Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Supreme Court
County of Los Angeles v. Los Angeles County Employee Relations Comm’n
The Service Employees International Union, Local 721 (SEIU) was the exclusive bargaining representative of all Los Angeles County employees. SEIU proposed amending the memorandum of understanding it had with the County's bargaining units to enable SEIU to obtain the home addresses and phone numbers of all represented employees, including those who had not joined the union. The County rejected the amendment. The Los Angeles County Employee Relations Commission concluded that the County's refusal to provide the contact information was an unfair labor practice. The superior court denied the County's petition for relief. The appellate court affirmed but held that nonmember employees were entitled to notice and an opportunity to opt out before their contact information could be disclosed to SEIU. The Supreme Court affirmed but reversed the court of appeal's imposition of procedural requirements limiting disclosure, holding (1) although the County's employees have a cognizable privacy interest in their home addresses and telephone numbers, the balance of interests strongly favors disclosure of this information to the union that represents them; and (2) procedures may be developed for employees who object to this disclosure, but the court of appeal exceeded its authority by attempting to impose specific procedures on the parties. View "County of Los Angeles v. Los Angeles County Employee Relations Comm'n" on Justia Law
Harris v. City of Santa Monica
The City fired Plaintiff, a bus driver, for allegedly poor job performance. Plaintiff brought this action against the City, alleging she was fired because of her pregnancy in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). During trial, the City requested the court to instruct the jury that if it found a mix of discriminatory and legitimate motives, the City could avoid liability by proving that a legitimate motive alone would have led it to make the same decision to fire Plaintiff. The trial court refused the instruction, and the jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that the refusal to give the requested instruction was prejudicial error. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeal's judgment overturning the damages verdict in this case and remanded, holding (1) under the FEHA, when a jury finds that unlawful discrimination was a substantial factor motivating a termination of employment, and when the employer proves it would have made the same decision absent such discrimination, a court may not award damages, backpay, or an order of reinstatement; but (2) Plaintiff in this circumstance could still be awarded, where appropriate, declaratory relief or injunctive relief to stop discriminatory practices. View "Harris v. City of Santa Monica" on Justia Law
Ralphs Grocery Co. v. United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 8
After a labor union began picketing on a supermarket's privately owned walkway in front of the store's customer entrance, the supermarket owner sought a court injunction to prevent the picketing. The owner argued that because the union was using the walkway for expressive activity without complying with the supermarket's regulations, the union was trespassing on its property. The trial court denied relief, concluding that the supermarket owner had failed to satisfy Cal. Lab. Code 1138.1's requirements for obtaining an injunction against labor picketing. The court of appeal reversed, holding (1) the walkway was not a public forum, and therefore, the store owner could regulate speech in that area; and (2) both the Moscone Act and section 1138.1 violate free speech and equal protection because they give speech regarding a labor dispute greater protection that speech on other subjects. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) a union's picketing activities in the supermarket's privately owned entrance area do not have state constitutional protection; (2) however, those picketing activities do have statutory protection under the Moscone Act and section 1138.1; and (3) these statutory provisions do not violate the federal constitutional prohibition on content discrimination in speech regulations. View "Ralphs Grocery Co. v. United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 8" on Justia Law
LeFiell Mfg. Co. v. Superior Court
Cal. Lab. Code 4558 contains a power press exception to the general rule that workers' compensation is the exclusive remedy of an injured worker against the employer. Employee was injured while operating a power press without a point of operation guard. Employee and his wife (Spouse) brought a civil suit against Employer under the power press exception that included a claim for loss of consortium on behalf of Spouse, predicated on the facts allegedly establishing a section 4558 violation. The trial court sustained Employer's demurrer to all of Spouse's causes of action except her claim for loss of consortium. The court of appeal disagreed with the trial court, concluding Spouse could plead a claim for damages for loss of consortium because such a claim fell outside the workers' compensation laws and hence was not barred by the exclusivity rule. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the portion of the judgment of the court of appeal as to Spouse's consortium claim, holding that where the worker's power press injuries do not prove fatal, the Legislature has restricted standing to bring the action at law authorized under section 4558 to the injured worker alone; and (2) affirmed in all other respects. Remanded. View "LeFiell Mfg. Co. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law
State Bldg. & Constr. Trades Council v. City of Vista
A charter city entered into certain contracts for the construction of public buildings. A federation of labor unions then petitioned the superior court for a peremptory writ of mandate, asserting that the city must comply with California's prevailing wage law notwithstanding local ordinances stating otherwise. The prevailing wage law requires that certain minimum wage levels be paid to contract workers constructing public works. At issue on appeal was whether, under the state constitution, the subject matter of the state's prevailing wage law was a "statewide concern" over which the state has primary legislative authority, or whether the matter was a municipal affair and therefore governed by the charter city's local ordinances. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeal, which in turn affirmed the trial court's judgment denying the union's petition for a writ of mandate, holding that there was no statewide concern at issue in this case, and therefore, the state's prevailing wage law did not apply to the charter city.
United Teachers of L.A. v. L.A. Unified Sch. Dist.
After a school district (District) approved the conversion of an existing public school into a charter school, a union (UTLA) claimed that the District failed to comply with collective bargaining agreement provisions (CBPs) concerning charter school conversion. UTLA petitioned to compel arbitration pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement. The trial court denied the petition, finding that the collective bargaining provisions (CBPs) regulating charter school conversion were unlawful because they conflicted with the Education Code, and therefore, arbitration of those unlawful provisions should not be compelled. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the court's function in adjudicating a petition to compel arbitration was limited to determining whether there was a valid arbitration agreement that had not been waived. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a court faced with a petition to compel arbitration to enforce CBPs between a union and a school district should deny the petition if the CBPs at issue directly conflict with provisions of the Education Code; and (2) because UTLA had not identified with sufficient specificity which CBPs the District allegedly violated, the case was remanded for identification of those specific provisions and to address whether the provisions conflicted with the Education Code.
Kirby, et al. v. Imoos Fire etc.
Plaintiffs sued IFP and multiple DOE defendants for violating various labor laws as well as the unfair competition law (UCL)(Bus. & Prof. Code, 17200 et seq.). The amended complaint stated seven claims, the sixth of which alleged the failure to provide rest breaks as required by Labor Code 226.7. Plaintiffs ultimately dismissed this claim with prejudice after settling with the DOE defendants. IFP subsequently moved for attorney's fees under Labor Code 218.5. The trial court awarded fees and the Court of Appeal affirmed. The court concluded, in light of the relevant statutory language and legislative history, that neither Labor Code 1194 nor 218.5 authorized an award of attorney's fees to a party that prevailed on a section 226.7 claim. Accordingly, the court reversed on this claim and affirmed the judgment on plaintiffs' other claims.
Dicon Fiberoptics v. Franchise Tax Bd.
The Enterprise Zone Act, Gov. Code, 7070 et seq., was enacted "to stimulate business and industrial growth" in "areas within the state that are economically depressed due to a lack of a private sector." Among the incentives available to businesses that operated within an enterprise zone was a hiring tax credit in the amount of a percentage of the wages paid to a "qualified employee." Rev. & Tax. Code, 23622.7, subd. (a). The Franchise Tax Board conducted an audit and refused to accept some of the certifications that Dicon claimed for a hiring tax credit. The Board found that the documents Dicon produced to establish that workers were "qualified employees" were insufficient and denied the requested tax credit in part. The court reversed the appellate court's holding that a certification issued by a governmental agency for purposes of the hiring tax credit under section 23622.7 constituted "prima facie proof a worker is a 'qualified employee,'" which shifted to the Board the "burden of demonstrating an employee is not a qualified worker for which no voucher should have issued." In all other respects, the Board did not challenge the appellate court's judgment and the judgment was affirmed.
Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Super. Ct. of San Diego Cty
This case stemmed from the DLSE's investigation into whether Brinker was complying with its obligations to provide rest and meal breaks to its employees, maintain proper records, and pay premium wages in the event required breaks were not provided. The court considered on appeal issues of significance to class actions generally and to meal and rest break class actions in particular. The court concluded that the trial courts were not obligated as a matter of law to resolve threshold disputes over the elements of a plaintiff's claims, unless a particular determination was necessarily dispositive of the certification question. Because the parties have so requested, however, the court nevertheless addressed several threshold disputes. In regards to the nature of an employer's duty to provide meal periods, the court concluded that an employer's obligation was to relieve its employee of all duty, with the employee thereafter at liberty to use the meal period for whatever purpose he or she desired, but the employer need not ensure that no work was done. Further, in light of the substantial evidence submitted by plaintiffs of defendants' uniform policy, the court concluded that the trial court properly certified a rest break subclass. On the question of meal break subclass certification, the court remanded to the trial court for reconsideration. With respect to the third contested subclass, covering allegations that employees were required to work "off-the-clock," no evidence of common policies or means of proof was supplied, and the trial court therefore erred in certifying a subclass.
Harris v. Super. Ct.
Plaintiffs, claims adjusters employed by defendants, filed four class action lawsuits alleging defendants erroneously classified them as exempt "administrative" employees, seeking damages based on unpaid overtime work. At issue was whether plaintiffs were exempt employees, not entitled to overtime compensaution under the Labor Code and regulations of the California Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC). The court held that the Court of Appeal misapplied the substantive law when its analysis focused on Wage Order 4. The court held that, in resolving whether work qualified as administrative, courts must consider the particular facts before them and apply the language of the statutes and wage orders at issue. Only if those sources failed to provide adequate guidance, was it appropriate to reach out to other sources. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded.