The United States Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, Case No. 11-864 (March 27, 2013) reinforces class certification requirements as spelled out in Wal-Mart v. Dukes. However, the closely divided court (5-4) and a strong dissent underscore that the battle over class certification standards may be far from over. While Comcast involved antitrust claims, the Court’s decision has implications for all Rule 23 cases, including employment class actions. Read More
Byron Lau is an associate in the Los Angeles office and practices general litigation and employment law.
During law school, Mr. Lau was a summer law clerk at Orrick and interned at the California Attorney General's Office in San Francisco.
Earlier this month, the California Supreme Court issued a ruling clarifying details of the “mixed-motive” defense applicable to discrimination claims under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). Harris v. City of Santa Monica, Case No. S181004 (Cal. Feb. 7, 2013). The Harris opinion is undoubtedly positive news for employers and provides much-needed guidance to trial courts in California handling mixed-motive cases (i.e., cases where legitimate and illegitimate factors motivated the decision). Read More
Last week in Green v. Bank of America Corp., No. 11.56365 (9th Cir. Feb. 13, 2012), the Ninth Circuit held that “suitable seats” lawsuits cannot be dismissed at the pleading stage based on an employee’s failure to allege that he or she requested suitable seating. The Ninth Circuit’s reversal raises significant questions regarding one of the more common employer defenses to the recent wave of “suitable seats” litigation based upon IWC Wage Order 7-2001.
Filed in April 2011, the plaintiffs in Green raised standard “suitable seats” allegations by claiming Bank of America failed to comply with the requirement of Section 14 of IWC Wage Order 7-2001 that employees be provided with “suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits use of seats.” The district court granted Bank of America’s motion to dismiss, holding that the bank only needed to provide tellers access to seats if seats were requested. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the district court mistakenly assumed a requirement that employees allege that they requested seats where the text of the Wage Order does not expressly require such a request. The Court’s brief opinion also clarified that its reversal did not present an opinion on whether any seating provided to the employees was “suitable” or whether the nature of the work “reasonably permits use of seats” because these issues would be developed at the district court upon remand.
Though Green is confined to its context and should not be read to preclude employers from raising the defense of a failure to request suitable seating, it nonetheless raises the critical question of whether employers have an affirmative obligation to provide suitable seats in the absence of any employee requests. As more “suitable seats” lawsuits reach the summary judgment and trial stages, and as state appellate courts begin to take up the issue, employers should expect more clarity. In the meantime, employers should stay tuned for further updates regarding this rapidly changing area of employment law.
On October 10, 2012, the Eighth Circuit in Abshire v. Redland Energy Services, LLC (Case No. 11-3380) confirmed that under the FLSA, employers are allowed to alter the days contained in employees’ workweek to minimize overtime pay as long as the change is intended to be permanent. While this decision is certainly a victory for employers, employers (particularly in California) should nevertheless ensure compliance with state law before making any changes.
Abshire involved claims against employer Redland Energy Services, LLC, a company that drills and services natural gas wells in Arkansas. Most of Redland’s workers worked a regular Monday-to-Friday schedule, and any weekly overtime was calculated on a regular Sunday-to-Saturday week. Redland’s drill operators, however, worked 12-hour shifts on seven consecutive days, from Tuesdays through Mondays, and then received seven days off. Originally, Redland calculated weekly overtime for its drill operators on a Tuesday-to-Monday week. In May 2009, however, Redlands switched to a Sunday-to-Saturday week, thereby making the workweek consistent for all employees. Redland claimed that this switch was made not only to decrease payroll expense by reducing the number of hours that drill operators must be paid at the FLSA-mandated overtime rate, but also to reduce administrative costs because the change would allow the company to calculate the overtime for all of its employees on the same weekly basis. The drill operators alleged that the supposed reduction of administrative costs was merely a pretext, and the effort to reduce the amount of overtime paid was impermissible under the FLSA. Read More
Employers should take a closer look at non-compete clauses in their employment agreements following the Central District of California’s decision earlier this month in Arkley v. Aon Risk Services Companies, Inc., (Case No. 2:12-cv-01966-DSF-RZ). Arkley invalidated a non-compete clause in an employment contract under California law even though the contract contained a choice of law clause selecting Illinois law, which upholds such clauses. Read More