Posts by: Tim Long

Back to School! How to Navigate School-Related Leave for Employees

With school back in session, employees may be asking for time off to go to their children’s school activities. Employers should know that several states and the District of Columbia require or encourage employers to provide employees with school-related time off. It is time to make sure employers are compliant with these laws. READ MORE

Let Them Eat Cake: Religious Accommodations, LGBTQ Rights and Other Workplace Implications of SCOTUS’ Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision

In a highly anticipated ruling, in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of a cake shop owner who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs.  The case highlights the potentially conflicting intersection of religious freedoms and anti-discrimination laws; i.e. the right to hold sincere religious beliefs and the right to be treated equally and without discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation. READ MORE

PAID in Full? Be Careful in Following the DOL’s Lead

The U.S. Department of Labor announced a new nationwide pilot program aimed at allowing employers to self-report and self-remedy potential minimum wage and overtime violations.  According to the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), the Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) Pilot program will allow employers to resolve Fair Labor Standards Act violations without full investigations and litigation.  We summarize the features of the program. READ MORE

Exhaustion Matters – Don’t Try Going It Alone Under PAGA

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

COFFEE BREAK: Third Circuit Reminds Employers That Short Breaks May Be Compensable Under FLSA

Most employers in California are all-too familiar with the Golden State’s unique meal and rest break requirements.  But outside of states like California, Oregon, and Washington, which have clear requirements for meal and rest breaks, employers may forget that the Fair Labor Standards Act has its own rest break obligations. READ MORE

DOJ Flips the Switch on Class Waivers in Arbitration Agreements, Signaling Possible Changes to Come

Arbitration agreement form on an office table DOJ Flips the Switch on Class Waivers in Arbitration Agreements, Signaling Possible Changes to Come

On Friday, June 16, 2017, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) filed an amicus brief reflecting a change of heart when it comes to the enforceability of class waivers in arbitration agreements.  In an unprecedented move, President Trump’s acting solicitor general, Jeffrey B. Wall, said his office had “reconsidered the issue and has reached the opposite conclusion” as the Obama administration in a set of consolidated cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, NLRB v. Murphy Oil USA Inc. (Docket Nos. 16-285, 16-300, and 16-307).

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New FCRA Class Action Against UPS Shows Traditional FCRA Claims Alive and Well

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has created a flurry of class action complaints in recent years aimed at employers who fail to comply with the FCRA’s hyper-technical disclosure and consent requirements. However, a new class action against UPS reminds us that traditional FCRA claims have not faded away and employers should remain mindful of the Act’s requirements. READ MORE

Pulling the Seat From Under PAGA Plaintiffs

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. 

 

Top Ten Employment Regulations or Initiatives Employers Want Trump to Dump or Fix

After the Obama administration’s employee friendly policies, employers will have a wish list of changes they believe a Trump administration would favor.  Here are ten items that should be at the top and why employers want to see action. READ MORE

California Legislators Aim to Make Prior Salaries a Thing of the Past

A few months ago, the California State Assembly introduced AB 1676, a bill that not only would have prohibited employers from asking job applicants about their compensation history, but also would have required employers to provide pay scale information upon reasonable request. A nearly identical bill passed through the Assembly and Senate before it was vetoed by the Governor toward the end of last year. In his veto statement, the Governor expressed concern that such a measure “broadly prohibits employers from obtaining relevant information with little evidence that [it] would assure more equitable wages.”

As we previously reported, the Fair Pay Act (the “FPA,” Labor Code § 1197.5) requires “equal pay for substantially similar work” based on the employee’s skill, effort and responsibility, and similar working conditions. To the extent a disparity exists between employees of the opposite sex, it must be reasonably based on one or more the factors enumerated within the statute.

Perhaps hoping to avoid repeating history, proponents of AB 1676 have taken a new approach. In place of the provision prohibiting inquiries about prior salary history is new language that amends the FPA to state that “[p]rior salary shall not, by itself, justify any disparity in compensation.”

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