Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of California
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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

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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

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal rejecting Appellant's challenge to the denial of his motion to disqualify A. Robert Singer as a hearing officer in a peer review proceeding, holding that the record did not establish that Singer should be disqualified for financial bias under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 809.2, subdivision (b).A medical executive committee adopted a recommendation to terminate Appellant's medical staff membership and hospital privileges. Appellant requested a peer review hearing to review the recommendation, and the hospital president exercised authority delegated by the medical staff to select Singer to serve as the hearing officer. Appellant challenged Singer's appointment on grounds of financial bias, but Singer denied the challenge. The peer review panel upheld the revocation of Appellant's staff membership and privileges. The superior court denied Appellant's petition for a writ of administrative mandate, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circumstances surrounding Singer's appointment did not create an intolerable risk of bias that would require disqualification under section 809.2(b). View "Natarajan v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

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In this action brought by a physician alleging that the defendant hospitals and medical staff members unlawfully retaliated against him for raising concerns about patient care the Supreme Court held that Defendants were not entitled to wholesale dismissal of Plaintiff's claims under the anti-SLAPP law.Defendants sought to strike Plaintiff's retaliation claims under the anti-SLAPP statute, arguing that any claim arising from the peer review process targets protected speech or petitioning activity and therefore must be afforded anti-SLAPP protection. The trial court granted Defendants' motion. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that the anti-SLAPP statute does not protect actions taken with a retaliatory motive. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that Defendants demonstrated that some, but not all, of the claims collected was unlawful acts of retaliation in Plaintiff's first cause of action arose from protected speech or petitioning activity. View "Bonni v. St. Joseph Health System" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the court of appeal and its award of costs on appeal, holding that a claim for failure to promote brought under the harassment provision of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal. Gov. Code 12940, subd. (j), 12960, accrues, and thus the statute of limitations begins to run, at the point when an employee knows or reasonably should know of the employer's allegedly unlawful refusal to promote the employee.Plaintiff alleged that her employer passed her over for promotions because she refused to have sex with the company's executive vice-president, Michael Kelso. The trial court granted summary judgment for Kelso, finding no triable issue of fact as to Kelso's statute of limitations defense. The court of appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Kelso and two other defendants and awarded costs on appeal to all three defendants. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in concluding that the statute of limitations began to run when Plaintiff's employer offered a promotion to someone else and she accepted it; and (2) the court of appeal erred in awarding costs on appeal to Defendants without first finding that Plaintiff's underlying claim was objectively groundless. View "Pollock v. Tri-Modal Distribution Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that "regular rate of compensation" under Cal. Lab. Code 226.7(c), like "regular rate of pay" under Cal. Lab. Code 510(a), encompasses all nondiscretionary payments, such that the calculation of premium pay for a noncompliant meal, rest, or recovery period, like the calculation of overtime pay, must account for not only hourly wages but also for nondiscretionary payments for work performed by the employee.Plaintiff, who was employed by Defendant as a bartender, filed a class action suit alleging that Defendant, by omitting nondiscretionary incentive payments from its calculation of premium pay, failed to pay her for noncompliant meal or rest breaks in accordance with her "regular rate of compensation," as required by section 226.7(c). The trial court granted summary adjudication for Defendant, concluding that "regular rate of compensation" in section 226.7(c) is not interchangeable with the term "regular rate of pay" under section 510(a), which governs overtime pay. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the term “regular rate of compensation” in section 226.7(c) has the same meaning as “regular rate of pay” in section 510(a) and therefore encompasses all nondiscretionary payments for work performed by the employee, not just hourly wages. View "Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal reversing the trial court's ruling granting Defendant's motion to strike Plaintiffs' prevailing wage allegations, holding that Plaintiffs' belt sorting qualified as "public works" Cal. Labor Code 1720, subd.(a)(2).Plaintiffs were contract workers who acted as belt sorters for a county sanitation district. Plaintiffs brought a class action suit alleging failure to (1) pay minimum and/or prevailing wages, (2) pay overtime at prevailing wage rates, (3) provide meal periods, and (4) pay all wages owed at the time of termination. At issue was whether Plaintiffs' work fell within the definition of public works in section 1720(a)(2) entitling them to prevailing wage compensation. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to strike. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiffs' labor qualified as public work under section 1720(a)(2). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals did not err. View "Kaanaana v. Barrett Business Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court decided two questions of law related to meal periods for employees and, in light of its holdings, reversed the judgment of the court of appeals.Plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit against Defendant alleging various wage and hour violations, including that meal period claim at issue on this appeal. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, holding (1) an employer cannot engage in the practice of adjusting the hours that an employee has actually worked to the nearest present time increment in the meal period context; and (2) time records showing noncompliant meal periods raise a rebuttable presumption of meal period violations, including at the stage of summary judgment. View "Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court responded to a question posed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by answering that the Court's decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, 4 Cal.5th 903 (2018), applies retroactively.In Dynamex, the Supreme Court held that the standard commonly known as the "ABC test" applies under California law in determining whether workers should be classified as employees or independent contractors for purposes of obligations imposed by California's wage orders. In concluding that the standard set forth in Dynamex applies retroactively the Supreme Court relied primarily on the fact that Dynamex addressed an issue of first impression and did not change a settled rule upon which the parties had relied. The Court further concluded that the retroactive application of the ABC test to cases pending at the time Dynamex became final was not improper or unfair. View "Vasquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising International, Inc." on Justia Law