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Total Articles: 74

California Just Banned the Box!

On October 14, Governor Brown signed AB 1008 to prohibit most public and private employers with five or more employees from asking applicants about criminal conviction histories until after a conditional offer of employment has been made. The new law will become effective January 1, 2018.

A Primer on Substituting Paid Leave for Unpaid Disability Leave Under Federal and California Law

Among the many questions California employers face when navigating the ins and outs of various disability leave laws is under what circumstances an employee may choose or be required to utilize paid time off for an otherwise unpaid leave of absence. When dealing with these issues, it is important to consider some nuanced differences between various federal and California state laws. The following are some guidelines for employers to keep in mind:

California Employers Should Reevaluate Their Criminal Background Check Policies Before July 1, 2017

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) finalized new regulations limiting the ability of employers to consider criminal history when making employment decisions.

The Latest on Arbitration Agreements

The validity of mandatory arbitration agreements continues to be a major focus of litigation and legislation. As employers know, the U.S. Supreme Court currently is reviewing the issue of whether class action waivers violate the NLRA in the consolidated matters Morris v. Ernst & Young, Lewis v. Epic Systems, and Murphy v. NLRB. Briefing is underway in those matters and oral argument is expected this fall.

California Lawmakers Introduce Statewide Ban-the-Box Law

When it comes to legislation restricting employer use of criminal records, California seems to be leading the charge. In the last six months alone, we have reported on a variety of new laws that apply to California employers that use criminal records in pre-hire and other employment decisions.1 Continuing this trend, on February 16, 2017, five California assembly members introduced Assembly Bill 1008, which proposes to add a section to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) containing new state-wide restrictions on an employer’s ability to make pre-hire and other employment decisions based on an applicant or employee’s criminal records, including a “ban-the-box” component.

Can Employers Require Their Employees to Remain On Call During Rest Breaks?

In another important decision regarding an employer’s obligation to provide rest breaks, the California Supreme Court in Jennifer Augustus et al. v. ABM Security Services, Inc. (2016) 2 Cal.5th 257, dealt with two issues related to employee rest breaks: 1) whether employers are required to permit their employees to take off-duty rest periods pursuant to Labor Code 226.7 and Wage Order 4; and 2) whether employers may require their employees to remain “on call” during rest periods.

Background Check Disclosure/Consent Form That Includes a Liability Waiver Violates the FCRA

On Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Syed v. M-I, LLC, holding, on an issue of first impression, that an employer willfully violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) by including a liability waiver on the background check disclosure and consent form it provided to prospective employees. The Ninth Circuit held that the FCRA expressly states that before obtaining a consumer report for employment purposes, an employer must disclose its intent to secure a consumer report for employment purposes and inform the consumer of his/her rights under the FCRA. The FCRA states that this information must be provided in writing in a document “consisting solely of the disclosure.” The FCRA goes on to state that the employer must obtain the consumer’s authorization to procure the report and that the authorization can be on the same document as the disclosure. In this case, the employer had a disclosure and consent form, as required by the FCRA. However, the employer’s form included a provision stating that the applicant signing the form agrees to release the employer from any and all liability stemming from its reliance on information derived from the consumer report. The Ninth Circuit held that the inclusion of this liability waiver on the disclosure and consent form violated the FCRA’s express mandate that the disclosure consist “solely of the disclosure.” The Ninth Circuit reasoned that the inclusion of extraneous information, such as a liability waiver, in the disclosure form violates the law. Worse, the Ninth Circuit held, as a matter of law, that the employer’s violation was both “objectively unreasonable” and “willful” (thereby exposing the employer to statutory and punitive damages), even though this was an issue of first impression that no Circuit Court had before decided. The full text of the Ninth Circuit’s opinion is available here. This case will only serve to promote more FCRA lawsuits against employers. Employers may wish to review their background check disclosure and consent forms to ensure that they do not improperly include “extraneous” information and that they otherwise comply with the FCRA (and California law, as applicable).

California and Criminal Convictions: Employers May Want to Reexamine Their Background Check Policies in Light of Proposed Regulations

In early 2016, the California Fair Employment and Housing Council (FEHC) proposed regulations that are intended to define and clarify how using a person’s criminal history may violate the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). If adopted, the regulations would create additional avenues for job applicants and employees to sue employers for violations of FEHA. These regulations, coupled with the growing number of local jurisdictions implementing “ban the box” legislation, are yet another reminder that employers may want to proceed with caution when using an employee’s criminal history to make an employment decision.

City of Los Angeles Passes Ban-the-Box Law

Executive Summary: The City of Los Angeles recently enacted its own Ban-the-Box law, designed to prevent employers with at least 10 employees from inquiring into or requiring an applicant to disclose their criminal history until a conditional offer of employment has been made. The law is expected to go into effect on January 22, 2017.

City of Los Angeles Mayor to Sign Long-Awaited and Onerous “Ban the Box” Law

In the next week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is expected to sign the Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring (Initiative), which will prohibit most private sector employers from inquiring into a job applicant’s criminal history until after making a conditional offer of employment. Los Angeles’ new “ban-the-box” law follows on the heels of similar legislation enacted in New York City and Austin, Texas, and continues the nationwide ban-the-box trend.1 The Initiative will go into effect in less than one month, on January 1, 2017.

California Law Restricts Employers From Asking About Juvenile Criminal History

California recently amended its existing law governing inquiries into and the use of juvenile criminal information. Effective January 1, 2017 employers will be restricted from asking about, seeking, or using a California applicant/employee’s juvenile criminal history in the employment context.

Does Legalized Marijuana Impact Workplace Policies?

With recreational marijuana now legal in California, many employers are wondering how this impacts their drug free workplace policies and their response to an applicant/employee drug test that is positive for marijuana. Contrary to what many employees likely will believe, the new law does not restrict employers' rights to continue enforcing policies that prohibit marijuana use. The new law expressly states that that it should not be construed or interpreted to:

California Passes Legislation Limiting Enforceability of Forum Selection and Choice of Law Provisions in Employment Contracts

California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law Senate Bill No. 1241 (codified at California Labor Code Section 925), which generally prohibits employers from requiring an employee who primarily lives and works in California to enter into a contract that: (i) requires the employee to litigate or arbitrate disputes with his or her employer outside of California; or (ii) “deprive[s] the employee of the substantive protection of California law with respect to a controversy arising in California.” These restrictions apply to agreements entered into as a condition of the employee’s employment, such as employment agreements, confidentiality agreements and arbitration agreements.

The DFEH Modifies Proposed Regulations on Use of Criminal Records For Employment Decisions

On September 7, 2016, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) announced modifications to its proposed regulations originally promulgated on February 19, 2016, governing the use of criminal history in employment decisions. The new regulations are intended to prevent disparate impact discrimination against protected classes such as gender, race, and national origin. If passed, the new modified regulations will impose more restrictions on employers, including a burden shifting test.

Calculation of California Paid Sick Leave May Spook Employers

As if paid sick leave wasn’t scary enough! From accrual methods, to the protections provided to the time off, to the varying (and ever growing) laws in different jurisdictions, paid sick leave can be spooky.

Reminder to Comply With California Voting Rights Law

As election day approaches, employers are reminded that California law requires them to post a notice 10 days before the election informing employees of their voting rights under state law. Specifically, employees must be informed that if they do not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote, they may take off enough working time that, when added to the voting time available outside of working hours, will enable them to vote. Up to two hours of this time must be paid. The employer can require that the time off for voting be taken at the beginning or end of the employee's shift, whichever allows the most free time for voting and the least time off from the regular working shift.

New California Law Limits Employers’ Ability To Inquire Into Juvenile Criminal History

On September 27, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1843, which prohibits certain inquiries into the criminal past of applicants for employment. The new law now adds a prohibition against asking about, considering as part of the hiring process, or attempting to discover, information relating to any “arrest, detention, processing, diversion, supervision, adjudication, or court disposition” that occurred while the applicant was subject to the “process and jurisdiction” of the juvenile court.

Holiday Hiring: What’s on Your Employment Application

With holiday hiring in full swing, it’s a good time to review what should and should not be asked on employment applications.

California Governor Vetoes Parental Leave Bill Which Would Have Expanded Such Leave to Small Employers

The DOL’s final rule on paid sick leave was not the only news-making event in the world of leave management last Friday. While additional time off was being lauded by the federal government, additional protected leave was rejected in California.

New California Law Prohibits Choice of Law and Venue in Employment Contracts

On September 25, 2016, Governor Brown signed into law a new California Labor Code provision (Section 925) that is likely to have major repercussions for contracts with employees who live and work primarily in California. The new California Labor Code provision prohibits the use of contract provisions that apply another state’s law or require adjudication of disputes in another state as a condition of the employment of an individual who primarily resides and works in California.

California Amends Labor Code to Prohibit Employers from Using Juvenile Records in Employment Decisions

On September 27, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill No. 1843, which amends the California Labor Code to prohibit employers from considering certain juvenile records for employment purposes. The amendment is effective January 1, 2017.

The Early Bird Catches the Worm: Delaying Motion to Compel Arbitration Can Waive Right to Arbitration in California

On June 16, 2016, a California Court of Appeal, in an unpublished decision, issued yet another ruling applying the doctrine of waiver to arbitration agreements in the employment litigation context. In Ogannesian v. ICC Collision Centers, Inc., a defendant waited eight months after responding to a complaint before bringing its motion to compel arbitration. During those eight months, the court-determined trial date had been set and the defendant had participated in the discovery process by serving and responding to written discovery. The court of appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision that the defendant had waived its right to compel arbitration by waiting eight months to file a motion.

California Employers Must Provide Written Notice of Right to Take Domestic Violence Leave

On September 14, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2377 into law which expands the employer notice requirements regarding domestic violence employee protections provided by Labor Code section 230.1. Despite the protections under current law, many employees remain uninformed about their employment-related rights when it comes to domestic violence. This new bill requires employers of 25 or more to provide written notice to employees of their rights to take protected leave for domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Employers must inform each employee of his or her rights upon hire and at any time upon request. The Labor Commissioner must develop and post online a form that employers may use to satisfy these new notice requirements by July 1, 2017. An employer’s obligation to comply with these new disclosure requirements will become effective when the Labor Commissioner posts the new form.

California Court of Appeal Rules Arbitration Agreement In Employee Handbook Is Not Enforceable

On August 22, 2016, a California Court of Appeal held that an arbitration agreement in an employee handbook did not create an enforceable agreement to arbitrate. Esparza v. Sand & Sea, Inc. et al., B268420 (Aug. 22, 2016). The employee handbook at issue stated, “[T]his handbook is not intended to be a contract . . . nor is it intended to otherwise create any legally enforceable obligations on the part of the Company or its employees.” Although the employee signed the handbook acknowledgement form, which mentioned the arbitration agreement contained in the handbook, the form did not state that the employee agreed to the arbitration. As such, the appellate court held that the trial court properly denied the employer’s petition to compel arbitration. This case emphasizes the importance of employers having standalone arbitration agreements for employees or removing landmines that may be lurking in their handbooks.

California Corner: Achoo! New Local Paid Sick Leave Ordinances are an Epidemic in California

San Diego and Los Angeles recently joined San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville and Santa Monica in approving their own paid sick leave ordinances, adding a layer of complexity for employers in those jurisdictions. Employers should be aware that these two new ordinances differ in key respects from California's statewide paid sick time law, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (the HWHFA), and that they must now comply with both the state and local laws.

“Ban the Box” – California Employers Are Cautioned When Using Criminal Records in Hiring Decisions

By now, California employers are probably aware of the “Ban the Box” movement sweeping the nation. Lawmakers and government agencies aim to provide applicants with a fair chance at employment by eliminating conviction history inquiries in background checks, interviews, and applications. Over 100 cities and counties nationwide have adopted similar initiatives to prevent employers from inquiring about and then rejecting applicants from positions based on their criminal history. President Obama has even endorsed the hiring reform, requiring that federal agencies delay inquiries into criminal records.

Who Decides Whether Arbitration Will Include Class Claims? California High Court Says Ambiguous Agreements May Be Decided in Favor of Workers

Executive Summary: In a decision that will likely be seen as a win for employees, a sharply divided California Supreme Court ruled that the question of whether a court or an arbitrator decides if an arbitration agreement permits class claims should be determined on a case-by-case basis, specifically focusing on the agreement's terms and resolving any ambiguities in favor of the non-drafting party. Given the high stakes nature of class proceedings and limited review of arbitrators' rulings, we strongly recommend all employers seeking to avoid class arbitration have their agreements reviewed.

California Supreme Court on Arbitration Agreement Silent on Class Action Waivers

Does the court or the arbitrator decide whether the parties to an arbitration agreement intended class arbitration where the agreement does not contain an express class action waiver? The California Supreme Court responded that there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer and the issue is a matter of contract determined by state law contract interpretation principles.

The Ever-Evolving Obligations of California Employers to Provide Paid Sick Leave (and New Minimum Wage Requirements, too!)

This month, the Cities of Los Angeles and San Diego passed paid sick leave and minimum wage ordinances to go into effect soon. While all California employers have been required to provide paid sick leave to employees since July 1, 2015, these new local ordinances create an increasingly complicated web for compliance, particularly for employers with multiple locations.

Senate Labor Committee Passes Fair Scheduling Act

Within the last few weeks, California has raised its minimum wage and expanded its paid family leave rights. Another bill expanding employee rights that is pending in the State Legislature is SB 878. This bill is designed to require California grocery, retail, and restaurant employers to provide employees advance notice of their work schedules and to pay its employees “modification pay” for any unilateral changes that the employer makes to the schedule thereafter.

California Supreme Court Upholds Arbitration Agreement Provision Allowing Parties to Seek Provisional Relief in Court

Today, the California Supreme Court issued its opinion in Baltazar v. Forever 21, Inc., rejecting an employee’s argument that her arbitration agreement with her employer was unconscionable and unenforceable simply because it permitted the parties to seek a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction in court pending completion of an arbitration. The plaintiff argued that this provision unfairly favored the employer because employers are more likely to benefit from such a provision than an employee (because employers more commonly seek restraining orders and/or injunctive relief relating to claims against an employee for misappropriation of trade secrets and similar wrongful business practices).

California Supreme Court Issues Pro-Arbitration Agreement Decision

On March 28, 2016, the Supreme Court of California issued another ruling on the enforceability of arbitration agreements. In Baltazar v. Forever 21, Inc. (S208345), the court considered the enforceability of an arbitration agreement authorizing the parties to seek provisional relief in a judicial action while still compelling the remainder of the dispute to arbitration. According to the court, the clause carving out provisional relief from the arbitration obligation “which does no more than restate existing law . . . does not render the agreement unconscionable.” Moreover, the court reiterated that an arbitration agreement remains enforceable even when it only lists claims that would likely be brought by an employee and does not list claims that might be brought by an employer. The decision provides much needed clarity and flexibility to employers implementing arbitration agreements in California.

California Issues Proposed Regulations Concerning Criminal History Inquiries

California's Fair Employment and Housing Council has issued proposed regulations concerning the use of criminal history information in employment decisions. The proposed regulations set forth pre-existing statutory prohibitions on using or inquiring about the following types of criminal history about an employee or applicant, when making employment decisions such as hiring, promotion, training, discipline, and termination:

California Court Rejects Arbitration Agreement for Unconscionability

On October 27, 2015, the California Court of Appeal, in an unpublished decision, issued yet another ruling applying the unconscionability doctrine to arbitration agreements in the employment context. In Prince v. Pletcher, B260864, a former production company employee alleged that the defendants violated California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and committed various other wrongs including fraud, misrepresentation, and breach of contract. The defendants moved to compel arbitration and the plaintiff argued that, among other things, the arbitration agreement was both procedurally and substantively unconscionable. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s denial of the defendants’ motion to compel arbitration.

Arbitration Agreements

Denying an employer’s motion to compel individual arbitration of a wage and hour class action, a California federal court ruled that the employer’s dispute resolution program violated its employees’ right to engage in concerted action under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). Totten v. Kellogg Brown & Root, LLC. Notably, this ruling departs from the established trend of federal courts declining to follow the precedent set in In re D.R. Horton, Inc. (“Horton I”) and has significant implications for employers contemplating whether to remove a class action involving the enforcement of arbitration agreements to federal court.

High Court Again Finds a California Court Failed to Place Arbitration Agreements on Equal Footing With Other Contracts

On December 14, 2015, in DirecTV, Inc. v. Imburgia, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a California State Court of Appeal decision that had invalidated an arbitration provision based on language from the agreement rendering the entire arbitration provision unenforceable if the “law of your state” makes class-arbitration waivers unenforceable.

Inaccurate Translation Invalidates Arbitration Agreement

The California Court of Appeal ruled that an automobile dealership that translated a sales contract into Spanish, but neglected to include the arbitration clause in the translated agreement, could not enforce the arbitration agreement. Ramos v. Westlake Services, LLC, A141353. Although the case involved a commercial transaction, it has important implications for employers who use arbitration agreements with employees whose primary language is other than English.

Court Invalidates Class Action Waiver Where Arbitration Agreement Not Governed by FAA

Earlier this week, a California Court of Appeal issued its published opinion in Garrido v. Air Liquide Industrial U.S., holding that a class action waiver in an employment arbitration agreement was unconscionable and unenforceable. You're thinking, "Wait, I thought the California Supreme Court ruled in Iskanian that class action waivers are enforceable." Well, you are right, but this court found a way around Iskanian.

Ninth Circuit Upholds California Rule on Unenforceability of PAGA Representative Action Waivers

The Ninth Circuit issued a surprising decision (disagreeing with the view of many California district courts), holding that the California Supreme Court’s Iskanian v CLS Transportation decision is not preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). In Iskanian, the California Supreme Court held that while class action waiver provisions in arbitration agreements are enforceable, a PAGA representative action waiver is not enforceable because employees have an unwaivable statutory right to bring a representative PAGA claim against their employers. The California Supreme Court reasoned that a PAGA plaintiff essentially stands in the shoes of the state in bringing the claim and acts in large part to collect penalties on behalf of the state. In this way, the intent of the statute would be frustrated if employees could be required to waive the right to pursue a representative PAGA action. The Court further held that the FAA does not require that California enforce a PAGA waiver in an arbitration agreement.

California Ban on Waiver of Representative PAGA Claims Not Barred by Federal Arbitration Act, Federal Court Holds

Declining to enforce a representative action waiver contained in an arbitration agreement, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco, has held that the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) does not preempt California’s “Iskanian rule,” which prohibits waiver of representative claims under the state Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”), Cal. Lab. Code § 2698 et seq. Sakkab v. Luxottica Retail North America, Inc., No. 13-55184 (9th Cir. Sept. 28, 2015).

State Appellate Court Considers Employer’s Duty to Conduct Criminal Background Checks

In the last few years, there has been a significant spike in the number of lawsuits challenging employer use of criminal background checks, including class action lawsuits brought under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.1 There also has been a sharp increase in the number of state and local laws that restrict when employers can ask job applicants to self-disclose their criminal history (so-called “ban the box” laws). Of course, employers also must be mindful of the types of conviction and arrest records that are considered “off limits” at the state and local level.

Constitutional Challenge to California's Background Check Law Rejected

If a background check includes information about a job applicant’s character, California’s background check law applies, the California Court of Appeal has held, rejecting an employer’s challenge to the California Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (Cal. Civ. Code § 1786 et seq.) (“ICRAA”). Connor v. First Student, Inc., No. B256075 (Cal. Ct. App. Aug. 12, 2015).

California Court Holds Arbitrator Decides Class Arbitrability Where Agreement Specifies AAA Rules

An employment arbitration agreement that incorporated the American Arbitration Association’s National Rules for the Resolution of Employment Disputes vested the arbitrator with the power to decide whether the agreement authorized class-wide relief, the California Court of Appeal has ruled. Universal Protection Service LP v. Superior Court, No. C078557 (Cal. Ct. App. Aug. 18, 2015). The Court denied an employer’s petition to set aside the trial court’s order compelling class arbitration and ordered that the arbitrator should determine the class issue.

California Supreme Court: Federal Arbitration Act Preempts Plaintiff’s State Rights

An arbitration clause in a consumer agreement was enforceable, including the class action waiver, despite four supposedly one-sided arbitration provisions in the agreement, the California Supreme Court has held. Sanchez v. Valencia Holding Co., LLC, No. S199119 (Aug. 3, 2015). The much-anticipated decision has significant implications for arbitration agreements between employers and employees.

New Amendments Cure Some of the Heartburn Caused by California's Sick Leave Law

California's Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act went into effect January 1, 2015, with accrual rights beginning July 1, 2015. Most California employers have spent the first half of 2015 trying to reconcile various apparent contradictions in the law. On July 13, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown approved Assembly Bill No. 304, which amended various aspects of California's paid sick leave law. The amendments are effective immediately and clarify some of the ambiguities pertaining to implementation.

Amendments to California Paid Sick Leave Law Effective

Significant amendments to California’s Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, also known as the California Paid Sick Leave Law, went into effect immediately upon Governor Jerry Brown’s signature on Assembly Bill no. 304 on July 13, 2015.

California Enacts "Fix-It" Legislation to Cure Ills of Paid Sick Leave Law

California’s paid sick leave law went into effect on July 1, 2015, but soon found itself in the emergency room with many unpleasant side effects. On July 13, Governor Brown signed AB 304 into law, which fixes many of the defects and ambiguities in the original law (AB 1522) that confounded employers as they tried to enact paid sick leave policies by July 1.

California Governor Signs Paid Sick Leave Amendment—Effective Immediately

California Governor Brown signed legislation on July 13, 2015 that aims to clarify and improve California’s new paid sick leave law that requires employers to offer employees 3 days or 24 hours of paid sick leave per year as of July 1, 2015. The amendments are effective immediately.

[CA] Independent Contractor Misclassification: The Hidden Trap of Outsourcing

It’s a beguiling option. Companies that classify workers as independent contractors receive a number of benefits, including elimination of payroll taxes, workers’ compensation insurance, and unemployment insurance withholdings. Additionally, independent contractors are not entitled to overtime, double-time pay, or meal and rest breaks. The appeal of classifying workers as independent contractors can’t be questioned.

Paid Sick Time Law Developments in the State of California; Emeryville, California; Eugene, Oregon; and Bloomfield, New Jersey

The wave of new sick leave legislation continues across the country. At the same time, state and local governments continue to refine existing laws to address new laws passed, as well as the complexities that surround providing for and administering paid sick leave benefits.

California Legislature To Cure Sick Pay

Mere weeks before sick pay becomes mandatory in California, the state legislature is racing to cure what is ailing employers. Beginning on July 1, 2015, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (HWHFA) will obligate employers in California to offer sick pay to employees in nearly every category. The minimum obligation is to provide sick pay at the rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked or a lump sum allocation of 3 days or 24 hours per year.

Ten Tips To Comply With California’s Upcoming Sick Pay Mandate

Mandatory sick pay is coming to California in less than 60 days. Beginning July 1, 2015, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (HWHFA) will obligate employers in California to offer sick pay to nearly every category of employee. The minimum obligation is to provide sick pay at the rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked or a lump sum allocation of 3 days or 24 hours per year. As the start date approaches, here are 10 tips to help ensure that your sick pay policy complies with the law:

California Court Finds Arbitration Agreement Did Not Unlawfully Limit Judicial Review

Valdez v. Santa Lucia Preserve Co., No. H040685 (March 23, 2015): In an unpublished opinion, the California Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District overturned a trial court’s ruling denying an employer’s motion to compel arbitration. In applying California’s Armendariz standard, the court disagreed with the trial court’s order and found that the plaintiff’s arguments lacked merit to establish substantive unconscionability. In finding that such substantive unconscionability was not present in the agreements, the court, importantly, did not reach the question of procedural unconscionability (or severance) as an arbitration agreement is unconscionable only if both procedural and substantive unconscionability is found.

California Employer Successful in Arbitration Policy Dispute

Serafin v. Balco Properties Ltd., LLC, No. A141358 (March 16, 2015): The California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District recently upheld an arbitration award in favor of an employer despite the employee’s arguments that (1) she never entered into a binding agreement to arbitrate her employment-related claims and, in the alternative, that (2) the agreement was unconscionable.

California Labor Agency Overseeing Paid Sick Leave Law Says Employers Must Use Caution When Asking for Doctors' Notes

Executive Summary: In a public webinar recently hosted by the California Department of Industrial Relations regarding California's new paid sick leave law, the state labor agency commented that requiring employees to submit documentation as a condition for payment of sick leave arguably can interfere with the employee's use of paid sick leave. While the agency's response was for informational purposes only and, thus, not legally binding, employers in California are advised to exercise caution when implementing the state's new paid sick leave law.

California Labor Commissioner Revises Sick Pay Notice Obligation

As the July 1, 2015 deadline for employers to implement California’s new paid sick leave law approaches, employers are finding a number of ambiguities in the law that make it challenging to implement. The Office of the Labor Commissioner seems to be facing the same challenges, because it recently changed its position with respect to the notice provisions of the law.

California Labor Agency Publishes Sick Pay Poster and Wage Notice

California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) has published a poster and wage notice for employers to use in compliance with AB 1522, California’s new mandatory sick pay law.

FAQs on California's Paid Sick Leave Law

On September 10, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014. The Act requires California employers to provide employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked starting on July 1, 2015. Since the California legislature passed the law and even before Governor Brown signed it, we have received many questions regarding how the law works and what employers must do to prepare for it. Below, we have provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the law. Topics include employers’ sick leave obligations, administration of sick leave, and the interplay between sick leave and other state and local leave requirements.

California's Voting Leave Law: Employers' Obligations as Election Day Approaches

As Election Day quickly approaches, California employers are reminded that the state voting leave law allows employees to take time off to vote in a statewide election.

Governor Brown Signs Bill Making Companies Liable for Employment Violations of Independent Labor Contractor Companies

This weekend, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1897. This bill creates new Labor Code section 2810.3, which applies to all but a very limited number of companies with 25 or more employees (i.e., the “client employer”) that obtain or are provided workers to perform work within their “usual course of business” from companies that provide workers (i.e., “labor contractors”).

New California Law Entitles Employees To Paid Sick Leave

On September 10, 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the “Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014.” This law will require California employers to grant employees, including some part-time and temporary employees, at least three paid sick days each year.

Governor Brown Signs California’s Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Law

On Wednesday, September 10, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that provides workers with three paid sick days per year. Governor Brown enthusiastically endorsed the law’s passage in August when the California legislature passed the bill. The new law, entitled the “Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014,” requires California employers to provide employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked starting on July 1, 2015. More details on the new law’s provisions can be found in our blog post, “BREAKING NEWS: California Legislature Passes Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Bill.”

California Court Determines Arbitrator Must Decide Whether Class Claims Are Subject to Arbitration Agreement

When an employee who has signed an arbitration agreement files a lawsuit alleging individual claims along with class action claims, and the trial court has ordered him to take his individual claims to arbitration, what happens to the class claims? A California appellate court recently addressed that question in a case titled Sandquist v. Lebo Automotive, Inc. California Court of Appeal, No. B244412 (June 25, 2014).

Two California Appellate Decisions “Delegate” Authority From Courts to Arbitrators

Two divisions of the California Court of Appeal recently issued two significant decisions on arbitration agreements. Both courts held that a trial court lacks authority to determine the enforceability of an arbitration agreement if the agreement has a provision delegating that authority to an arbitrator.

California Court Gives the Green Light for Arbitration of Wrongful Termination Suit

Sanchez v. CarMax Auto Superstores California, LLC, B244772 (March 4, 2014): The California Court of Appeal recently found that an employer’s arbitration agreement and dispute resolution rules and procedures (DRRP) are not “unduly harsh, oppressive, or one-sided” even though they set limitations on discovery and require the employee to complete an arbitration request form. The three-judge panel rejected the trial court’s decision to deny the employer’s motion for arbitration on the basis that the arbitration agreement and DRRP “are permeated with unconscionability.”

California Court Requires Clear and Unmistakable Waiver to Enforce Arbitration Agreement

Volpei v. County of Ventura, No. B243954 (November 7, 2013): In a recent decision, a California Court of Appeal held that an arbitration provision in a collective bargaining agreement did not waive an employee’s individual right to sue the employer. The court held that the arbitration provision did not include a clear and unmistakable statement that arbitration was the sole remedy for statutory claims, such as claims brought under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

California Supreme Court Follows Concepcion But Allows Courts to Strike Down Unconscionable Arbitration Agreements

Sonic-Calabasas A, Inc. v. Moreno, No. S174475, (October 17, 2013): As expected following the recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States interpreting the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), the California Supreme Court struck down its own rule on arbitration agreements. In Sonic-Calabasas A, Inc. v. Moreno, the state’s highest court categorically prohibited the waiver of a Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) Berman hearing in a mandatory pre-dispute arbitration agreement as preempted by the FAA. The court kept alive, however, challenges to such arbitration agreements where the employee can show that such agreements are found to be unconscionable.

California Supreme Court Grants Review in Brown

The impact of the California Court of Appeal’s recent opinion in Brown v. Superior Court, 216 Cal. App. 4th 1302 (Cal. Ct. App. 2013) is on hold, at least for now. Last week, the California Supreme Court indicated it would grant review in the case that has drawn the attention of employment lawyers and those who regularly deal with arbitration disputes. As discussed in a previous post, Brown was California’s latest exception to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion. Concepcion held that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempted a state law disfavoring arbitration agreements, even where the state law was desirable for unrelated reasons. Brown—adopting similar reasoning as another California Court of Appeal case—potentially narrowed the scope of Concepcion in California, holding that an arbitration clause waiving the right to bring a representative Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claim was unenforceable. Although Concepcion contained no public purpose exception in its ruling, the Brown court held that a class action waiver could not be enforced as to the PAGA claim because it “wholly prevents the exercise of a [state] statutory right intended for a predominantly public purpose.”

Reporting New Employees And Independent Contractors

There has long been a requirement for California employers, and out-of-state employers with employees in California, to report the hiring of new employees working in California to the California Employment Development Department’s (EDD) New Employee registry. These reporting requirements were designed to assist the state in locating parents who are delinquent in their child support payments and to assist in the early detection and recovery of Unemployment Insurance benefit overpayments.

Credit Checks In California Now Tougher Than Ever

Effective January 1, 2012, California employers will have to avoid yet another potential legal hazard that haunts businesses with the threat of costly penalties: the unauthorized use of consumer credit reports regarding job applicants and current employees.

California Supreme Court Rules That Arbitration Agreements May Not Preclude Employees’ Right to An Administrative Hearing

In a 4-3 decision, the California Supreme Court ruled that arbitration agreements between employers and employees are not enforceable to the extent that they require employees to arbitrate their wage claims before they have a non-binding administrative hearing before the State Labor Commissioner (known as a “Berman” hearing). The state high court held that any preclusion of an employee’s right to a Berman hearing violates public policy and is, therefore, unconscionable, and that the court’s holding was not preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA)

The Continuing Saga of Mandatory Employment Arbitration Agreements in California.

On April 26, the California Supreme Court issued a decision providing useful clarification to employers intending to revise or enforce existing mandatory arbitration agreements. In summary, the court ruled that: (1) clear error of law will serve as a basis for vacating an arbitrator’s award where the error deprives an employee of a hearing on the merits of their Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) claims or other unwaivable statutory claims; (2) arbitration agreements may lawfully preclude employees from pursuing administrative adjudication of their state law claims; and (3) in FEHA cases, the Supreme Court’s prior holding in Armendariz v. Foundation Health Psychcare Services, Inc. requires that arbitrators state reasons for their written decisions in sufficient detail to provide a meaningful basis for judicial review – mere written conclusions are not enough.

Put Down That Cell Phone!

A new California statute that prohibits motorists from using a hand-held cellular telephone while driving becomes effective July 1, 2008. Motorists who are 18 years of age or older may use a "hands-free" device while driving. Motorists under age 18 are not permitted to talk on a cell phone at all while driving, whether via a hands-free device or otherwise. This prohibition only applies to drivers, not to passengers. There will be a $20 fine for the first violation and $50 per violation for subsequent offenses. The only exception in the law is for calls made during emergencies to 911 or a health-care provider.

California Court of Appeal Validates Arbitration Agreement Covering Claims for Unpaid Bonus and Severance.

Does the Federal Arbitration Act preempt claims for unpaid wages under California law?