and harassment at work? Employer policies can help

    Employers concerned about racist, sexist, and other unacceptable outbursts in the workplace cheered a decision from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in July that makes it easier to discipline or fire employees for offensive speech. Under the previous standard, employees disciplined for profane outbursts often could look to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) for protection since Section 7 of the Act prohibits employer policies that may impede employee efforts to join a union or otherwise band together to improve the terms and conditions of employment. The previous standard was tolerant of some degree of heated speech uttered in the exercise of Section 7 rights as long as it wasn't violent or otherwise too extreme.

  • California News in Brief

    Cal/OSHA cites employers for COVID-19 violations. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) announced on September 4 that it has cited 11 employers for not protecting employees from COVID-19 exposure during inspections of industries where workers have an elevated risk of exposure. The industries include food processing, meatpacking, health care, agriculture, and retail. Proposed penalties range from $2,025 to $51,190. The employers were cited for not protecting workers from exposure to COVID-19 because they didn't take steps to update their workplace safety plans to properly address hazards related to the virus. The inspections were opened after notification of serious illnesses, complaints of workplace hazards, and proactive joint enforcement efforts.