The California Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in an appeal brought by a former employee who claims the lower courts incorrectly determined that his disability discrimination claim was barred because he misappropriated someone else’s Social Security number to apply for the job.
Articles Discussing General Workplace Issues in California.
On March 7, 2014, in Troester v. Starbucks Corporation, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California applied the de minimis doctrine and granted summary judgment to the employer in a putative class action seeking allegedly unpaid minimum and overtime wages, along with derivative penalties, for time spent after the plaintiff clocked out for the day.
A California Court of Appeal has ruled that a medical staffing company was not vicariously liable for its medical assistant who poisoned a coworker while on assignment at a hospital. Montague et al. v. AMN Healthcare, Inc., No. D063385 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 21, 2014). The Court found the medical assistant’s “highly unusual and startling” actions occurred outside the scope of her employment and affirmed summary judgment in favor of the staffing company.
Finding an employee’s lawsuit under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) was “without merit[,] frivolous and vexatious,” the California Court of Appeal has affirmed an award of attorneys’ fees in the amount of $100,000 in favor of the employer. Robert v. Stanford Univ., No. H037514 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 25, 2014). The Court further ruled that the trial court was not required to issue a separate written opinion to support its ruling.
So far, as the second year of a two-year California legislative session, 2014 has been more noteworthy for what hasn’t happened, than for what has. The Legislature made no attempts to override any of the Governor’s 2013 end-of-session vetoes. Rather, legislators have re-introduced bills to try again to pass them and get the Governor’s signature, or to tweak previous unsuccessful proposals in an effort to win the Governor’s approval.
Employers with operations in California should ensure their policies and practices are in compliance with the state’s new employment laws going into effect on January 1, 2014. The new laws will affect the day-to-day operations of many businesses.
The California Legislature concluded its 2013 regular session on September 12 with a flourish, sending a total this year of 896 bills to Governor Jerry Brown for approval (of 2,256 introduced). By the signing deadline last Sunday evening, Governor Brown had signed 800 bills into law, and vetoed 96 (11%).
The Court of Appeal for California’s Fourth Appellate District recently confirmed that the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (CUTSA), a broad statute intended to be the last word in trade secret misappropriation cases, does not preclude separate but related common law claims, so long as these claims are not based entirely on the trade secret misappropriation. The ruling echoes similar decisions from other California appellate districts and is helpful to businesses seeking to protect against unfair competition.
Protection from discrimination and retaliation has been extended to employees who are victims of stalking under an amendment to the California Labor Code, Sections 230 and 230.1. The prior version of the law covered only victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The amended law prohibits employers from discharging, discriminating against, or retaliating against employees who need to take time off from work to address issues related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. It also prohibits discrimination and retaliation based on the employee’s status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking and requires employers to provide certain accommodations for the safety of such victims. The law becomes effective on January 1, 2014.
On the heels of the U.S. Department of Labor’s expansion of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime rules to home care workers, California home care agencies will face another challenge with the recent passage of the Home Care Services Consumer Protection Act (AB 1217). This law provides for the licensure and regulation of home care organizations and registration of home care aides. It takes effect on January 1, 2015 and will be administered by California’s Department of Social Services.
Partly in response to the inaction in Washington on immigration reform, the California Legislature, in the annual session concluded in mid-September,1 passed several bills which were signed by Governor Brown that either create or increase penalties for employers that consider an applicant’s or employee’s immigration status, or retaliate against an employee because of that status.2
A female construction worker who repeatedly complained about inadequate and unclean toilet facilities, and whose complaints were not addressed or remedied by her employer, could pursue her claim for punitive damages under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, the California Court of Appeal has ruled. Davis v. Kiewit Pacific Co., No. D062388 (Cal. Ct. App. Oct. 8, 2013). Reversing summary judgment in favor of the employer, the Court ruled that sufficient questions of fact existed regarding whether the project manager on a $170-million construction project and the employer’s equal employment officer were “managing agents” who participated in or ratified the discriminatory conduct, thereby warranting the imposition of punitive damages against the employer.
On October 5, 2013, California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. signed several pieces of immigration-related legislation that will benefit undocumented residents. The office of the Governor described the laws as designed to “enhance school, workplace and civil protections for California’s hardworking immigrants.” The Governor added that “While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead, . . . I’m not waiting.”
Saving the best for last: The hundreds of bills passed in the California Legislature’s last two weeks of the 2013 session are either on, or still making their way to, Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. He has until the second weekend in October to sign or veto them. Historically, the governor’s veto rate in his second administration has been around 15 percent. Governor Brown traditionally waits until it is close to the signing deadline to make his decisions on end-of-session bills, so expect most of the action to occur in the second week of October.
It’s all over now but for the gubernatorial pen strokes – or not.