2018 saw some major developments in employment law, particularly in California. The California Supreme Court embraced the ABC test for independent contractors in Dynamex, and rejected the de minimis doctrine for Labor Code claims in Troester. While 2019 has already brought legislative changes through the #metoo laws effective January 1, attention should also be on cases before the California Supreme Court. These cases may present new challenges for all employers, but particularly for media companies and employers doing business across state lines. The Court’s decisions in these cases have the potential to increase employers’ exposure to liability. We highlight some such cases here. READ MORE
Andrew Livingston is a partner in the San Francisco office, where he serves as the Office Leader. Previously, Andrew was the Deputy Practice Group Leader of Orrick’s Global Employment Law Group.
Orrick’s Employment Law and Litigation group was recently named Labor & Employment Department of the Year in California for the fourth consecutive year by The Recorder, the premier source for legal news, in recognition of their significant wins on behalf of leading multinational companies on today’s most complex and challenging employment law matters.
Andrew is a highly regarded trial lawyer. The Daily Journal has listed him as a Top Labor & Employment Attorney a number of times, and he has been selected as a BTI Client Service Allstar. Legal 500 has recognized Andrew as a "very effective courtroom advocate who connects well with jurors" and noted that he is "exceptional in his ability to organize complex factual and legal arguments into a simple and persuasive presentation."
Andrew represents clients in a wide variety of industries, but specifically focuses on financial services, retail, technology, and advertising.
He has an extensive class- and collective-action practice. He routinely defends employers in such cases in state and federal courts, particularly in cases alleging violations of the wage-and-hour laws. Andrew also defends employers in numerous other types of cases, such as those related to restrictive covenants and trade secrets, wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
Posts by: Andrew Livingston
In recent years, the volume of equal pay lawsuits has continued to increase in Silicon Valley, despite technology companies reaffirming their commitment to equal pay policies and practices. Earlier this month, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. (“HP”) was hit with the latest equal pay lawsuit. The class action lawsuit, filed in Santa Clara Superior Court, alleges that HP discriminated against its female workers by paying them less than their male counterparts and funneling women into certain jobs based on stereotypes. READ MORE
Last week, California enacted new legislation updating the prohibition on employers inquiring into the salary history of their applicants and the requirement that employers respond to applicants’ requests for the pay scale for positions. This law, enacting Assembly Bill No. 2282, clarifies key provisions in Labor Code section 432.2 regarding employers’ obligations, which were left undefined in the bill that added Section 432.3 to the Labor Code last year. READ MORE
On April 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles. The Court announced a significant departure from the S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations, 48 Cal. 3d 341 (1989) test, previously used by California courts and state agencies for nearly three decades for determining whether a worker is an independent contractor under the Industrial Welfare Commission (“IWC”) wage orders. In its place, the Court adopted the so-called “ABC” test for determining whether an individual is considered an employee under the wage orders, which govern many aspects of wages and working conditions in covered industries. READ MORE
On March 7, 2018, the Sixth Circuit issued a ruling of first impression, holding that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) did not exempt an employer from liability for violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (“Title VII”) when it fired an employee transitioning from male to female. READ MORE
It is now the norm to see passersby glued to their phones as they make their morning trek into work. And when those employees head home, they are often unable to “leave work at the office” as they continue to respond to evening messages, texts, and emails. Recent studies have shown that employees who spend time communicating about work matters and engaged in other work activities outside of working hours are less productive in the office and have a worse quality of sleep. Now, a novel bill introduced before the New York City Council seeks to end that practice by giving workers the ability to pull the plug on work communications during non-work hours.
The Obama-Era Overtime Rule Stalls
As we previously reported, a federal district judge’s invalidation of the Obama-era overtime rules – which proposed a sharp increase in the salary threshold for exempt employees, expanding overtime pay to millions of workers – did not doom the possibility of changes to the minimum salary requirements. Last week, on October 30, the Department of Labor filed a notice of appeal of the decision. The notice comes after the DOL started the rulemaking process to replace Obama’s Rule with a new rule increasing the current minimum salary level by about 50% (to around $33,000). If this became effective, it would be a significant departure from the Obama-era Rule, which doubled the minimum salary level to $47,476. The DOL is expected to issue the new proposed rule in the coming months. READ MORE
On July 13, 2017, the California Supreme Court greatly expanded the scope of discovery available under California’s Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”). In Williams v. Superior Court (Marshalls of CA, LLC), ___Cal. 5th ___ (Jul. 13, 2017), the court held that the breadth of discovery in a PAGA action should be no less than what is normally permitted in a class action. Additionally, the Court held that as an essential first step to prosecuting any representative action, a PAGA plaintiff is presumptively entitled in the early stages of litigation to obtain from the employer-defendant the contact information of those the plaintiff purports to represent in early stages of litigation. READ MORE
For anyone who missed it, on Monday, March 14th the “Opportunity to Work Ordinance” (the “Ordinance”) went into effect in San Jose. The Ordinance, which was approved by voters on November 8, 2016, requires employers to offer additional hours to existing part-time employees before hiring externally, either directly or through a temporary staffing agency. Employers must offer the additional hours to employees who have the skills and experience to perform the work. Whether or not an existing employee has the requisite skill and experience is a determination left to the employer – modified only by the requirement that the employer act in good faith and with reasonable judgment. Further, an employer need not offer an existing employee additional hours if doing so would require the employer to compensate the existing employee at time-and-a-half or any other premium rate under the law or a collective bargaining agreement. READ MORE
From the time of its enactment, the California Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”) has been a thorn in the side of employers. For example, the California Supreme Court insists PAGA actions are not class actions, but that hasn’t stopped aggrieved employees from seeking class-wide discovery. And because PAGA permits employees to seek penalties for unconventional causes of action previously off-limits to private plaintiffs (such as the California Wage Order’s suitable seating requirement), employers must grapple with new uncertainties.
But one aspect of PAGA that provides some relief to employers is the requirement that plaintiffs exhaust administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit. To satisfy this this requirement, a plaintiff is required to send a notice to her employer and the Labor Workforce Development Agency (“LWDA”) setting forth the “specific provisions” of the Labor Code allegedly violated and explaining the “facts and theories to support the alleged violation” and then wait 65 days before filing suit. This notice requirement has two purposes: (1) to give the LWDA sufficient information to determine whether the alleged violation justifies an investigation and/ or citation and (2) to put the employer on notice so that it may voluntarily cure the alleged violation. Oftentimes, however, plaintiffs’ notice letters are deficient because they fail to include sufficient facts and theories to inform the employer or the LWDA of the nature of the claims. In such cases, plaintiffs have failed to exhaust administrative remedies.
Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s recent decision in Gunn v. Family Dollar Stores, Inc., Case No.: 3:14-cv-1916-GPC-BGS (S.D. Cal. Dec. 2, 2016), reminds us of the standard that notice letters must meet. Plaintiff Gunn’s notice letter advised the LWDA of his intent to file a PAGA action for violations of Wage Order 7-2001, Section 14, and “[s]pecifically . . . allege[d] that Family Dollar failed to provide suitable seats to Plaintiff and other current and former employees when the nature of their work reasonably permits the use of seats, in violation of California Labor Code section 1198 and Wage Order 7-2001, section 14.” Judge Curiel held that such an allegation was insufficient to meet PAGA’s standards. As he noted, plaintiffs must detail the “facts and theories” supporting their alleged violations. But here, the plaintiff’s allegations simply parroted the language of the underlying regulation, amounting to nothing more than a “string of legal conclusions” devoid of any of the facts or theories required by the Labor Code. The court rejected the plaintiff’s contention that facts could be implied by his allegations (i.e., that the class of employees at issue would not include office employees because they have seats).
The most notable aspect of Judge Curiel’s opinion, however, was his denial of the plaintiff’s request for leave to amend. Although the court recognized leave to amend tends to be granted freely, he disagreed that applied to defective PAGA notices. The court stated that “courts have granted PAGA claimants leave to amend only when the plaintiff’s complaint failed to adequately plead exhaustion, not when Plaintiff provided defective notice to the LWDA” (emphasis added). Indeed, granting the plaintiff leave here would tacitly endorse a strategy that precludes the LWDA from receiving the information necessary “to intelligently assess the seriousness of the alleged violation,” thereby frustrating the purpose of PAGA’s statutory notice requirement.
While the unpublished opinion in Gunn will not likely mark a sea change in how courts treat PAGA actions, it is nevertheless a victory for California employers. Those facing suitable seats claims, which are based on a notoriously ambiguous statute, may have the most to gain.