The California legislature played an active role in 2015 by enacting new rules and amendments in many employment areas. The following covers some of the key highlights, some of which became effective on January 1, 2016.
Julia C. Riechert
Julia Collins Riechert is a Partner in the Silicon Valley office and a member of the employment law group.
Orrick’s employment law group was named the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Labor & Employment Department of the Year in California by The Recorder in recognition of their significant wins on behalf of leading multinational companies on today’s most complex and challenging employment law matters.
Julia began her Orrick career as a summer associate in 2006, and since has defended many companies in class action, multi-plaintiff and single plaintiff wage-and-hour lawsuits under California and federal law. She has experience defending companies against a variety of wage-and-hour claims, including claims of misclassification and for unpaid wages, off-the-clock work, meal and rest break penalties, expense reimbursement, vacation pay, and suitable seating. Julia has assisted in successfully defeating class certification in wage-and-hour class actions, including for companies in the retail and technology industries.
Julia has defended companies and individual defendants in single plaintiff and multi-plaintiff lawsuits under California and federal law, including claims for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, as well as disability and leave of absence claims. She has handled many government agency charges for her clients, as well as government audits. She has also helped clients resolve pre-litigation matters arising from employment terminations.
Julia has extensive experience advising companies on employee terminations, workplace investigations, discrimination, harassment and retaliation complaints, compensation practices, performance management, meal and rest breaks, exempt/non-exempt classification, commission plans, independent contractor classification and policy implementation. She also provides training for company workforces, including California's mandatory sexual harassment training and management training on key employment issues and mitigating risk.
Her clients have included retailers such as Gap, Gymboree, Pottery Barn, Chico’s, Williams-Sonoma, Inc., Jo-Ann Stores, Inc., and Diane Von Furstenberg Studio, L.P. She has also represented many technology clients, including Genentech, Varian, Intuit, NVIDIA, Juniper Networks, VMware and Electronic Arts. She has also worked with a variety of start-up companies, including in the sharing economy sphere.
Julia also performs pro bono work, including employment law training for small business owners and drafting employee handbooks for non-profit organizations. She was also part of a team that obtained summary judgment for The Humane Society of the United States, upholding a California statute banning cruel animal trapping.
Baseball season is well underway as fans fill themselves up on hot dogs and beers, don their rally caps for some late-inning luck, and cheer for their favorite players. Meanwhile, a class action against Major League Baseball by former minor league players has been trotting through federal court. In Senne v. MLB, No. 3:14-cv-00608-JCS (N.D. Cal. Feb. 7, 2014), ECF No. 1, the plaintiffs cry foul in alleging that “paying their dues” on the way to the big leagues isn’t paying the bills. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that MLB and all 30 of its teams have violated the FLSA by not paying the minor leaguers overtime and minimum wage.
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.
A recent federal district court decision denying a motion for class certification of wage-and-hour claims reflects continuing disagreement among courts in California regarding the suitability for class treatment of meal and rest break claims when an employer has no written break policy.
In Richey v. Autonation, Inc., issued January 29, 2015, the California Supreme Court reinstated an arbitration award against the plaintiff and confirmed that employers retain the right to terminate employees who violate company policy even while they are on a leave of absence under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).
The National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB”) General Counsel’s Office has again signaled its commitment to expanding the scope of the current test for joint employment. In a move that could have implications for a broad array of franchise relationships, on December 19, 2014, the General Counsel of the NLRB announced that it has issued complaints against both McDonald’s franchisees and McDonald’s USA, the franchisor, as a joint employer. The decision to name McDonald’s as a respondent is consistent with the General Counsel’s recent advocacy that the current joint employment standard is too narrow.
On October 8, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk. In Busk, plaintiffs allege that, under the FLSA, their employer should have compensated them and other warehouse employees for time spent passing through the employer’s security clearance at the end of their shifts, including their time spent waiting in line to be searched. Busk is an important case to watch because the Court may provide employers with wide-ranging guidance on what pre-work or post-work tasks are compensable.
On August 8, 2014, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (“OFCCP”) proposed new annual reporting requirements for federal contractors and subcontractors. The proposal requires additional pay information and will become effective in early 2015, unless the OFCCP decides to amend them.
Last week, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Peabody v. Time Warner Cable, Inc., deciding that employers may not apply commission payments to earlier pay periods for the purposes of establishing that an employee meets the minimum wage component under the commissioned employee exemption.