Articles Posted in California Court of Appeal

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Petitioner County of Riverside (the County) challenged Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) findings that the application for adjudication of claim by respondent Peter Sylves was timely filed, and that Labor Code section 5500.5(a) did not bar liability on the County’s part. Sylves was employed by the County as a deputy sheriff. He took a service retirement and then worked for the Pauma Police Department on a reservation belonging to the Pauma Band of Luiseno Indians, a federally recognized tribe. Sylves’ employment with the Pauma Police Department lasted from 2010, through 2014. Sylves filed an application for adjudication of claim on July 16, 2014. He claimed a continuous trauma for “hypertension, GERDS [gastroesophageal reflux disease], left shoulder, low back and both knees.” In 2015, the WCJ found: “Pursuant to Labor Code section 5500.5, applicant’s continuous trauma is limited to the last year of injurious exposure, even if it is with the Pauma Tribal Police.” The WCJ found that Sylves’s knee and left shoulder injuries, his GERDS, and his sleep disorder were not compensable injuries arising in and out of employment. However, he also found that Sylves’ hypertension and back injury were compensable and arose from employment with the County. With respect to the statute of limitations, the WCAB explained that the time in which to file a claim did not begin to run until a doctor told him the symptoms for which he had been receiving treatment were industrially related; since medical confirmation did not occur until 2013, Sylves’ 2014 application was timely. The WCAB further found that section 5500.5 “is not a Statute of Limitations but provides for a supplemental proceeding in which multiple defendants have an opportunity to apportion liability.” Finally, it agreed with Sylves that section 5500.5 could not limit liability to the Pauma Police Department in this case because the WCAB lacked jurisdiction over the tribe. Essentially, the WCAB determined that the County “failed to meet its burden of proof on the Statute of Limitations defenses raised herein.” Finding no reversible error in the WCAB's decision, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Co. of Riverside v. WCAB" on Justia Law

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Defendants-appellants City of Riverside (City) and Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz appealed the grant of a petition for writ of mandate filed by plaintiff-respondent Camillo Bonome, Jr. Bonome had been employed as a Riverside Police Officer since 1995. In 2013, a Memorandum of Finding was sustained against Bonome for failing to properly investigate and report an incident involving a sexually abused girl in 2012. Chief Diaz recommended Bonome be terminated. Prior to the hearing on his termination, Bonome applied for and was granted disability retirement by CalPERS for a back injury he sustained while on duty. Upon his disability retirement being effective, Bonome requested his retirement identification badge and that the badge include a Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) endorsement. Bonome’s request was denied because Chief Diaz and the City did not consider him to be “honorably retired” as that term was defined in Penal Code section 16690. The City and Chief Diaz stated he was not entitled to a hearing to dispute the finding. Bonome filed the Writ contending he was honorably retired and entitled to a CCW endorsement, and if the endorsement was denied for cause, he was entitled to a good cause hearing. The trial court agreed and granted the Writ. On appeal, the City and Chief Diaz insisted the trial court erred when it determined Bonome was “honorably retired.” The Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s grant of the Writ. The City and Chief Diaz could deny the CCW endorsement for cause but Bonome was entitled to a good cause hearing if it was denied. View "Bonome v. City of Riverside" on Justia Law

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Farrar was hired by Direct Commerce as its vice-president of business development and negotiated an employment agreement set forth in a six-page offer letter detailing her compensation, additional bonus structure, and stock options. The agreement also included an arbitration provision, set off by the same kind of underlined heading and spacing as the other enumerated paragraphs of the agreement. When Farrar sued Direct, alleging breach of contract, conversion, wrongful termination, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and failure to pay wages owed and waiting time penalties, the employer unsuccessfully sought to compel arbitration. The trial court found the arbitration provision procedurally and substantively unconscionable. The court of appeals reversed. While the arbitration provision is one-sided, as it excludes any claims arising from the confidentiality agreement Farrar also signed, that offending exception is readily severable and, on this record, should have been severed. View "Farrar v. Direct Commerce, Inc." on Justia Law

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Three health care workers sued their hospital employer in a putative class and private attorney general enforcement action for alleged Labor Code violations and related claims. In this appeal, their primary complaint was the hospital illegally allowed its health care employees to waive their second meal periods on shifts longer than 12 hours. A statute required two meal periods for shifts longer than 12 hours. But an order of the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) authorized employees in the health care industry to waive one of those two required meal periods on shifts longer than 8 hours. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal’s review centered on the validity of the IWC order. In its first opinion in this case, the Court concluded the IWC order was partially invalid to the extent it authorized second meal break waivers on shifts over 12 hours, and the Court reversed. After the California Supreme Court granted the hospital’s petition for review in “Gerard I,” that court transferred the case back to the Court of Appeal with directions to vacate the decision and to reconsider the cause in light of the enactment of Statutes 2015, chapter 506 (Sen. Bill No. 327 (2015-2016 Reg. Sess.); SB 327). Upon reconsideration the Court of Appeal concluded the IWC order was valid and affirmed. View "Gerard v. Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center" on Justia Law

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After a Machine Zone (MZ) employee posted a review on Glassdoor's website disclosing confidential information regarding MZ's RTPlatform technology, MZ filed suit against the employee for violation of a nondisclosure agreement signed by all MZ employees. When Glassdoor refused to identify the employee, MZ moved for an order compelling disclosure, which the trial court granted. Glassdoor petitioned for a writ directing the trial court to set aside its order. The court concluded that Glassdoor has standing to assert the employee's interest in maintaining his anonymity as against MZ's efforts to compel Glassdoor to identify him. The court concluded that MZ failed to make a prima facie showing that the employee's statements disclosed confidential information in violation of the nondisclosure agreement, and granted the requested relief. In this case, MZ denied the accuracy of the employee's report without identifying any real confidential information it might be understood to have disclosed. View "Glassdoor, Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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After the Labor Commissioner awarded Anthony Stratton approximately $6,000 in unpaid wages and penalties against Thomas Beck, Stratton's former employer, Beck unsuccessfully appealed the award to the superior court under Labor Code section 98.2, subdivision (a). The superior court awarded Stratton $31,365 in attorney's fees. The court rejected Beck's contentions that the motion for attorney's fees was untimely because the case was a limited civil case, and that, even if the motion was timely, the fee award was unreasonably high and unsupported by competent billing evidence. In this case, the superior court found that, although Beck initially acted in good faith, Beck continued to refuse to pay Stratton, which the trial court reasonably concluded was an intentional withholding meriting penalties—and attorney's fees when challenged in superior court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Beck v. Stratton" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-respondent Roberto Betancourt sued his employer, defendant-appellant Prudential Overall Supply (Prudential). In Betancourt's complaint, he alleged Betancourt and other Prudential employees worked over eight hours per day or more than 40 hours per week, and that Prudential failed to compensate Betancourt and other employees for all the hours they worked, as well as for missed breaks and meal periods. Prudential moved to compel arbitration but the trial court denied Prudential’s motion. Prudential argued on appeal the trial court erred. Finding no error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. View "Betancourt v. Prudential Overall Supply" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, former sales associates for Stoneledge, filed a class action complaint alleging that Stoneledge's commission pay plan did not comply with California law. The court held that employees paid on commission are entitled to separate compensation for rest periods mandated by state law. The court also held that employers who keep track of hours worked, including rest periods, violate this requirement by paying employees a guaranteed minimum hourly rate as an advance on commissions earned in later pay periods. In this case, because Stoneledge did not separately compensate sales associates for rest periods as required by California law, the trial court erred in granting summary adjudication on plaintiffs' cause of action for violation of Labor Code section 226.7. Furthermore, the trial court's ruling that plaintiffs' other causes of action failed because the section 226.7 claim failed was also erroneous. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment and remanded. On remand, the trial court must consider the remainder of Stoneledge's motion. View "Bermudez Vaquero v. Stoneledge Furniture" on Justia Law

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Diana Lemke challenged the trial court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of respondents Sutter Roseville Medical Center, Peter V. Hull, M.D., Debbie Madding, and Julie Fralick (collectively Sutter Roseville). Lemke was terminated from her employment as a registered nurse at Sutter Roseville after improper administration of narcotics to a patient and failure to properly monitor and document the patient’s condition. In response, Lemke filed an action against Sutter Roseville in which she claimed retaliation for whistleblowing, disability discrimination, failure to accommodate a disability, failure to engage in an interactive process, retaliation, harassment, failure to prevent retaliation, and defamation. On appeal, Lemke addressed only her causes of action for retaliation, failure to prevent retaliation, and defamation, contending: (1) there was a triable issue of material fact as to whether Sutter Roseville’s stated reasons for terminating her employment were pretextual; (2) the same reasons establishing her claim for retaliation also compel reversal of the trial court’s dismissal of her claim for failure to prevent retaliation; (3) she presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate triable issues of material fact for her claim of defamation; and (4) the trial court erred in its evidentiary rulings related to the motion for summary judgment. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded Lemke did not meet her burden to show Sutter Roseville’s stated reasons were merely a pretext for retaliating against her. Furthermore, the Court determined the trial court properly dismissed her claim of failure to prevent retaliation. The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Lemke v. Sutter Roseville Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit after StanCERA implemented several changes to the actuarial calculations used to determine how to amortize unfunded liabilities within the retirement system and chose to utilize so-called non-valuation funds, money not used to ensure the overall system was actuarially sound, to reduce or replace required employer contributions. Plaintiffs argued that these actions constituted a breach of the constitutional fiduciary duties placed on the board of a county retirement system. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the trial court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. The court concluded that the trial court correctly determined that plaintiffs were not entitled to summary judgment, but the trial court erred in determining that no material issues of fact remained. The court explained that there remain material issues of fact regarding whether the resulting conduct violated the constitutionally mandated fiduciary duty of loyalty the board owed to StanCERA's members. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "O'Neal v. Stanislaus County Employees' Retirement Association" on Justia Law