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.
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
In a boon to defendants seeking to remove cases to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”), the Ninth Circuit has overturned a rule requiring defendants to show to a “legal certainty” that the jurisdictional amount in controversy is satisfied when a complaint alleges a lesser amount of damages.
CAFA authorizes federal jurisdiction over civil class actions when the class has more than 100 members, there is minimal diversity, and the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. The claims of individual class members are aggregated to determine whether the jurisdictional threshold is met. But until last week, Lowdermilk v. U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n, 479 F.3d 994 (9th Cir. 2007), required defendants to establish to a “legal certainty” that the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million in order to remove a case when a putative class action complaint alleged damages below that amount. This rule allowed plaintiffs to avoid federal jurisdiction by artful pleading. Read More
Imagine for a second that you’re watching your favorite sports team: They’re losing, time is winding down, and you’re left watching the other team run down the clock. That frustration you’re feeling is something similar to what defendants in a state court case might feel as they watch the days pass by, one by one, until they’re out of time, and it’s too late to remove their case to federal court. 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.
In Schechner v. KPIX-TV, No. 11–15294, 2012 WL 1922088 (9th Cir. May 29, 2012), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a plaintiff may establish a prima facie case of disparate treatment age discrimination using statistical evidence, even where that evidence does not account for a defendant’s legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for the adverse employment action. However, the court found the plaintiffs’ statistical evidence insufficient to demonstrate that the defendant’s proffered reasons for the adverse employment action were pretextual. Read More
Employees cannot be criminally prosecuted by the federal government for breach of an employer’s computer policies, according to the Ninth Circuit’s April 10, 2012 en banc opinion in U.S. v. Nosal. The 9-2 en banc panel (with a strongly worded dissent) opted to narrowly construe the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) to avoid creating a world in which employees could be held criminally liable for “workplace dalliances” like accessing social media sites which may be in violation of a company policy that work computers may be used for business purposes only. The opinion reversed the Ninth Circuit’s earlier April 28, 2011 panel decision and further deepened a split among circuits on this issue. Read More