California Court of Appeal Holds Employer Cannot Shorten Statute of Limitation on California Discrimination and Retaliation Claims

Can employers enter into binding agreements with employees to shorten the statute of limitations on discrimination and other employment claims? A California Court of Appeal decision answered that question with a resounding “no” in a recent case, reinstating claims by a woman who filed suit prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations, but after the deadline she had agreed to in an employment agreement signed at the time of hire. Read More

Employers Beware: You May be Liable for Your Employees’ Tortious Off-Duty Conduct during Their Commutes

In Moradi v. Marsh USA, Inc., the California Court of Appeal concluded that employees who are required to use their personal vehicles to travel to and from the office and make other work-related trips during the day are acting within in the scope of their employment when they are commuting to and from work. Read More

California Court of Appeal Denies Wage-and-Hour Class Claims and Enforces Arbitration Agreement under Concepcion

Employers in California have been watching closely to see how courts will apply the United States Supreme Court’s decision in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740 (2011), which held that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempted state law concerning the enforceability of class action waiver provisions, in which a party waives his or her right to arbitrate claims on a class basis. Read More

California Court of Appeal Overturns $1.3 Million in Damages and Attorneys’ Fees against Lucasfilm for Failure to Give Instruction on Business Judgment

On December 10, 2012, in Veronese v. Lucasfilm Ltd., a California Court of Appeal overturned a Marin County jury’s verdict against Lucasfilm based on its finding that several errors in jury instructions prejudicially affected the verdict. Plaintiff had sued under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) for pregnancy discrimination and related claims when she accepted, but did not start, in a temporary position at Lucasfilm. After eleven days of testimony and three days of deliberation, a jury awarded Veronese a total of $113,800 in damages and the trial court awarded Veronese $1,157,411 in attorneys’ fees. Lucasfilm challenged both the judgment and the fee award. Lucasfilm argued that the trial court judge erred in giving certain instructions proposed by Veronese, failing to give certain instructions proposed by Lucasfilm, and failing to instruct on certain issues submitted to the jury. Notably, this Court of Appeal decision appears to be the first California appellate decision reversing a jury verdict for an employee based on failure to give a business judgment instruction. Read More

California Court of Appeal: Employer Cannot Compel Arbitration Unless There Is A Signed Arbitration Agreement

Since the United States Supreme Court’s decision in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, more and more employers have sought to get out of court and into arbitration when dealing with employee disputes. The California Courts of Appeal, however, are not making that easy when it comes to an employer’s burden to show the existence of a valid agreement to arbitrate. Several months ago, the Second Appellate District held in Sparks v. Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services that an arbitration policy in an employee handbook was not enough to force arbitration. Similar decisions have reached the same conclusion, e.g., Carey v. 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc., (5th Cir. Jan. 25, 2012). Read More

California Court of Appeal Reads Employment Agreement in Conjunction with a Sale of Business Transaction Yet Refuses to Apply “Sale of Business” Exception to its Non-Compete Clause

On August 24, 2012, a California Court of Appeal clarified when an employment agreement can satisfy the “sale of business” exception to California’s general ban on post-employment non-compete provisions. The Court held that when a stock purchase agreement’s non-compete clause already adequately protects the goodwill of the sold business, any inconsistent and additional non-compete protection in a related employment agreement with the purchasing company may not be enforceable. The holding signals that an employment agreement’s non-compete covenant does not automatically qualify for the “sale of business” exception  simply because it is part of the same transaction as a stock purchase agreement. Read More

Harris v. Superior Court, No. B195121 (Cal. App. July 23, 2012)

Is it “here we go again” for Harris? In the latest round of the donnybrook that is the administrative exemption in California, a California Court of Appeal in Harris v. Super. Ct., No. B195121 (Cal. App. July 23, 2012), held that the plaintiffs, insurance claims adjusters, were—as a matter of law—not exempt from California’s overtime laws under California’s administrative exemption. After a trial court certified a partial class of California claims adjusters, but denied plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, the parties appealed the decision all the way to the California Supreme Court. Read More

California Court of Appeal Rules that Advanced Sales Commissions May Be Recovered By the Employer

On July 10, 2012, a California court of appeal held that an employer’s practice and policy of charging back advanced sales commissions following a canceled service agreement does not violate California law. The Court held that these advanced commissions are not wages; thus they do not come within the ambit of California Code of Civil Procedure section 223 which prohibits the secret payment of lower wages and exposes the employer to PAGA penalties. Read More

California Court of Appeal Says No to Class Certification of Independent Contractors

The California Court of Appeal has affirmed a trial court’s order denying class certification on the alleged misclassification of independent contractors. The Court of Appeal provides a lengthy analysis of ascertainability and predominance of common issues of law and fact under California’s class action laws.  Read More