Several recent cases are poised to set a major tonal shift in the realm of LGBT employee rights following the Supreme Court’s 2015 landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. As part of its ongoing coverage of LGBT employment issues, Orrick offers its insights and predictions as courts continue to contemplate where sexual identity fits within this changing landscape of protected statuses. READ MORE
Posts by: Alexandra Pavlidakis
From the time of its enactment, the California Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”) has been a thorn in the side of employers. For example, the California Supreme Court insists PAGA actions are not class actions, but that hasn’t stopped aggrieved employees from seeking class-wide discovery. And because PAGA permits employees to seek penalties for unconventional causes of action previously off-limits to private plaintiffs (such as the California Wage Order’s suitable seating requirement), employers must grapple with new uncertainties.
But one aspect of PAGA that provides some relief to employers is the requirement that plaintiffs exhaust administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit. To satisfy this this requirement, a plaintiff is required to send a notice to her employer and the Labor Workforce Development Agency (“LWDA”) setting forth the “specific provisions” of the Labor Code allegedly violated and explaining the “facts and theories to support the alleged violation” and then wait 65 days before filing suit. This notice requirement has two purposes: (1) to give the LWDA sufficient information to determine whether the alleged violation justifies an investigation and/ or citation and (2) to put the employer on notice so that it may voluntarily cure the alleged violation. Oftentimes, however, plaintiffs’ notice letters are deficient because they fail to include sufficient facts and theories to inform the employer or the LWDA of the nature of the claims. In such cases, plaintiffs have failed to exhaust administrative remedies.
Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s recent decision in Gunn v. Family Dollar Stores, Inc., Case No.: 3:14-cv-1916-GPC-BGS (S.D. Cal. Dec. 2, 2016), reminds us of the standard that notice letters must meet. Plaintiff Gunn’s notice letter advised the LWDA of his intent to file a PAGA action for violations of Wage Order 7-2001, Section 14, and “[s]pecifically . . . allege[d] that Family Dollar failed to provide suitable seats to Plaintiff and other current and former employees when the nature of their work reasonably permits the use of seats, in violation of California Labor Code section 1198 and Wage Order 7-2001, section 14.” Judge Curiel held that such an allegation was insufficient to meet PAGA’s standards. As he noted, plaintiffs must detail the “facts and theories” supporting their alleged violations. But here, the plaintiff’s allegations simply parroted the language of the underlying regulation, amounting to nothing more than a “string of legal conclusions” devoid of any of the facts or theories required by the Labor Code. The court rejected the plaintiff’s contention that facts could be implied by his allegations (i.e., that the class of employees at issue would not include office employees because they have seats).
The most notable aspect of Judge Curiel’s opinion, however, was his denial of the plaintiff’s request for leave to amend. Although the court recognized leave to amend tends to be granted freely, he disagreed that applied to defective PAGA notices. The court stated that “courts have granted PAGA claimants leave to amend only when the plaintiff’s complaint failed to adequately plead exhaustion, not when Plaintiff provided defective notice to the LWDA” (emphasis added). Indeed, granting the plaintiff leave here would tacitly endorse a strategy that precludes the LWDA from receiving the information necessary “to intelligently assess the seriousness of the alleged violation,” thereby frustrating the purpose of PAGA’s statutory notice requirement.
While the unpublished opinion in Gunn will not likely mark a sea change in how courts treat PAGA actions, it is nevertheless a victory for California employers. Those facing suitable seats claims, which are based on a notoriously ambiguous statute, may have the most to gain.
Your employees may spend their time daydreaming about how to spend the vacation hours they accumulate each pay period – and in California, they are entitled to be paid out upon termination for any accrued, unused vacation time or paid time off. But that doesn’t mean they are entitled to see a breakdown of the monetary value of accrued vacation or paid time off (PTO) on each wage statement, according to a recent ruling from a California state appellate court. That said, employers still have an obligation to list an employee’s accrued sick leave on pay stubs consistent with California’s sick leave law. READ MORE
On October 23, 2015, in a suit filed by Bio-Rad’s former general counsel Sanford Wadler, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued a decision granting in part and denying in part Defendants’ motion to dismiss in Wadler v. Bio-Rad Labs, Inc. (No. 15-CV-02356-JCS, 2015 WL 6438670 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 23, 2015), holding, among other things, that corporate directors may be held personally liable for retaliating against a whistleblower under both the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank).
The California Fair Employment and Housing Council recently issued new California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) regulations that take effect July 1, 2015. The new revisions are intended to clarify confusing rules and align the regulations more closely with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) regulations (where the statutes are consistent), though differences still remain between CFRA and FMLA.
The Supreme Court is set to weigh in on several key questions for employers this term related to employee discrimination. When does an employer have to accommodate a pregnant employee? How about a job applicant who wears a head scarf in an interview but does not make it clear she is doing so for religious reasons and needs an accommodation? Can a court decide whether the EEOC has done enough to resolve your case? Here are three key EEO cases to keep your eye on in the coming months. READ MORE
On September 10, 2014, Governor Brown signed into law the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (AB 1522), making California only the second state to require paid sick leave. In a press release, the Governor’s office stated that this bill will provide sick leave to about 40 percent of California’s workforce, or 6.5 million workers, who do not currently receive this benefit.
If you have employees in California, you are, no doubt, aware that California laws are constantly changing and have a tendency to sneak up on even the best companies. To help prepare you for the year ahead, here are five important questions employers should ask themselves to test whether they are ready for the key changes in 2014: READ MORE
California’s Paid Family Leave Now Covers More Kin
Currently, through California’s Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) insurance program, workers may collect up to six weeks of partial wage replacement benefits while taking leave under the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) or California’s Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, or registered domestic partner, or to bond with a minor child within one year of birth or the placement of the child in connection with foster care or adoption. On September 24, 2013, Governor Brown signed SB 770, expanding the PFL program to cover siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and parents in-law. Note, however, that PFL does not provide leave rights. CFRA was not similarly amended and, as with FMLA, only provides protected leave with reinstatement rights when taken to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, or registered domestic partner, or to bond with a minor child within one year of birth or the placement of the child in connection with foster care or adoption (among other things). Thus, employees who take leave to care for a sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or parent in-law, though they may receive partial wage replacement, will not be afforded job protection and reinstatement rights unless provided under an employer plan. READ MORE