Recently, in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., the California Supreme Court upheld a $90 million award of statutory damages, interest, and penalties against an employer who required employees to remain on-call during rest periods, despite no evidence showing that any employee’s rest period was ever actually interrupted. This holding has significant implications statewide, and employers in California should promptly review their rest break policies to ensure full compliance. READ MORE
Cat’s Paw Making New Tracks: Second Circuit Extends Cat’s Paw Principle to Retaliation Claims and to Low-Level Employees
The “cat’s paw” doctrine, a concept first coined by Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner in 1990 and adopted by the Supreme Court in 2011, applies when an employee is subjected to an adverse employment action by a decision maker who does not have any discriminatory animus but who bases his or her decision upon information from another who has such an improper motive. In Vasquez v. Empress Ambulance Service, Inc., the Second Circuit recently held that the “cat’s paw” theory may be used to support recovery for Title VII retaliation, in addition to discrimination, claims and then extended the doctrine to permit liability if the individual with the discriminatory or retaliatory motive is a low-level employee, not just a supervisor.
Sixth Circuit Affirms $250K Victory to SOX Whistleblower and Provides Broad Interpretation of SOX
On May 28, 2015, the Sixth Circuit in Rhinehimer v. U.S. Bancorp Investments, Inc. affirmed a $250,000 jury verdict in favor of a former financial advisor for U.S. Bancorp Investments (“USBII”) who alleged that he had been terminated in violation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”) whistleblower provisions. In doing so, the Sixth Circuit rejected the “definitively and specifically” standard for proving protected activity under SOX and abrogated its prior SOX decision in Riddle v. First Tennessee Bank Nat’l Assoc., 497 F. App’x 588 (6th Cir. 2012) to the extent it relied upon the standard.
Employers Finally Get a Break—Court Reverses $90 Million Verdict and Holds That Employers Are Not Required to Relieve Employees of All Duty During Rest Periods
On December 31, 2014, the Court of Appeal for the Second District of California held in an unpublished opinion that employers are not required to relieve employees of all duty during rest periods mandated by California state law. In so holding, the court in Augustus v. ABM Sec. Servs., Inc., No. B243788, 2014 WL 7463154 (Cal. Ct. App. Dec. 31, 2014), reversed the trial court’s award of approximately $90 million dollars in statutory damages, interest, penalties, and attorneys’ fees to the employees.
Take Your Pick: E.D.N.Y. Decision Offers Guidance for Plaintiffs and Defendants Alike on How to Handle “Picking Off” Attempts in FLSA Collective Actions
“Sometimes surrender is the best option.” That is how Judge Raymond J. Dearie of the Eastern District of New York begins his opinion in Anjum v. J.C. Penney Co., Inc., before denying J.C. Penney’s motion to dismiss a putative Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective action based on the company’s offer to pay the claims of four named plaintiffs with offers of judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68—a strategy often referred to as “picking off.” Even though the court rejected J.C. Penney’s picking off attempt in this case, the judge’s opinion in Anjum recognizes the validity of this tactic and provides some practical lessons for defense counsel looking to successfully pick off an FLSA collective in the Second Circuit.
Federal Preemption Defense Running Out of Gas?
Recent decisions by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the California Supreme Court have thrown a road block in the way of employers relying on a federal statute to preempt certain state wage-and-hour law claims. At issue is whether the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (“FAAAA”) precludes truck drivers from asserting claims for meal and rest break, minimum wage, and other violations under California law. At least for now, the road is clear for such claims.
Extra! Extra! Read All About It: California Supreme Court Affirms Reversal of Class Certification Denial for Class of Newspaper Carriers
The California Supreme Court in Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc. recently affirmed and remanded the reversal of a denial of class certification in an independent contractor misclassification case, emphasizing the standard terms of the contractual agreements between the parties. The plaintiffs were newspaper carriers for the defendant newspaper publisher who were contracted pursuant to two preprinted standard form contracts. Based on the theory that they were misclassified as independent contractors, plaintiffs alleged overtime, meal and rest break violations, and sought reimbursement for expenses and penalties. READ MORE
Secretly Working Off The Clock—You Don’t Get Paid For That!
Following principles that federal courts have applied in similar cases under the Fair Labor Standards Act, a California appellate court recently confirmed that employers are not liable under the California Labor Code for off-the-clock work that occurs without the employer’s actual or constructive knowledge. In Jong v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan, Inc., the California Court of Appeal for the First District affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment for the employer, holding that the employee failed to set forth sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the employer actually or constructively knew that the employee worked unrecorded overtime. READ MORE
The Joint-Employer Standard: Like All Good Things, Is It About To Meet Its End?
On May 12, the National Labor Relations Board issued a notice and call for amicus briefs to address whether the Board should maintain its existing joint-employer standard or adopt a new one. Notice and Invitation to File Briefs, Browning-Ferris Indus. of California, Inc., Case 32-RC-109684 (May 12, 2014). READ MORE
Employers Beware: You May be Liable for Your Employees’ Tortious Off-Duty Conduct during Their Commutes
In Moradi v. Marsh USA, Inc., the California Court of Appeal concluded that employees who are required to use their personal vehicles to travel to and from the office and make other work-related trips during the day are acting within in the scope of their employment when they are commuting to and from work. READ MORE