California News & Analysis

  • No attorneys' fees for employer unless FEHA claims are frivolous

    To obtain an award of attorneys' fees in a case brought under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), a prevailing employer must prove that the case was "frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless when brought, or the [employee] continued to litigate after it clearly became so." That is a very difficult standard to meet. However, other statutes allow a prevailing defendant to recover an award of costs in certain situations without a finding that the action was frivolous. In the following case, the court had to decide whether an employer that prevailed at trial was entitled to even a small award of costs, even though the employee's case wasn't frivolous.

  • Optional home dispatch program does not trigger paid travel time

    A class of cable service technicians sued their employer to collect payment for the commuting time they spent transporting equipment in company cars under a voluntary program. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the company, dismissing the case without a trial after it found the time was not compensable. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that (1) because the program was optional, the technicians' time was not subject to the company's control and (2) merely transporting equipment during a commute does not warrant compensation when no significant extra time or effort is required.

  • More new California employment and labor laws will take effect January 1

    In the last several months, the California Legislature has sent Governor Jerry Brown 1,217 bills for his consideration before he leaves office at the end of 2018. The governor has signed 1,016 of those bills into law. The following article offers a summary of some of the most important bills Governor Brown recently signed. All of the new laws will take effect January 1, 2019, unless otherwise indicated.

  • Holiday parties: microaggressions, recreational marijuana, and #MeToo

    Welcome to the end of the year. Your company has done well. You are proud of your workforce and their accomplishments. So you're having a holiday party—what better way to build camaraderie and incentivize your employees to work hard again next year? But in an era of microaggressions, legalized marijuana, #MeToo, and wage and hour class actions, is hosting a party worth the potential legal risks? Don't allow fears of potential liability to call off the celebration, but take precautions to avoid any party pitfalls.

  • Wrap up 2018 with new or revised handbook

    This year has brought an unusual number of changes in employment law. Various federal agencies got into the groove of aggressively undoing a lot of requirements their predecessors in the Obama administration had put into place. In addition, there has been an increasing number of employment-related requirements from state and local governments.

  • Wellness programs are about more than health insurance costs

    When attorneys talk or write about wellness programs, it's almost always from a highly legal perspective. We could talk all day about the convoluted and overlapping requirements of the various laws that apply to such programs. But this month, we want to take a different approach and look at wellness programs from more of a business perspective.

  • Happy holidays, with a helping of the flu bug

    The 2017-18 flu season was unusually bad, and many employers found themselves stuck between meeting their staffing needs and avoiding the spread of a virulent flu strain. Although the 2018-19 cold and flu season is forecast to be less brutal, you should take this opportunity to revisit your pandemic preparedness. Here are some thoughts on preventing and preparing for the next big outbreak.

  • Law firm's arbitration agreement not enforced against income partner

    The California Court of Appeal did not have to treat an "income partner" as an "employee" of a law firm to apply the Armendariz minimum requirements for an enforceable arbitration agreement. Instead, the court cited the "power differential" in creating the terms of the arbitration agreement and the unwaivable statutory rights that were at issue in the lawsuit to hold that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable under the Armendariz standards. The law firm therefore could not compel arbitration of its former income partner's claims.

  • Dreamer sues for hiring discrimination in federal and state courts

    A "Dreamer" filed a lawsuit alleging discriminatory failure to hire under federal and state law in federal court. The federal court dismissed his state-law claims on Eleventh Amendment grounds (i.e., based on the state's sovereign immunity), effectively limiting his potential monetary recovery to the equitable remedy of back pay. He was then awarded back pay, plus $1.4 million in fees and costs, in federal court.

  • No equitable tolling for employee who waited years to file adequate PAGA notice

    A former security guard at Ralphs Grocery Company argued that in her 2009 notice to the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA), she adequately alleged facts and theories to support the wage and hour violations she asserted in an amended complaint against her employer. She further claimed that a later PAGA notice filed in 2016, more than six years after she stopped working for Ralphs, satisfied the notice requirement for the wage and hour violations she added in her second and third amended complaints.