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

Paid in Singles for a Shot at the Big Leagues: Former Minor Leaguers Sue MLB for Wage-and-Hour Violations

Spring training is just around the corner and major leaguers have already reported to their first workout. Meanwhile, an interesting development–three former minor leaguers have filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, and three MLB teams, claiming that the MLB has failed to pay overtime and minimum wages in violation of the FLSA and various state labor laws. According to the plaintiffs, the MLB “has a long, infamous history of labor exploitation dating to its inception” by hoarding players, depressing salaries, and preventing unionization of the minor leagues. See Complaint, Senne v. MLB, No. 3:14-cv-00608-JCS (N.D. Cal. Feb. 7, 2014), ECF No. 1. The case is presently before Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero. Read More

Get Paid for Getting Dressed? Supreme Court Clarifies “Changing Clothes” Under the FLSA

Updating a case we discussed last month, in Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp., No. 12-417 (January 27, 2014), the United States Supreme Court last week clarified the scope of Section 203(o) of the FLSA concerning which donning and doffing activities employers and employees can bargain to exclude from compensable time in collective bargaining agreements. In the process, the high Court also unanimously agreed upon which activities constitute “changing clothes” in regards to Section 203(o). Read More

Strippers and the Fair Labor Standards Act: Lessons for All Employers

Late last month, in the Southern District of Florida, adult entertainers at several Rick’s Cabaret locations filed a lawsuit alleging that they were improperly categorized (and thus improperly compensated) as independent contractors rather than employees. See Espinoza, et al. v. Rick’s Cabaret Int’l, Inc., Case No. 1:13-cv-24565-UU. In light of recent decisions, Rick’s—like other employers classifying workers as independent contractors—should proceed with caution.

The past several months have seen a spate of rulings adverse to employers in the adult entertainment context. Early last year, a Southern District of New York judge approved an $8 million settlement for a class of dancers at another adult establishment who alleged that they were misclassified as independent contractors. See In re: Penthouse Executive Club Compensation Litigation, Case No. 1:10-cv-01145. In September 2013, in a different S.D.N.Y. case, the court in Hart, et al. v. Rick’s Cabaret Int’l, Inc. found that dancers at the New York club location were employees, not independent contractors, for purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New York Labor Law. And just last week a Northern District of Georgia judge who previously certified a class of adult entertainers who alleged they were wrongly classified as independent contractors granted the entertainers’ summary judgment motion with respect to their status as employees under the FLSA. See Stevenson, et al. v. The Great American Dream, Inc., No. 1:12-CV-3359-TWT.

In finding no independent contractor relationship in Hart, the court cited the existence of club guidelines that governed dancers’ dress/appearance (e.g., body glitter forbidden, 4-inch stiletto heels required), behavior in the club (e.g., gum chewing or using a cell phone on the dance floor prohibited), when dancers could be scheduled to work, various fees dancers were required to pay, and manner of performance (e.g., prohibition on more than one knee touching the ground when performing on stage). Of virtually no significance was the fact that there were signed agreements between dancers and Rick’s Cabaret expressing that the employment relationship was that of an independent contractor.

Irrespective of industry, companies that utilize independent contractors are well advised to periodically reexamine the economic realities of those relationships.

San Francisco “Flexible Workplace” Measure May be Tip of the Iceberg of Increasing Local Employment Regulation

October 2013, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the “Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance,” which if signed by the mayor will expand protections for workers with family care-giving duties and require employers to take requests for flexible work arrangements seriously. The measure creates a new, “only in San Francisco” protected category of workers that employers will likely have to keep in mind when making workplace decisions, as Mayor Ed Lee has indicated his intention to sign the measure into law.   Read More

Better Late Than Never: The New York State Department of Labor Finally Issues Regulations on Permissible Wage Deductions

Almost one year after the New York Labor Law was amended to expand the scope of permissible wage deductions, on October 9, 2013, the New York Department of Labor has finally issued regulations that allow employers to take advantage of the changes to the law. Read More

Governor Brown Expands Paid Family Leave Eligibility, Boosts Minimum Wage, and Grants Overtime to Nannies

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

NLRB Continues to Hold Firm on D.R. Horton Reasoning Despite Contrary Decisions in the Courts

Despite increasing rejection of the NLRB’s controversial D.R. Horton decision by almost all federal courts which have considered it, an NLRB administrative law judge recently felt there was no choice but to follow Board precedent and so applied and affirmed its holding. These cases illustrate the growing divide between the NLRB and courts over the D.R. Horton decision and the growing trend of federal courts refusing to uphold its enforcement. Read More

A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Not So Much, For California Employers: Two New Employee-Friendly Bills Are Signed by Governor Brown

Even in the summer months, the California legislature is busy changing the laws that affect the state’s employers. This summer, California’s governor signed into law two bills that should be of interest to all employers—one amending the definition of sexual harassment under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) and the other amending a provision of the California Labor relating to the award of attorneys‘ fees and costs in actions for the non-payment of wages. Read More

A Welcome ‘Waive’ of Second Circuit Cases: Class Action Waivers Deemed Enforceable

For the better part of the last decade, the Second Circuit routinely and consistently struck down class action waivers in arbitration provisions. As recently as March 2011, the Second Circuit appeared to have brought down the hammer even further, by stating in In Re: American Express Merchants’ Litigation (“AmEx”) that a mandatory arbitration provision—even one that includes an express “class action waiver”—is unenforceable to the extent it “effectively precludes any action seeking to vindicate [plaintiff’s] statutory rights.”  Read More