Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of California
Raines v. U.S. Healthworks Medical Group
The Supreme Court held that an employer's business entity agents can be held directly liable under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal. Gov. Code 12900 et seq., for employment discrimination in appropriate circumstances when the business entity agent has at least five employees and carries out activities regulated by FEHA on behalf of an employer.Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and an alleged class, brought this action alleging claims under the FEHA, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, unfair competition law, and the common law right of privacy. Plaintiffs named as a defendant U.S. Healthworks Medical Group (USHW), who was acting as an agent of Plaintiffs' prospective employers. The district court dismissed all claims, concluding, as relevant to this appeal, that the FEHA does not impose liability on the agents of a plaintiff's employer. The federal district court of appeals certified a question of law to the Supreme Court, which answered that FEHA permits a business entity acting as an agent of an employer to be held directly liable as an employer for employment discrimination, in violation of FEHA, when the business entity has at least five employees and carries out FEHA-regulated activities on behalf of an employer. View "Raines v. U.S. Healthworks Medical Group" on Justia Law
Adolph v. Uber Technologies, Inc.
The Supreme Court held that an aggrieved employee who has been compelled to arbitrate claims under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA), Cal. Lab. Code 2698 et seq., that are "premised on Labor Code violations actually sustained by" Plaintiff maintains statutory standing to pursue PAGA claims arising out of events involving other employees in court.The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that the trial court properly found, among other things, that PAGA claims are not subject to arbitration, holding (1) to have PAGA standing, a plaintiff must be an "aggrieved employee" - i.e., one who was employed by the alleged violator and against whom one or more of the alleged violations was committed; and (2) when a plaintiff brings a PAGA action composed of both individual and non-individual claims, "an order compelling arbitration of the individual claims does not strip the plaintiff of standing to proceed as an aggrieved employee to litigate claims on behalf of other employees under PAGA." View "Adolph v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law
Kuciemba v. Victory Woodworks, Inc.
The Supreme Court held that the exclusivity provisions of the California Workers' Compensation Act (WCA), Cal. Lab. Code 3200 et seq., do not bar an employee's spouse's negligence claim against the employer when the spouse is injured by transmission of the COVID-19 virus but that an employer does not owe a duty of care under California law to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to employees' household members.The Supreme Court answered two questions of California law certified from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit regarding the scope of an employer's liability when an employee's spouse is injured by transmission of the COVID-19 virus as follows: (1) the exclusivity provisions of the WCA do not bar a non-employee's recovery for injuries that are not legally dependent upon an injury suffered by the employee; and (2) employers do not owe a tort-based duty to non-employees to prevent the spread of COVID-19. View "Kuciemba v. Victory Woodworks, Inc." on Justia Law
People ex rel. Garcia-Brower v. Kolla’s, Inc.
The Supreme Court held that a report of unlawful activities made to an employer or agency that already knew about the violation is a protected "disclosure" within the meaning of Cal. Labor Code 1102.5(b).Employer fired Employee after Employee complained about unpaid wages she was owed, threatened to report her to immigration authorities, and told her never to return to the establishment. The Labor Commissioner sued Employer for violations of section 1102.5, but the trial court ruled against Labor Commissioner on the claim because Employee reported her complaints to Employer rather than a government agency. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Employee made a disclosure protected by section 1102.5(b). View "People ex rel. Garcia-Brower v. Kolla's, Inc." on Justia Law
Grande v. Eisenhower Medical Center
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal affirming the judgment of the trial court against a hospital based on violations of the Labor Code and the Unfair Competition Law, holding that the lower court correctly found that claim preclusion did not bar this suit.A nurse sued the staffing agency that arranged for her to work at at a hospital based on violations of the Labor Code and the Unfair Competition Law. The parties settled. Thereafter, the nurse sued the hospital based on the same alleged violations. The hospital argued that the first judgment precluded the nurse from bringing the second suit. The trial court concluded that the hospital was not in privity with the staffing agency for claim preclusion purposes. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hospital was not entitled to benefit from claim preclusion. View "Grande v. Eisenhower Medical Center" on Justia Law
Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc.
The Supreme Court held that the additional hour of pay an employer must pay an employee if the employer unlawfully makes the employee work during all or part of a meal or rest period constitutes "wages" that must be reported on statutorily-required wage statements during employment and paid within statutory deadlines when an employee leaves the job.Plaintiff, who was suspended from his job as a guard after leaving his post to take a meal break. Plaintiff filed a putative class action on behalf of employees of Defendant seeking an additional hour of pay, so-called "premium pay," for each day on which Defendant failed to provide employees a legally-compliant meal break. The trial court determined that Defendant had violated the meal break laws for a certain period and that a failure to pay meal break premiums could support claims under the wage statement and timely payment statutes. The court of appeal reversed in part. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) the court of appeal erred in concluding that extra pay for missed breaks does not constitute "wages" to be reported on wage statements during employment; and (2) the seven percent default rate of prejudgment interest set by the state Constitution applies to amounts due for failure to provide meal and rest breaks. View "Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Lawson v. PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc.
The Supreme Court held that Cal. Labor Code 1102.6 governs whistleblower retaliation claims brought pursuant to Cal. Labor Code 1102.5.Since 2003, section 1102.6 has prescribed a framework for presenting and evaluating retaliation claims brought under section 1102.5. Since 2003, some courts continued to apply the burden-shifting framework borrowed from the decision in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant on Plaintiff's whistleblower retaliation claim in this case, concluding that Plaintiff could not satisfy the third step of the McDonnell Douglas test. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal certified a question regarding the correct standard to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered that section 1102.6 provides the governing framework for the presentation and evaluation of whistleblower retaliation claims brought under section 1102.5. View "Lawson v. PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc." on Justia Law
Skidgel v. California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board
In this case involving the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal concluding that sections 631 and 683 of the Unemployment Insurance Code exclude from coverage a provider who is the recipient's minor child, parent, or spouse under the state's unemployment insurance program, holding that the court of appeal did not err.The IHSS program authorized certain Californias, who were disabled or elderly, to receive in-home services from third parties or family members paid for with public funds. Under one program option, service recipients hire their own providers and the providers are paid either by a public entity or by the recipients with funds they have received from a public entity. At issue was whether such a provider qualified for unemployment benefits. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative, holding that provider who is the recipient's minor child, parent, or spouse is not covered by the state's unemployment insurance program. View "Skidgel v. California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board" on Justia Law
Busker v. Wabtec
The Supreme Court answered two questions certified by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by holding that publicly funded work on rolling stock, like train cars, does not fall under the statutory definition of "public works" and that the work on rolling rock in this case did not qualify as "public work."At issue were two aspects of a project to design and install a comprehensive communications network to prevent train collections and other dangerous movements called field work and onboard work. Field work included building and outfitting radio towers on land adjacent to train tracks, and onboard work involved installing electronic components on train cars and locomotives. Plaintiff was an employee of Defendant, which subcontracted to install system components on trains and rail cars. Plaintiff sued Defendant for failing to pay prevailing wages. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant, concluding that onboard work did not fall within the scope of the prevailing wage law. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit asked whether the onboard work for the project fell within the definition of "public works" under Cal. Labor Code 1720(a)(1). The Supreme Court answered that the onboard work performed in this case was not itself "public work." View "Busker v. Wabtec" on Justia Law
Mendoza v. Fonseca McElroy Grinding Co.
The Supreme Court answered a question certified to it by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by holding that Cal. Labor Code 1772 does not expand the categories of public work that trigger the obligation to pay at least the prevailing wage under Cal. Labor Code 1771.Plaintiffs, unionized engineers who operated milling equipment to break up existing roadbeds, brought a suit in federal court alleging, inter alia, failure to pay the prevailing wage for loading an equipment from an offsite location onto trailers and bringing it to the job site - known as mobilization - done in connection with public works projects. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants, ruling that mobilization was not covered by prevailing wage protection. Plaintiffs appealed the mobilization decision, and the Ninth Circuit certified the question of whether the mobilization activity was covered by section 1772. The Supreme Court held that, where there was no contention that mobilization qualified as "public work," section 1772 did not provide a basis for requiring Plaintiffs to be paid the prevailing wage for that work. View "Mendoza v. Fonseca McElroy Grinding Co." on Justia Law