Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Supreme Court
Peabody v. Time Warner Cable, Inc.
Plaintiff, who formerly worked for Time Warner Cable, Inc. as a commissioned salesperson, filed a class action suit against Time Warner, alleging wage and hour violations. Time Warner paid Plaintiff through biweekly paychecks, which included hourly wages in every pay period and commission wages approximately every other pay period. Time Warner removed the matter to federal court and sought summary judgment. The district court granted summary judgment, concluding that Time Warner could attribute commission wages paid in one biweekly pay period to other pay periods for the purpose of satisfying California’s compensation requirements. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s asked the Supreme Court to consider the issue. The Supreme Court answered the Ninth Circuit’s question in the negative, holding that an employer may not attribute commission wages paid in one pay period to other pay periods in order to satisfy California’s compensation requirements. View "Peabody v. Time Warner Cable, Inc." on Justia Law
Paratransit, Inc. v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd.
An employee (Claimant) was asked by his employer to sign a written disciplinary notice regarding Claimant’s alleged misconduct. Claimant refused to sign the notice, claiming that he wished to consult with his union first and that he believed that signing would constitute an admission of guilt. Based on this incident, the employer terminated Claimant for insubordination. The Employment Development Department denied Claimant’s application for unemployment benefits, determining that Claimant’s refusal to sign the disciplinary notice constituted misconduct. The Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board reversed, finding that Claimant’s failure to sign the notice was “an instance of poor judgment” that did not disqualify Claimant from receiving benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, even if Claimant’s refusal to sign the disciplinary notice justified his termination, Claimant did not commit misconduct within the meaning of California’s Unemployment Insurance Code. View "Paratransit, Inc. v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd." on Justia Law
Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc.
Defendant published a daily newspaper and contracted with individual carriers to deliver the paper. Named plaintiffs were four newspaper carriers for Defendant. Plaintiffs sued on behalf of a putative class of carriers, alleging that Defendant wrongly treated its carriers as independent contractors when they were employees as a matter of law. The trial court denied class certification, concluding that alleged individual variations in how carriers performed their work presented unmanageable individual issues that precluded certification. The court of appeals reversed in part, concluding that proof of employee status would not necessarily entail a host of individual inquiries. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) whether a common law employer-employee relationship exists turns principally on the degree of a hirer’s right to control how the end result is achieved; (2) whether the hirer’s right to control can be shown on a classwide basis will depend on the extent to which individual variations in the hirer’s rights concerning each putative class member exist, and whether such variations, if any, are manageable; and (3) the trial court in this case erred in rejecting certification based not on differences in Defendant’s right to exercise control but on variations in how that right was exercised. View "Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc." on Justia Law
Salas v. Sierra Chem. Co.
Plaintiff, an unauthorized alien, was injured while working for his employer (Defendant) and was later was laid off during Defendant’s seasonal reduction of workers. Plaintiff sued, alleging that Defendant violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) by failing to provide reasonable accommodations for his disability and by retaliating against him for filing a workers’ compensation claim. During discovery, Defendant learned that Plaintiff had misrepresented to Defendant his eligibility under federal law to work in the United States. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant, and the Court of Appeal affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff’s action was barred by the doctrines of after-acquired evidence and unclean hands; and (2) the application for those doctrines was not precluded by S.B. 1818, which extends state law employee protections and remedies to all individuals regardless of immigration status. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) S.B. 1818 is not preempted by federal immigration law; and (2) the doctrines of after-acquired evidence and unclean hands are not complete defenses to a worker’s claims under California’s FEHA. View "Salas v. Sierra Chem. Co." on Justia Law
Iskanian v. CLS Transp. Los Angeles, LLC
An Employee filed a class action complaint against his Employer. The Employee, however, had entered into an arbitration agreement with his Employer that waived his right to class proceedings. The Employee also sought to bring a representative action under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). The Court of Appeal concluded that the entire arbitration agreement, which included a PAGA waiver, should be enforced. The Supreme Court reversed, holding, as regards the class action complaint, (1) a state law that restricts enforcement of the waiver of the right to class proceedings in arbitration agreements on grounds of public policy or unconscionability is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA); but (2) the class action waiver at issue in this case was unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act, and the Employer waived its right to arbitrate. With regard to the PAGA action, the Court held (1) the FAA does not preempt a state law that prohibits waiver of PAGA representative actions in an employment contract; and (2) an arbitration agreement requiring an employee to give up the right to bring representative PAGA actions is contrary to public policy and unenforceable as a matter of state law. View "Iskanian v. CLS Transp. Los Angeles, LLC" on Justia Law
Duran v. U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n
Loan officers for U.S. Bank National Association (USB) sued USB for unpaid overtime, asserting that they made been misclassified as exempt employees under the outside salesperson exemption. The trial court certified a class of plaintiffs and then determined the extent of USB’s liability to all class members by extrapolating from a random sample. The jury returned a verdict of approximately $15 million, resulting in an average recovery of more than $57,000 per person. The court of appeal reversed the trial court’s judgment and ordered the class decertified. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeal’s judgment in its entirety, holding that the trial court’s particular approach to sampling in this case was profoundly flawed and prevented USB from showing that some class members were entitled to no recovery. Remanded for a new retrial on both liability and restitution. View "Duran v. U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n" on Justia Law
Fahlen v. Sutter Cent. Valley Hosps.
Plaintiff, a hospital staff physician, claimed the hospital’s decision to terminate his staff privileges was an act of retaliation for his reports of substandard performance by hospital nurses and thus a violation of Cal. Health & Safety Code 1278.5. Defendants moved to dismiss on grounds that Plaintiff could not bring a civil suit under section 1278.5 unless he first succeeded by mandamus in overturning the hospital’s action. The appellate court held that Plaintiff could pursue his claims based on section 1278.5 even though he had not previously sought and obtained a mandamus judgment against the hospital’s decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a physician’s claim that a hospital decision to restrict or terminate his or her staff privileges was an act of retaliation for his or her whistleblowing in furtherance of patient care and safety need not seek and obtain a mandamus petition to overturn the decision before filing a civil action under section 1278.5. View "Fahlen v. Sutter Cent. Valley Hosps." on Justia Law
Valdez v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd.
At issue in this case was the section of the Labor Code (article 2.3) that establishes a process for employees who dispute the diagnosis or treatment provided by a medical provider network (MPN). Petitioner was injured when she fell at work. Petitioner began treatment with a physician in Employer's MPN, but later undertook treatment with a doctor outside the network, Dr. Nario. Thereafter, Petitioner applied for temporary disability benefits, relying on reports by Dr. Nario. Employer argued that reports from non-MPN doctors were inadmissible under Cal. Labor Code 4616.6, an article 2.3 provision, for purposes of the disability hearing. The workers' compensation judge (WCJ) overruled the objection, concluding that reports from all treating doctors were admissible. The Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (Board) rescinded the WCJ's decision, holding that section 4616.6 precluded the admission of reports from any doctor outside the MPN. The court of appeal annulled the Board's decisions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 4616.6 restricts the admission of medical reports only in proceedings under article 2.3 to resolve disputes over diagnosis and treatment within an MPN. View "Valdez v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd." on Justia Law
City of Los Angeles v. Superior Court
After declaring a fiscal emergency, the City of Los Angeles adopted a mandatory furlough program for its civilian employees. Many of those employees that were represented by a union (Union) filed grievances against the City, contending that the furloughs violated memorandums of understanding (MOUs) governing the terms and conditions of their employment. The grievances were denied, and the City denied the employees' request to arbitrate. The superior court subsequently granted the Union's petition for an order compelling the City to arbitrate the dispute. The court of appeal granted the City's petition for a writ of mandate, concluding that the City could not be compelled to arbitrate under the terms of the MOUs because arbitration would constitute an unlawful delegation to the arbitrator of discretionary policymaking powers that the City's charter vested in its city council. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) arbitration of the employee furlough dispute did not constitute an unlawful delegation of discretionary authority to the arbitrator; and (2) the City was contractually obligated to arbitrate the dispute. View "City of Los Angeles v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
El-Attar v. Hollywood Presbyterian Med. Ctr.
Doctor applied for reappointment to Hospital's medical staff. Hospital denied the application. Doctor requested a review hearing to challenge the decision. Under Hospital's bylaws, Hospital's Medical Executive Committee (MEC) was responsible for selecting the hearing officer and panel members that would hear Doctor's claim. However, the MEC declined to exercise its authority, leaving the responsibility to Hospital's Governing Board. After a hearing, the Judicial Review Committee (JRC) concluded that the Governing Board's decision to deny Doctor's application for reappointment was reasonable. The Governing Board subsequently ordered that Doctor be terminated from the medical staff. Doctor filed an administrative mandate petition, asserting, among other claims, that he had been denied a fair proceeding because the Governing Board, rather than the MEC, had chosen the members of the JRC for his judicial review hearing. The court of appeal held that Doctor had been deprived of his right to a fair procedure and was entitled to a new judicial review hearing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals incorrectly concluded that the MEC's delegation of the power to select the participants in the JRC was a material violation of Hospital's bylaws. Remanded. View "El-Attar v. Hollywood Presbyterian Med. Ctr." on Justia Law