The United States Supreme Court unfortunately denied review in Bridgestone Retail Operations v. Milton Brown (Docket No. 14-790) – thereby declining a second opportunity to review the California Supreme Court’s determination that PAGA representative action waivers in employment arbitration agreements are not enforceable. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation, which first presented the issue for review before the high Court. In Iskanian, the California Supreme Court of course held that class action waivers in arbitration agreements are enforceable, but that PAGA representative action waivers are not. The Iskanian Court’s reasoning is difficult to square with U.S. Supreme Court precedent in Concepcion v. AT&T Mobility. As such, many employers were hoping the Court would grant review if not in Iskanian then at least in Bridgestone — with the issue being presented for a second time in that case. No such luck.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, reversing a Tenth Circuit win for the retailer in a religious discrimination case brought by a Muslim applicant who was denied employment due to her headscarf being a violation of Abercrombie’s dress policy – which prohibited caps of any kind.
There are a number of employment-related bills pending before the California legislature this session. While it is too early to tell which of these bills ultimately will be passed and signed into law, California employers may wish to follow the progress of some of these bills and/or to submit comments, opposition, or support (for the most part, unlikely) for a particular bill.
This is just a quick reminder that effective today all NLRB elections will be conducted under the new election rules. These rules call for substantially shorter election periods (from the time of the election petition until the actual voting), electronic notice provisions, union rights to employee email addresses and other contact information, and many other changes. The NLRB has published a good summary of the new rules in their fact sheet. Given these new rules, if your organization is worried about union activity or organization, you must act immediately upon notice of any organizing activity to make sure you have sufficient time to react and present your views and position to your employees. With elections now proceeding on 3 week time frames (from petition to voting) and with a significant amount of work to be done with the NLRB during that time, waiting until an election petition is received will no longer be an effective strategy.
To resolve employment disputes, whether in litigation or at a separation, typically, the parties wish to go in separate directions and not cross paths in the future. Consequently, separation or settlement agreements provide compensation and employees often agree not to seek future employment with their former employer and agree that should they unexpectedly come to work for their former employer due to an acquisition, merger or other incident that cause will exist to terminate that employee. The viability of such "no future employment" provisions has been called into question by the Ninth Circuit’s decision earlier this week in Golden v. California Emergency Physicians. In Golden, the Ninth Circuit overturned a District Court’s order finding a "no future employment" provision enforceable. The Ninth Circuit extended the reach of Edwards v. Arthur Andersen LLP, 44 Cal.4th 937 (2008), and Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 16600, to settlement agreements in a case of first impression by a 2-1 decision over Judge Kozinski’s dissent. The Ninth Circuit was not moved by the fact that the plaintiff was being paid a large sum of money, in part, to move on and give up his right to work for or seek employment with his former employer. Nor was it convinced by Judge Kozinski’s dissenting conclusion that the California Supreme Court would uphold such an agreement. The Court directed the lower court to re-examine the agreement to make a determination as to whether the provision constitutes a substantial restraint on the plaintiff’s trade, in order to determine whether the provision was enforceable. California employers should continue to monitor this case on remand before the district court and consider the impact of this decision in conjunction with preparing separation and settlement agreements arising out of employment to make every effort to ensure enforceability of any "no future employment" provision.
Earlier this week, Secretary of Labor Perez announced that her agency is still working hard on revising the regulations governing the existing white collar overtime exemptions. These regulations were originally expected to be published in early 2015. However, that did not happen. Secretary Perez now expects that the regulations will be finalized and published this spring.
In addition to having to comply with the new statewide paid sick leave law, California employers with employees in Oakland need to ensure that they are complying with a new Oakland minimum wage and paid sick leave measure that took effect March 2, 2015.