As the holiday season approaches, it is a good time for employers to review their policies and take preventative measures to ensure festivities do not get out of hand at office holiday parties. The dangers of blurring the lines between professional conduct and holiday celebrations was demonstrated in a recent case out of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. The lawsuit alleges that following an office holiday party, a managerial employee invited several co-workers to a second location to continue celebrating. It further alleges that toward the end of the night, the manager and one of his reports ended up alone in the hotel room and the manager sexually assaulted her.
California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed into law SB 142, significantly expanding employers’ obligations to provide break time and lactation room accommodations for working mothers. Following in the footsteps of San Francisco’s Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance, SB 142 imposes a host of new requirements regarding lactation accommodation spaces, policies, and break time: READ MORE
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ruled that the EEOC may not discontinue its pay data collection efforts on November 11, 2019, but rather, must continue its collection efforts until it has collected from at least 98.3% of eligible reporters and must make all efforts to do so by January 31, 2020. The ruling is the latest in a lengthy saga regarding whether EEO-1 Component 2 pay data (data on employees’ W-2 earnings and hours worked across broad job categories, and broken down by ethnicity, race, and sex) would be collected—a saga that began with the Office of Management and Budget staying collection efforts, and culminated last Spring when Judge Chutkan ruled the decision to stay the collection lacked the reasoned explanation required by the Administrative Procedure Act (see overview here). After vacating the stay, Judge Chutkan initially set the deadline for data collection for May 31, 2019, but later extended it to September 30, 2019. READ MORE
The U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) administer whistleblower claims under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. While the SEC has jurisdiction to regulate U.S. securities markets, the CFTC regulates the U.S. derivatives markets, which includes futures, swaps, and certain types of option contracts. In October, the CFTC’s Whistleblower Office (“WBO”) released its 2019 Annual Report (the “Report”) to two congressional subcommittees to provide insights into its whistleblower program and customer education initiatives. The Report provides an overview of the tips received by the WBO from October 1, 2018-September 30, 2019 (the “reporting period”), highlights several of the whistleblower awards from the past year, and discusses the WBO’s efforts to educate stakeholders about its whistleblower program. READ MORE
On September 24, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced its final rule updating the earnings thresholds necessary to exempt executive, administrative, and professional employees from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime pay requirements. According to the DOL’s press release, “[t]he increases to the salary thresholds are long overdue in light of wage and salary growth since 2004,” and the DOL estimates that 1.3 million additional workers will be entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay as a result of the new regulations. READ MORE
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
On October 10, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51) prohibiting mandatory workplace arbitration agreements. AB 51 adds Section 12953 to the Government Code and Section 432.6 to the Labor Code. AB 51 applies to contracts entered into or modified after January 1, 2020. READ MORE
On September 12, 2019, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in ZB, N.A. v. Superior Court, which resolved a split of authority regarding whether an employer may compel arbitration of an employee’s Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) claim seeking unpaid wages under Labor Code section 558. In reaching its conclusion, the Court first answered the “more fundamental question” of whether a plaintiff may seek unpaid wages under PAGA: to which the answer is no. Therefore, ZB’s motion to compel arbitration should have been denied. READ MORE
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis—a decision that upheld the validity of class action waivers in arbitration agreements (discussed in our prior post). Since then, Democrats lobbied to overturn that decision. In 2018, Democrats introduced H.R. 7109, entitled the “Restoring Justice for Workers Act” to outlaw class action waiver provisions in employment contracts. Although that bill died in Congress, Democrats continue to pursue the fight to prohibit “forced” arbitration agreements and class action waivers. READ MORE
On September 18, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 5 (A.B. 5). A.B. 5 relates to whether workers are employees or independent contractors. With this bill the California Legislature codified the ABC test set forth by the California Supreme Court’s decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, 4 Cal. 5th 903 (2018) and expanded its applicability. It expands the ABC test for independent contractor vs. employee classification to the California Labor Code and the California Unemployment Insurance Code.
A.B. 5 adds section 2750.3 and amends section 3351 to the California Labor Code and amends sections 605.5 and 621 to the California Unemployment Insurance Code.
Dynamex and the ABC test
For the last 30 years, California courts have addressed independent contractor v. employee classification using the test set forth in S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations, 48 Cal. 3d 341 (1989). Under the Borello test, determining whether a worker was an employee or an independent contractor hinged on a number of factors and primarily focused on the alleged employer’s control over the manner and means by which the work is performed. On April 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court decided Dynamex, announcing a significant departure from the Borello test. The Dynamex decision adopted the so-called 3-part “ABC” test for determining whether an individual is considered an independent contractor or an employee under the wage orders, which govern many aspects of wages and working conditions in covered industries. Under the new 3-part ABC test, a worker is properly considered an independent contractor to whom a wage order does not apply only where the hirer establishes:
- The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work;
- The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
- The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business.
For more background information on the Dynamex decision, please see our May 9, 2018 blog post.
A.B. 5 codifies and expands the Dynamex 3-part ABC test, making it apply not only to claims arising out of the wage orders, but also apply to the California Labor Code and Unemployment Insurance Code. The new law also includes a provision that empowers the California Attorney General and city attorneys of cities with populations greater than 750,000 to seek injunctive relief to prevent the continued misclassification of employees as independent contractors. See California Labor Code section 2750.3(j).
In passing the bill, the legislature stated that it intended “to ensure workers who are currently exploited by being misclassified as independent contractors instead of recognized as employees have the basic rights and protections they deserve under the law, including a minimum wage, workers’ compensation if they are injured on the job, unemployment insurance, paid sick leave, and paid family leave.” The legislature further stated that “by codifying the California Supreme Court’s landmark, unanimous Dynamex decision, this act restores these important protections to potentially several million workers who have been denied these basic workplace rights that all employees are entitled to under the law.”
A.B. 5 includes carveout exemptions from the ABC test for various occupations and business relationships (such as lawyers, veterinarians, commercial fishermen, investment advisors, licensed private investigators and specified professional services providers) if the hiring entity can prove the specific requirements for exemption are met. See Cal. Lab. Code section 2750.3 (b)-(h). If the exemption applies, the Borello test governs the worker classification issue.
The application of the ABC test to the California Labor Code and Unemployment Insurance Code takes effect on January 1, 2020, with the applicability to workers’ compensation going into effect on July 1, 2020.
Under A.B. 5, the number of individuals who are considered employees in California for purposes of the wage orders, California Labor Code, and Unemployment Insurance Code will almost certainly increase. Now is the time to review your company’s practices related to independent contractors and talk to counsel for advice. We will continue to monitor any developments and are here to help.