A company’s general counsel learns that an executive assistant has made an internal report of sexual harassment against the CEO. Given the allegations and people involved, the GC personally investigates the report and enlists the help of a senior VP to interview key witnesses. The GC also retains outside counsel to advise the company and its board of directors on the matter. READ MORE
Leo has experience litigating a variety of employment disputes, from wage-and-hour class actions to single plaintiff discrimination claims.
Prior to law school, Leo worked as a newspaper reporter in Southern California and taught high school English in the greater Sacramento area.
Posts by: Leo Moniz
On April 29, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued an opinion letter finding that “on-demand” service providers working for a virtual marketplace company are independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The opinion letter comes almost two years after the DOL withdrew informal guidance on independent contractors issued under the Obama administration, in which the DOL concluded that “most workers are employees under the FLSA.” The new opinion letter signals an approach more friendly to “gig economy” virtual marketplace companies (or “VMCs”), online and/or smartphone-based referral services that connect consumers with service providers providing a wide variety of services, such as transportation, delivery, shopping, moving, cleaning, plumbing, painting, and household services. READ MORE
Taking a second look at the use of “no future employment” provisions in a settlement agreement between a doctor and his former employer, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that two of the three provisions constituted “restraints of substantial character” that ran afoul of California’s restriction on noncompete clauses. Golden v. California Emergency Physicians Medical Group, No. 16-17354 (9th Cir. July 24, 2018) (“Golden II”).
In 2007, Dr. Donald Golden, an emergency room surgeon, sued his former employer, California Emergency Physicians Medical Group (“CEP”), claiming that he had been fired because of his race. After mediation, the parties orally agreed to settle the dispute. However, Dr. Golden later refused to sign a written settlement agreement, arguing that three provisions therein violated the restriction on noncompete agreements embodied by California Business and Professions Code Section 16600. Section 16600 provides that, aside from certain exceptions, “every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.”
Dr. Golden challenged the following provisions of the proposed settlement agreement as violative of Section 16600:
- A provision preventing Dr. Golden from working or being reinstated at any facility that CEP owns, manages or contracts with.
- A provision allowing CEP to terminate Dr. Golden without any liability if CEP contracts with an emergency room at which Golden is employed or rendering services.
- A provision allowing CEP to terminate Dr. Golden without any liability if CEP contracts with a facility at which Golden is employed or rendering services.
The district court originally granted a motion to enforce the agreement and ordered Dr. Golden to sign, reasoning that the provisions would only prevent him from working for, not competing with, his former employer CEP, and thus Section 16600 did not apply. When the Ninth Circuit first considered this issue on appeal (Golden I), it reversed, holding that Section 16600 applies not only to noncompetition agreements but to any contractual provision that places a “restraint of a substantial character” on a person’s ability to practice a profession, trade, or business. The Ninth Circuit remanded the case to the district court to apply this standard, but the district court again ordered Dr. Golden to sign the settlement agreement, concluding that the disputed provisions did not constitute a restraint of a substantial character.
Addressing the dispute a second time in Golden II, the Ninth Circuit clarified that to meet the “restraint of substantial character” standard, “a provision need not completely prohibit the business or professional activity at issue, nor does it need to be sufficient to dissuade a reasonable person from engaging in that activity…[b]ut its restraining effect must be significant enough that its enforcement would implicate the policies of open competition and employee mobility that animate [Business and Professions Code] section 16600.”
The Ninth Circuit concluded that the first clause prohibiting Golden from working at any facility contracted by, owned, or managed by CEP was valid, as its effect on Golden’s ability to practice medicine was minimal. However, the court held that the second and third restrictions proposed by CEP would “easily rise to the level of a substantial restraint, especially given the size of CEP’s business in California.” CEP currently staffs 160 healthcare facilities in California and handles between twenty-five and thirty percent of the state’s emergency room admissions. Because the second and third restrictions would affect Golden’s “[existing] and future employment at third-party facilities” where CEP provided services, even if the CEP services began after Golden’s employment, and even if CEP’s services did not compete with the services Golden provided, the provisions ran afoul of Business and Professions Code Section 16600.
The Ninth Circuit’s recent decision is a good reminder that California generally disfavors noncompete agreements. California employers may wish to review their separation/settlement agreements with this case in mind or to consult with counsel to ensure that their agreements comply with California law.
A recent decision by the California Court of Appeal provides two important reminders for practitioners handling Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) claims. First, exhausting administrative proceedings matters. Second, PAGA claims are representative claims – not individual actions.
Under PAGA, an “aggrieved employee” may file a representative action on behalf of himself or herself and other current and former employees to recover civil penalties for violations of the California Labor Code. READ MORE
As Congress considers a bill to change the definition of joint employment under two federal statutes, the Supreme Court is poised to decide whether to take up the issue under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the U.S. Department of Labor has withdrawn administrative guidance issued by the prior administration, and several states have enacted or considered joint employment legislation. In this rapidly evolving legal landscape, companies may want to keep a close eye on a doctrine that can lead to unexpected legal exposure. READ MORE
In a recent oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices considered a narrow procedural issue that could have broader implications for the subpoena power of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).
At issue in McLane Company, Inc. v. EEOC is the standard of review applicable to district court decisions in proceedings brought to compel compliance with EEOC subpoenas issued in administrative investigations. While all the other circuits to have considered the issue have applied an abuse-of-discretion standard, the Ninth Circuit held that such decisions are subject to de novo review. READ MORE
As California employers adjust to recent amendments to the state’s Equal Pay Act, additional changes are looming. As we reported here, last year, California adopted the Fair Pay Act, which provides new pay equity provisions related to employees of the opposite sex. Those amendments took effect on January 1, 2016. Now, California lawmakers are setting their sights on pay disparities based on race and ethnicity. On February 16, 2016, California Senator Isadore Hall III (D-South Bay) introduced Senate Bill 1063, known as the Wage Equality Act of 2016 (“SB 1063”), which seeks to expand pay equity requirements beyond sex to include race and ethnicity.
A recent federal court decision illustrates how defendants may be able to defeat PAGA claims in California. Brown v. American Airlines, Inc., No. CV 10-8431-AG (PJWx), 2015 WL 6735217 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 5, 2015) is the latest case to dismiss PAGA claims based on the presence of numerous individualized issues that render the case unmanageable. This decision provides hope for employers in the face of rulings by the California Supreme Court and certain federal district courts that PAGA actions need not meet class certification requirements.
The California Supreme Court is poised to clarify what limits may apply to burdensome discovery demands in litigation under California’s Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”), which allows employees to bring non-class representative actions against employers on behalf of themselves and other “aggrieved employees” for alleged violations of the Labor Code.
A recent federal district court decision denying a motion for class certification of wage-and-hour claims reflects continuing disagreement among courts in California regarding the suitability for class treatment of meal and rest break claims when an employer has no written break policy.