It Might be Mechanical, But It’s Exempt: Court Dismisses Temp Document Reviewing Attorneys’ Overtime Collective Action

A district court in New York dismissed the putative collective action filed by a contract attorney who performed document review for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP (“Skadden”) for fifteen months. See Lola v. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.  Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), an employee is exempt from overtime as a professional employee if he or she is “the holder of a valid license . . . permitting the practice of law” and “who is actually engaged in the practice thereof.” 29 C.F.R. § 541.3.  The named plaintiff and proposed class representative, David Lola, was a licensed attorney, and, therefore, the dispositive question was whether he was practicing law such that he qualified for the exemption.

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Federal Preemption Defense Running Out of Gas? 

Recent decisions by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the California Supreme Court have thrown a road block in the way of employers relying on a federal statute to preempt certain state wage-and-hour law claims.  At issue is whether the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (“FAAAA”) precludes truck drivers from asserting claims for meal and rest break, minimum wage, and other violations under California law.  At least for now, the road is clear for such claims.

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Seeking Credit for Deferred Commissions? You Might Get Declined

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.

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Extra! Extra! Read All About It: California Supreme Court Affirms Reversal of Class Certification Denial for Class of Newspaper Carriers

The California Supreme Court in Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc. recently affirmed and remanded the reversal of a denial of class certification in an independent contractor misclassification case, emphasizing the standard terms of the contractual agreements between the parties. The plaintiffs were newspaper carriers for the defendant newspaper publisher who were contracted pursuant to two preprinted standard form contracts. Based on the theory that they were misclassified as independent contractors, plaintiffs alleged overtime, meal and rest break violations, and sought reimbursement for expenses and penalties. Read More

Ending in a Draw: In Iskanian v. CLS Transportation, the California Supreme Court Upholds Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements, But Also Makes PAGA Claims Unwaivable

Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, California employers hoped this day would come. In a predictable result, the California Supreme Court today acknowledged that class action waivers in employment arbitration agreements are enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). In so doing, the Court overruled its 2007 decision in Gentry v. Superior Court which effectively had barred class action waivers for wage and hour cases. But the Court’s 6-1 plurality decision also bolstered an alternate method for bringing Labor Code claims in court by declaring that actions brought under the Private Attorneys General Act (Labor Code § 2968 et seq.) are not waivable by private agreement and thus not subject to compelled arbitration. Read More

Secretly Working Off The Clock—You Don’t Get Paid For That!

Following principles that federal courts have applied in similar cases under the Fair Labor Standards Act, a California appellate court recently confirmed that employers are not liable under the California Labor Code for off-the-clock work that occurs without the employer’s actual or constructive knowledge. In Jong v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan, Inc., the California Court of Appeal for the First District affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment for the employer, holding that the employee failed to set forth sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the employer actually or constructively knew that the employee worked unrecorded overtime. Read More

Try, Try Again: The California Supreme Court Sends “Fundamentally Flawed” Duran Case Back to the Trial Court

Employment class action defendants in California who were hoping for an unequivocal statement that statistical sampling has no place in class actions are likely to be disappointed by today’s ruling in Duran v. U.S. Bank, N.A.  The California Supreme Court cautiously left all avenues to certification open, stating that a “[s]tatistical sampling may provide an appropriate means of proving liability and damages in some wage and hour class actions.” (Emphasis added.)  But despair not!  The bulk of the opinion agreed with the court of appeal in finding the trial court’s methods “profoundly flawed,” recognized the “thorny” issues of proof that arise in misclassification cases, and reaffirmed a court’s obligation to consider the manageability of individual issues in certifying a class action.  The Court’s instructions to lower courts and litigants to determine – as an integral part of class certification – whether the case can be manageably tried are likely to aid employers in certification battles to come.     Read More

Unpaid, but Not Unprotected: New York City Extends Human Rights Law to Protect Interns

As reported by us in recent blog articles (Do as I Say, Not as I Do: Differences in Duties Means No Commonality, No Class Certification for Unpaid Interns and The High Cost of Hiring Unpaid Interns), employment issues surrounding unpaid interns are on the rise. While the bulk of the debate has centered on wage-and-hour issues, some have argued that interns should be afforded the same protections from workplace discrimination and harassment as employees. New York City has now adopted that view. Read More

Doctor Doctor Give Me the News, Is My Employee Fit for Duty After FMLA Leave?

On April 15, 2014, a California appeals court ruled that after an employee returns to work from leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an employer can require a medical reevaluation related to the health condition for which the employee was granted FMLA leave, so long as it is job related and consistent with business necessity. Read More

De Minimis Defense Closes Shop on Starbucks Barista’s Off-the-Clock Claim in the Central District of California

On March 7, 2014, Judge Feess of the Central District of California granted Defendant Starbucks’ motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s proposed class claims for unpaid wages under the California Labor Code. Plaintiff alleged that Starbucks failed to pay him for the brief time he spent closing the store after he clocked out at the end of every closing shift. His alleged off-the-clock closing duties included closing out of the store’s computer system, activating the alarm, walking out of store, locking the door, walking employees to their cars and staying with co-workers when they waited for rides. He also occasionally moved the store’s patio furniture inside and reopened the store for an employee who forgot personal belonging in the store. Read More