Last week, the Court of Appeal for California’s Fourth Appellate District ruled that an agreement prohibiting former staffing company recruiters from soliciting their former employer’s employees is unenforceable under California Business & Professions Code section 16600. The court reasoned that the employee non-solicitation provision was too onerous on the recruiters’ ability to practice their profession i.e., recruiting employees. In rendering the decision, the court called into question long-standing precedent that upheld employee non-solicitation provisions, which are routinely included by California employers in employment and confidentiality agreements with their employees.
Posts by: Michael Weil
The Ninth Circuit recently sided with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), holding that employers can’t require applicants to pay for follow-up post-offer medical exams. Specifically, in EEOC v. BNSF Railway Company, No. 16-35457 (9th Cir. Aug. 29, 2018), the court affirmed that BNSF Railway Company (“BNSF”) violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by conditioning the plaintiff’s job offer on his getting an MRI at his own expense.
In a break from federal law, the California Supreme Court clarified in Alvarado v. Dart Container Corp. the proper formula for calculating flat-rate bonuses into overtime pay under California law. The Court adopted the Plaintiff’s position and held that, for purposes of calculating the per-hour value of a flat rate bonus, the divisor should be the number of nonovertime hours the employee worked in the pay period rather than all hours worked during the pay period. READ MORE
We have previously written about how Dodd-Frank retaliation cases are a mixed bag for employers and about the Supreme Court’s expansion of Sarbanes-Oxley (“SOX”) Whistleblower protections. A new decision from the Wisconsin District Court is another mixed win for employers who want to enforce arbitration agreements in Dodd-Frank and SOX retaliation cases. In a case of first impression in the Seventh Circuit, Wussow v. Bruker Corporation., No. 16-cv-444-wmc, 2017 WL 2805016 (W.D. Wis. June 25, 2017), the district court held that while arbitration of SOX whistleblower retaliation claims cannot be compelled, a similar cause of action for whistleblower retaliation under Dodd-Frank can be. READ MORE
Several recent cases are poised to set a major tonal shift in the realm of LGBT employee rights following the Supreme Court’s 2015 landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. As part of its ongoing coverage of LGBT employment issues, Orrick offers its insights and predictions as courts continue to contemplate where sexual identity fits within this changing landscape of protected statuses. 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.
Your employees may spend their time daydreaming about how to spend the vacation hours they accumulate each pay period – and in California, they are entitled to be paid out upon termination for any accrued, unused vacation time or paid time off. But that doesn’t mean they are entitled to see a breakdown of the monetary value of accrued vacation or paid time off (PTO) on each wage statement, according to a recent ruling from a California state appellate court. That said, employers still have an obligation to list an employee’s accrued sick leave on pay stubs consistent with California’s sick leave law. READ MORE
This afternoon, as anticipated, President Barack Obama signed the Defend Trade Secrets Act into law, wrapping up a lengthy bipartisan effort to bring trade secrets under federal system law. Some observed that the fact that President Obama chose to sign the bill into law publicly indicates the importance of the new law to the administration.
In an issue of first impression, the California Court of Appeals held that employers have a duty under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to provide reasonable accommodations to an applicant or employee who is associated with a disabled person, even if the employee is not disabled. Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, Inc. No. B261165, 2016 Cal. App. LEXIS 255 (Cal. Ct. App. April 4, 2016). This holding confirms that FEHA provides broader protections for employees associated with a disabled person than the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which does not contain the same requirement.
Asia Employment Law Update
Proposed Regulations May Complicate Reductions in Force in China
On December 31st, 2014, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (“MOHRSS”) issued a notice to solicit public opinions on the draft Regulations on Personnel Cutbacks by Enterprises (“Draft Regulations”). The Draft Regulations set out detailed implementing rules for “mass layoffs” (defined under the Labor Contract Law as being a layoff of more than 10% of the workforce or more than 20 employees) and, if adopted in their current form, will further complicate the process for conducting reductions in force in China.