Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Court of Appeal
Atkins v. City of Los Angeles
Five recruit officers of the LAPD filed suit against the City after the Department terminated or constructively discharged them because they could not obtain the necessary medical clearance to return to the Police Academy. The jury found that the City unlawfully discriminated against plaintiffs based on their physical disabilities, failed to provide them reasonable accommodations, and failed to engage in the interactive process required by the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Gov. Coe 12900-12996. The court agreed that plaintiffs were not "qualified individuals" under FEHA for purposes of their discrimination claim but concluded that they satisfied this requirement for their failure to accommodate claim; concluded that requiring the City to assign temporarily injured recruit officers to light-duty administrative assignments was reasonable as a matter of law in light of the City's past policy and practice of doing so; and because the court affirmed the City's liability on this basis, the court did not reach the City's challenge to the verdict on plaintiffs' claim for failure to engage in the interactive process. The court agreed with the City that future economic losses are unreasonably speculative considering the fact that plaintiffs had completed only hours or weeks of their Police Academy training. Therefore, the court vacated that portion of the damages award and the trial court's award of attorneys' fees and costs. View "Atkins v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law
Vasserman v. Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital
Plaintiff, a registered nurse, filed suit against the Hospital, alleging violations of the California Labor Code and other statutes relating to meal and rest breaks, unpaid wages, and unpaid overtime compensation. The trial court denied the Hospital's motion to compel arbitration. The court clarified that the dispute at issue is not over plaintiff's substantive rights, but over the forum in which those rights are to be determined. The court reasoned that, if those rights are to be determined only by arbitration, a collective bargaining agreement must make that clear. The court concluded that the collective bargaining agreement in this case required arbitration of claims arising under the agreement, but it did not include an explicitly stated, clear and unmistakable waiver of the right to a judicial forum for claims based on statute. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court judgment. View "Vasserman v. Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital" on Justia Law
Orange Co. Water Dist. v. Public Employment Relations Bd.
The Public Employment Relations Board (the Board or PERB) concluded the Orange County Water District (the District) committed an unfair practice when it refused to consent to an election petitioned for by the recognized employee organization seeking to implement a so-called modified agency shop. The proposed agency shop in this case was referred to as a "modified" agency shop because it would apply only to future employees hired into the bargaining unit and not apply to current employees. The District filed a petition for a writ of extraordinary relief from the Board’s decision under Government Code section 3509.5(a). The Court of Appeal granted a writ of review but denied extraordinary relief. The Court held that section 3502.5 authorized the proposed modified agency shop. View "Orange Co. Water Dist. v. Public Employment Relations Bd." on Justia Law
Montano v. Wet Seal Retail, Inc.
Plaintiff filed a putative class action against Wet Seal, alleging that the company violated the Labor and Business and Professions Codes, Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order No. 7, and Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations. Plaintiff's claim also included a representative claim under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), Lab. Code, § 2699. On appeal, Wet Seal challenges the denial of its motion to compel arbitration, and the grant of plaintiff's motion to compel discovery responses. The court concluded that Wet Seal's motion to compel arbitration was properly denied where the trial court declared the entire arbitration agreement was void and unenforceable based on its determination that the PAGA waiver was invalid, and applied the arbitration agreement's nonseverability provision. Wet Seal also asserts that the trial court should not have reached the merits of the discovery motion while its motion to compel arbitration was undetermined. The court concluded that there is no requirement for a trial court to issue a tentative ruling, or to announce its final ruling before taking a matter under submission. Because there is no basis to treat the appeal from the nonappealable order as a petition for writ of mandate, the court dismissed this portion of the appeal. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "Montano v. Wet Seal Retail, Inc." on Justia Law
Bareno v. San Diego Community College Dist.
Plaintiff Leticia Bareno appealed a judgment entered in favor of defendants San Diego Miramar College (the College), San Diego Community College District, and San Diego Community College District Administrative Facilities Corporation. In early 2013, Bareno was disciplined by her employer, the College, in relation to her employment as an administrative assistant. Thereafter, Bareno required medical treatment and accompanying leave from work, and she requested medical leave from her supervisor. Bareno provided medical certification for this request for leave. After the time frame specified in Bareno's initial request for leave had ended, Bareno continued to be absent from work. Bareno had attempted to e-mail her supervisor a recertification of her need for additional medical leave, but the College claimed that Bareno's supervisor did not receive any such request from Bareno for additional leave. As a result, after Bareno continued to be absent from work for an additional five consecutive days, the College took the position that she had "voluntarily resigned." After Bareno learned that the College considered her to have voluntarily resigned, she attempted to provide the College with information regarding the medical necessity of the leave that she had taken. The College refused to reconsider its position. Bareno filed suit against all three defendants, alleging that in effectively terminating her employment, defendants retaliated against her for taking medical leave, in violation of the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). Defendants moved for summary judgment on Bareno's sole claim for retaliation under CFRA, and the trial court granted the motion. On appeal, Bareno argued that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment because there remain triable issues of material fact in dispute. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed, reversed the judgment and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Bareno v. San Diego Community College Dist." on Justia Law
Silva v. See’s Candy Shops
In 2009, Pamela Silva filed an action against her former employer, See's Candy Shops, Inc., alleging wage and hour violations. Silva brought the action in her individual capacity, on behalf of a class of See's Candy employees, and on behalf of aggrieved workers under the Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (PAGA). The trial court certified a class on Silva's claims challenging two of See's Candy's policies pertaining to the calculation of employee work time: (1) a rounding policy, which calculated timeclock punches to the nearest tenth of an hour; and (2) a grace-period policy, which permitted employees to clock in 10 minutes before and after a shift, but calculated work time from the employee's scheduled start/end times. In a prior appeal, the Court of appeal granted See's Candy's writ petition challenging the trial court's dismissal of See's Candy's affirmative defense that its rounding policy was lawful. After remand, See's Candy successfully moved for summary judgment on Silva's PAGA cause of action. In a later proceeding, the trial court granted summary judgment in See's Candy's favor on all of Silva's remaining claims. In this appeal, Silva challenged the summary judgment order on her PAGA claim and the summary judgment on all remaining causes of action. After review, the Court of Appeal determined the trial court erred in granting summary judgment with respect to certain of Silva's individual claims, but the court properly entered judgment in See's Candy's favor on all remaining claims, including the PAGA cause of action and the class-certified claims. View "Silva v. See's Candy Shops" on Justia Law
Hernandez v. Ross Stores
Defendant-appellant Ross Stores, Inc. (Ross) appealed the denial of its motion to compel arbitration. Plaintiff-respondent Martina Hernandez was employed at a Ross warehouse in Moreno Valley, and filed a single-count representative action under the California Private Attorney General Act (PAGA), alleging Ross had violated numerous Labor Code laws, and sought to recover PAGA civil penalties for the violations. Ross insisted that Hernandez had to first arbitrate her individual disputes showing she was an "aggrieved party" under PAGA and then the PAGA action could proceed in court. The trial court found, that the PAGA claim was a representative action brought on behalf of the state and did not include individual claims. As such, it denied the motion to compel arbitration because there were no individual claims or disputes between Ross and Hernandez that could be separately arbitrated. On appeal, Ross raised the issue of whether under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), an employer and employee had the preemptive right to agree to individually arbitrate discreet disputes underlying a PAGA claim while leaving the PAGA claim and PAGA remedies to be collectively litigated under "Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles LLC," (59 Cal.4th 348 (2014)). The Court of Appeal upheld the trial court's denial of the motion to compel arbitration. View "Hernandez v. Ross Stores" on Justia Law
Cal Fire Local 2881 v. California Public Employees’ Retirement System
California firefighters and their union sought to compel the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) to continue to enforce Government Code 20909, and allow eligible public employees to purchase at cost up to five years of nonqualifying service credit (airtime) to increase pension benefits paid in retirement, by increasing their service credit. The option was eliminated as of January 1, 2013 under the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act (PEPRA), a reform measure designed to strengthen the state’s public pension system and ensure its ongoing solvency. (Government Code 7522.46, 20909(g)). Plaintiffs argued that elimination of the option violated the California Constitution contracts clause (Art. I, section 9), so that CalPERS lacked authority to refuse to consider applications for the credit. The trial court and court of appeal rejected the argument. Modification of the statute governing airtime service credit was wholly reasonable and carried “some material relation to the theory of a pension system and its successful operation.” Plaintiffs are entitled only to a “reasonable” pension, not one providing fixed or definite benefits immune from modification or elimination by the governing body, and did not establish that elimination of their right to purchase airtime credit cost them their right to a reasonable pension. View "Cal Fire Local 2881 v. California Public Employees' Retirement System" on Justia Law
Flores v. Nature’s Best Distribution
In November 2014, plaintiff Julie Flores filed a complaint against defendants Nature's Best Distribution, LLC, Nature's Best, KeHe Distributors, Inc., and KeHe Distributors, LLC, alleging claims for disability discrimination, failure to engage in the interactive process, failure to accommodate disability, retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination or retaliation, and wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The complaint alleged in February or March 2014, plaintiff injured her back but continued to work until May 2014, when her back injury got worse and she was placed on medical leave for "disabling lumbar radiculopathy and spinal stenosis." Plaintiff's medical leave was extended through August 15, 2014. When plaintiff returned to the doctor, however, she was not cleared of all restrictions and was placed on further leave until August 31, 2014, on which date she would be cleared to perform modified duties from September 1 to 19, 2014. Plaintiff did not receive a doctor's note, memorializing the need to further extend her leave, until August 18, 2014, at which time she faxed it to defendants at a fax number, which she previously had used, and received a confirmation that the fax was successfully sent. Defendants denied receiving a fax. Plaintiff attempted to deliver the doctor's note in person, but learned that on August 21, 2014, her employment had been terminated for failing to return from medical leave. Defendants filed a petition to compel arbitration based on evidence that plaintiff signed an agreement for alternative dispute resolution (the Agreement). The trial court denied the petition. Defendants argued on appeal the trial court erroneously concluded defendants failed to prove plaintiff agreed to arbitrate her claims and that the arbitration provision contained in the Agreement was unenforceable because it is unconscionable. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding defendants failed to prove plaintiff agreed to submit her claims to final and binding arbitration. View "Flores v. Nature's Best Distribution" on Justia Law
Gage v. WCAB
Rebecca Gage was a deputy sheriff in Sacramento County who sustained a job-related injury and applied for industrial disability retirement. She also requested advance disability pension payments while her retirement application was processed. Although she eventually received such advance pension payments, Gage also sought penalties under section 5814 for an unreasonable delay. The workers’ compensation judge (WCJ) ruled section 5814 penalties were available for the unreasonable delay in payment of advance disability pension payments, but deferred the decision on whether the delay in this case was unreasonable. At issue in this case was whether the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) had jurisdiction to impose penalties under Labor Code section 5814 for the unreasonable delay or denial of advance disability pension payments, available under section 4850.4 to local peace officers who were disabled on the job. Because: (1) such payments qualified as compensation under section 3207; (2) section 5814 penalties were available for unreasonable delay or denial of the payment of compensation; and (3) no other provision of the Labor Code evinced a legislative intent to exclude such payments from the penalty provisions of section 5814, the Court of Appeals concluded the answer was yes. View "Gage v. WCAB" on Justia Law