Twice in one week, the California Court of Appeal sided with employees in two cases against grocery giant, Safeway Inc. Read More
As employers welcome a new group of eager interns to their offices this summer, employers may be thinking about the recent wave of class action lawsuits alleging that unpaid internships violate minimum wage and overtime laws. Should these claims be litigated on a classwide basis? Read More
The United States Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, Case No. 11-864 (March 27, 2013) reinforces class certification requirements as spelled out in Wal-Mart v. Dukes. However, the closely divided court (5-4) and a strong dissent underscore that the battle over class certification standards may be far from over. While Comcast involved antitrust claims, the Court’s decision has implications for all Rule 23 cases, including employment class actions. Read More
The Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in Wang v. Chinese Daily News is the latest to affirm that Wal-Mart v. Dukes is controlling in wage-and-hour class action cases. Read More
A recent opinion by the Seventh Circuit holds that the standard for certifying a collective action under the FLSA is the same as the standard applied to a class action under Rule 23. In Espenscheid v. DirectSat USA, LLC, No. 12-1943 (7th Cir. Feb. 4, 2013), the court considered decertification by a Western District of Wisconsin District Court of more than 2,000 satellite technicians in an action alleging technicians did not receive overtime and were not compensated for certain hours. In analyzing the standard to apply in evaluating the decertification decision, the court contrasted the opt-in procedure of FLSA collective actions with the opt-out procedure of Rule 23 actions, as well as noted that the FLSA lacks “the kind of detailed procedural provisions found in Rule 23” that set forth the standard for certification. Read More
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
In the last several years, the enforcement of agreements to arbitrate disputes, whether between businesses or between businesses and their employees, has become a hotly contested issue in the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court issued two significant pronouncements in this area in the past few years. In 2010, in Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. Animalfeeds International Corp., 130 S.Ct. 1758 (2010), the Court held that where an agreement to arbitrate is silent on the question of whether a plaintiff can arbitrate her claims on behalf of a proposed class of similarly situated individuals (similar to a class action lawsuit), class arbitration is not permissible. Last year, in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740 (2011), the Court held that (1) under the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), arbitration agreements are to be enforced “according to their terms”; and (2) state law rules prohibiting the use of “class-action waiver” provisions, in which a party waives his or her right to arbitrate claims on a class basis, are preempted by the FAA. Together, these cases stand for the fundamental proposition that the parties to arbitration agreements should be bound by the clear terms of such agreements, especially with respect to class arbitration issues. Read More
On October 10, 2012, a California Court of Appeal held that a wage and hour class action could not be certified where the common company-wide policy at issue did not answer the “central liability” question of the case.
The case, Morgan v. Wet Seal, Inc., was brought by former Wet Seal employees against the clothing store alleging that the company violated California law by requiring employees to 1) purchase Wet Seal clothing and merchandise as a condition of employment; and 2) travel between Wet Seal business locations without reimbursing them for mileage. The plaintiffs moved for class certification, pointing to written company policies as evidence of the common issues of fact and law that predominated over individual issues. Wet Seal opposed the plaintiff’s motion for class certification arguing, among other things, that their written policies actually undermined the plaintiff’s claims. The policies at issue specifically state that employees are not required to wear Wet Seal clothing and that employees may be eligible for reimbursement for mileage.
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s holding that the facially legal policies made it impossible to use a class-wide method of proving liability. For example, the Court explained that the plaintiffs’ dress code claims raised issues of 1) whether Wet Seal requires employees to wear the merchandise as a condition of employment; 2) whether the allegedly required attire constitutes a uniform; and 3) whether any given purchase by an employee constituted a “necessary expenditure.” Here, the Court found that the policy explicitly did not require wear and the policy’s description of the dress code as “consistent with the current fashion style that is reflected in the stores” was too broad and vague to constitute a “uniform” under the definition provided by the DLSE. Therefore, any question of liability would inevitably turn on what each Plaintiff was told, who told it to them, how they interpreted that information, whether the interpretation was reasonable and whether the employee then purchased merchandise pursuant to that conversation.
The Court of Appeal emphasized that the allegation of a companywide policy is not sufficient in and of itself to establish that common issues predominated because “there was no class wide method of proof for resolving this key liability question.” The anecdotal evidence provided in Plaintiffs’ declarations attempting to show a practice of requiring employees to purchase Wet Seal clothing as a uniform only reinforced the Court’s conclusion that liability would have to be decided on an individualized basis.
The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) released its 2013 hourly rate and minimum salary requirement adjustment for exempt computer software employees. Beginning January 1, 2013, the minimum hourly rate of pay will increase to $39.90 to qualify for exemption, the minimum monthly salary will increase to $6,927.75, and the annual minimum salary will increase to $83,132.93. The 2.6 percent increase is based upon the California Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers pursuant to California Labor Code § 515.5(a)(4).
In addition to the salary requirements, computer software employees must meet the remaining criteria set forth under Labor Code § 515.5 in order to be exempted from state overtime requirements.
Many employers systematically round employee time punches to the nearest tenth of an hour. For example, if an employee clocks in at 9:58 a.m., the time is rounded up to 10:00 a.m.; and likewise if she clocks in at 10:02 a.m., her time is rounded down to 10:00 a.m. Under federal law, rounding policies are lawful if they are neutrally applied and do not systematically under compensate employees. While this standard was approved by the California Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement, until recently, no California court or statute specifically addressed the issue.
However, on October 29, 2012, the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District in See’s Candy Shops, Inc. v. Superior Court confirmed that the neutral rounding standard adopted by federal law and the Department of Labor Standards and Enforcement is appropriate under California law. Thus, under See’s Candy, California employers may maintain lawful rounding policies if the rounding does not consistently result in a failure to pay employees for time worked. An example of a potentially unlawful rounding policy is one in which the employer always rounds time down.
Also of note, in approving the federal rounding standard, the See’s Candy opinion rejected the plaintiff’s reliance on California Labor Code section 204. Specifically, the court emphasized that Section 204 is solely a timing requirement as to when wages must be paid, and does not create any substantive right to wages.
You can read the decision here.