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Total Articles: 27

Governor Brown Signs Bill to Significantly Alter California Retaliation Law to Benefit Employees

Senate Bill 306, among other things, allows an employee or the Labor Commissioner to obtain a preliminary injunction (ordering the employee to be reinstated pending their retaliation claim) upon a mere showing of “reasonable cause” that a violation of the law occurred. SB 306 goes into effect on January 1, 2018.

California Wage/Hour Update (No. 4, October 2017)

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of “day of rest” claims brought by two former hourly employees against retail giant Nordstrom.

Governor Brown Has Another Opportunity to Expand Parental Leave to Small Businesses in California

The New Parent Leave Act has made it to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk awaiting his signature or veto. This bill would mean significant expansion of parental leave for small employers in California. It is uncertain whether Governor Brown will sign the bill into law after vetoing a similar bill almost a year ago.

The End is Near! – Follow These Labor and Employment Bills as the California Legislative Year Wraps Up

It’s a time of high-drama in Sacramento. With less than two weeks to go in the legislative year, many of the hot-button labor and employment bills we have been tracking all year await final action. Many bills are significantly amended in the last days of session as stakeholders scramble to get those final votes to the get the bill to the Governor’s desk. So keep close track of these bills because things can change in a heartbeat!

California Division of Industrial Relations Overview of New California Laws Available

Jackson Lewis recently completed a series of seminars throughout California on many of the key California workplace law updates. On December 28, 2016, the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) released its own 2016 Legislative Digest summarizing new laws that impact employees. The DIR Legislative Digest is the DIR’s summary of key laws and is helpful for employers to see their focus.

Finally! Something That's Not "Protected Activity" in California

Executive Summary: It turns out that “protected activity” sufficient to make out a retaliation claim in California is not as broad as it may sometimes seem. On November 9, 2016, the Court of Appeal affirmed summary judgment for the employer in Dinslage v. City and County of San Francisco (A142365). The Court held that an employee can only state a prima facie case for retaliation under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act when the protected activity is directed at an unlawful employment practice.

Governor Signs Law Giving California Labor Department Greater Role in PAGA Suits

On June 27, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a set of amendments to California’s Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) that will expand labor officials’ involvement in PAGA claims. PAGA gives employees the right to sue their employers for Labor Code violations on behalf of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) after first giving the LWDA an opportunity to investigate.

The New California Regulations, Part I: Preventing and Correcting Wrongful Behavior

California’s Office of Administrative Law approved regulations drafted by the California Fair Employment and Housing Council. These new regulations, covering the entire gamut of employment law topics within the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), touch on almost every aspect of employment law and will go into effect on April 1, 2016.

Don't be Fooled: Significant New Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policy Requirements Start April 1 for California Employers

On April 1, 2016, new California regulations take effect requiring employers to develop written anti-discrimination and harassment policies that meet numerous new and detailed requirements.1 These regulations require employers to develop and distribute anti-discrimination and harassment policies to employees in English as well as in any additional languages that are spoken by at least 10% of the workforce. The regulations also impose requirements for conducting discrimination and harassment investigations.

Timing is Everything: Pair of California Retaliation Cases Lead to Opposite Results for Employers

Two cases involving employees who were terminated shortly following protected leaves of absence lead to opposite results for the employers, with one case being dismissed and the other proceeding to trial. In one case, the California Court of Appeal rejected a bank employee’s claim that she was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for taking a domestic violence leave of absence. Rosales v. Moneytree, Inc. In the other, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that triable issues of fact existed regarding an outside sales representative’s claim that her employer terminated her in retaliation for her complaining about the amount of documentation requested to support her medical leave of absence. Furtado v. United Rentals Inc.

The California Court of Appeal Broadens Anti-Retaliation Rules for Employers

In Cardenas v. M. Fanaian, D.D.S., Inc., the 5th District of the California Court of Appeal held that Labor Code § 1102.5 prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who discloses information to a law enforcement agency where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal law. The Court clarified that section 1102.5 protects employees even where the report to law enforcement concerns a violation of law committed by a fellow employee or contractor, and not by the employer.

New California Law Expands Retaliation Coverage

On July 16, 2015, Governor Brown signed into law AB 987, amending the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to reflect what many already believed to be the law: employers and other covered entities cannot retaliate against employees or other persons who request a religious accommodation or an accommodation for a disability. Effective on January 1, 2016, AB 987 establishes that requesting such an accommodation is a protected activity under the FEHA, regardless of whether the accommodation is granted.

California Legislature Overturns Retaliation Holding in Rope v. Auto-Chlor and Classifies a Mere Request for Accommodation as a “Protected Activity”

On July 16, 2015, AB 987 was signed into law by the Governor Jerry Brown which provides a paradigm shift in favor of employees with respect to their retaliation claims. The new law overturns the retaliation holding in Rope v. Auto-Chlor System of Washington, Inc. (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 635, and makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate or otherwise discriminate against a person for “requesting” an accommodation based on religion or disability.

California eAuthority (February 2, 2015)

California Supreme Court Lets Arbitration Award Stand, Dodges “Honest Belief” Defense; The Price is Wrong: California Court OKs a New Trial in Game Show Model’s Pregnancy Bias Case; Employer May Obtain Judicial Review of California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board Decision; Exotic Dancers’ Class Action Employment Suit Stays Alive in California; California School Teacher’s Claim That She Was Fired Due to a Computer Error Proceeds.

New California Paid Sick Leave Law May Cause Headaches for Employers

Executive Summary: On September 10, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (HWHFA), which provides nearly all employees working in California with paid sick leave. The new law goes into effect on July 1, 2015.

California Supreme Court: "Illegal Immigrant Shouldn't Have Been Hired – But Can't Be Fired Illegally"

On June 26, 2014, the California Supreme Court decided that an employee may proceed with a discrimination lawsuit even though he presented false work authorization documents to obtain employment in the first place.

California’s New Anti-Retaliation Protections for Foreign Workers Effective January 2014

In October 2013, California enacted several new laws that provide California workers, who are seeking to change their personal information, engage in whistleblower activity, or exercise their workplace rights, with expanded protections against adverse employment actions, including specific protections for foreign national employees. The new legislation became effective on January 1, 2014. Some of the relevant provisions are summarized below.

California Court Further Expands FEHA Protections to Employees Based on Association with Disabled Person

Rope v. Auto-Chlor System of Washington, Inc., No. B242003 (October 16, 2013): Recently, a California Court of Appeal held that a fired employee could proceed with a lawsuit in which he claimed that his employer discriminated against him based on his association with his disabled sister to whom he planned to donate a kidney.

California Appellate Court Finds Employees Must Show Discrimination Was a “Substantial Motivating Factor”

Alamo v. Practice Management Information Corp., No. B230909 (September 5, 2013): In Alamo, a former employee who was fired upon her return from maternity leave brought a lawsuit for pregnancy discrimination in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and wrongful termination in violation of public policy. After the trial judge partially granted and partially denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment, the case was heard by a jury. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the employee and awarded her damages in the amount of $10,000. The trial judge then awarded attorneys’ fees and costs to Alamo as the prevailing plaintiff under FEHA.

California Legislature Deliberating Changes to Remedies in Mixed Motive Cases

This past February, the California Supreme Court addressed the viability of a mixed-motive defense to employment discrimination claims brought under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) in the Harris v. City of Santa Monica case. The court held that where an employee demonstrates the employer’s adverse action was substantially motivated by discrimination but the employer demonstrates the employee would have been discharged even in the absence of any discriminatory intent, then a court cannot award back pay, damages, or reinstatement. However, where the unlawful discrimination was a “substantial factor” in the employment decision, the court held that the employee may be entitled to other remedies in the form of declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and attorneys’ fees and costs. For a detailed analysis on the Harris case, see our article, “California Supreme Court Rejects Damages, Back Pay, and Reinstatement Where Employer Proves Legitimate Mixed-Motive.”

Who Needs the Aggregation? Ninth Circuit Rejects Combining of PAGA Penalties to Establish Minimum Amount in Controversy

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued a decision in Urbino v. Orkin Services of California, Inc., No. 11-56944 (August 13, 2013) holding that civil penalties available under California’s Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) may not be aggregated to establish the minimum amount in controversy of $75,000, which is required for federal diversity jurisdiction.

Legal Alert: California Supreme Court Issues "Mixed Motive" Decision Favorable to Employers

Executive Summary: According to a new California Supreme Court opinion, once an employee claiming discrimination demonstrates that a discriminatory reason for his or her termination substantially motivated an adverse employment decision, the employer is entitled to show that a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason would have led it to make the same decision. If the employer is able to demonstrate that, notwithstanding any discriminatory reason for the decision, it was actually motivated by a non-discriminatory reason, the employee is not entitled to monetary damages, back pay or reinstatement, but may still be entitled to an injunction or an award of attorneys' fees and costs.

California Supreme Court's "Mixed Motive" Ruling May Have Major Impact on Fair Employment and Housing Claims

On February 7, 2013 the California Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, affirmed that backpay and reinstatement are not available remedies for a plaintiff under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) when an employer has proved by a preponderance of evidence that it would have made the same decision to terminate that individual for lawful reasons. The legal impact of the much-anticipated decision is far reaching. Wynona Harris v. City of Santa Monica.

California Supreme Court Rejects Damages, Back Pay, and Reinstatement Where Employer Proves Legitimate Mixed-Motive

On February 7, 2013, the California Supreme Court issued a long-awaited decision on whether the “mixed-motive” defense applies to employment discrimination claims under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The court held that where an employee demonstrates that unlawful discrimination was a substantial motivating factor in a challenged adverse employment action, and the employer proves that it would have made the same decision absent such discrimination, a court may not award damages, back pay, or reinstatement. Harris v. City of Santa Monica, No. S181004, California Supreme Court (February 7, 2013).

Court Rejects FEHA Claim Brought by Employee Fired for Allegedly Filing False Harassment Complaint

Earlier this week, a state appellate court held that an employee failed to introduce substantial evidence under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) that his employer’s decision to terminate his employment was motivated by retaliatory animus. According to the California Court of Appeal, the employee, who was fired for allegedly making false statements related to his sexual harassment complaint against his supervisor, could not show that his employer’s stated reason for firing him was pretextual. Joaquin v. City of Los Angeles, No. B226685, California Court of Appeal (January 23, 2012).

California Supreme Court Holds That Stray Remarks Made by Non-Decision Makers Can Be Considered in Age Bias Case.

On August 5, the California Supreme Court handed down its decision in Reid v. Google, Inc., an age discrimination case that was dismissed at the trial court level on summary judgment. The trial judge dismissed the case after finding that “stray remarks” by individuals who had no involvement with the decision to terminate the plaintiff’s employment were insufficient evidence of discrimination to send the case to trial. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial judge’s order granting the employer summary judgment and held that the stray remarks by the non-decision makers was admissible to prove his claim of discrimination. The California Supreme Court agreed and rejected the strict application of the “stray remarks doctrine” in California discrimination cases.

Individuals Cannot be Held Liable for Retaliation Claims.

In Reno v. Baird, the California Supreme Court held in 1998 that individuals are not personally liable for discrimination under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Similarly, today the Court ruled in Jones v. The Lodge at Torrey Pines Partnership that while employers may be held liable, individuals may not be held financially responsible for retaliation claims in the discrimination context.