After three years, the California Supreme Court has finally issued its much-anticipated decision regarding how employers must manage meal periods and rest breaks. On April 12, 2012, the state’s highest court issued its unanimous decision in Brinker Restaurant Corporation v. Superior Court, clarifying California employers’ obligations to “provide” meal periods and “authorize or permit” rest periods. To hear a detailed discussion of the decision and its implications for employers, please join Littler’s webinars on April 17, 2012, from 10 to 11 a.m. PST, and on April 26 from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. PST.
Articles about California Labor And Employment Law.
Companies seeking to prohibit unlawful solicitation of customers should be encouraged by a recent federal court decision.
A Georgia choice-of-law provision in a contract entitled, â€œIndependent Truckmanâ€™s Agreement,â€ between California truck drivers and a Georgia company was unenforceable based on California public policy, the federal appeals court in San Francisco has held. Ruiz v. Affinity Logistics Corp., 667 F.3d 1318 (9th Cir. 2012). The Court also ruled that California law applied in determining whether the drivers were employees or independent contractors. Vacating the lower courtâ€™s judgment in favor of a Georgia transportation company in a wage-hour class action suit, the Court remanded the case to the lower court for further proceedings to determine whether the drivers were employees or independent contractors.
Reversing dismissal of a complaint against a California school district, the California Supreme Court has held that a public school district could be held vicariously liable for the negligence of supervisory or administrative personnel who allegedly knew or should have known of a school guidance counselorâ€™s propensity toward sexual molestation, but hired, retained and inadequately supervised her. C.A. v. William Hart Union High Sch. Dist., No. S188982 (Cal. Mar. 8, 2012).
Denying an employerâ€™s request to arbitrate an employeeâ€™s discrimination, harassment, and wage-related claims, the California Court of Appeal has held that courts, not arbitrators, had the power to decide whether an arbitration agreement was unconscionable. This is so even where an agreement is so broadly worded as to suggest that an arbitrator might have such authority. Ajamian v. CantorCO2e, L.P., No. A131025 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 16, 2012). The Court went on to find the arbitration agreement in question was unconscionable and unenforceable. It also ruled the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to sever the offending terms from the agreement.
A federal court in Los Angeles dismissed the plaintiffâ€™s trade secrets claims in Aqua Connection Inc. v. Code Rebel, LLC [pdf], despite the fact that the plaintiff (Aqua Connect) alleged that its trade secrets were improperly obtained through reverse engineering in violation of a user agreement.
Effective January 1, 2012, California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA) was amended in ways that will likely help unions to organize agricultural employees in California and obtain favorable labor contracts with agricultural employers.
Reversing a $15 million judgment against an employer in a class action for alleged unpaid overtime, the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, has held that the trial courtâ€™s trial management plan, which used sampling evidence to prove class liability, denied the employer due process by preventing it from defending against over 90% of class claims. Duran v. U.S. Bank Natâ€™l Assâ€™n, Nos. A125557 & A126827 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 6, 2012). The Court found the plan â€œwas fatally flawedâ€ and concluded the lower courtâ€™s adherence to it denied the employer due process because the court based its evidentiary rulings on the plan, rather than trial testimony. The Court reversed the judgment and ordered the class to be decertified.
On February 7, 2012, in a 2-1 decision a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in Perry v. Brown that Proposition 8, a voter initiative that amended the California Constitution to provide, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,” violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The majority affirmed the judgment of the district court on narrow grounds not considered by the lower court, ruling that Proposition 8 had taken away from same-sex couples the right to marry that they already had under California law without a legitimate reason for doing so. The court emphasized that it was not deciding the broader constitutional question of whether a state may deny same-sex couples the right to marry in the first place.
On January 23, 2012, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) announced on its website1 modifications to the answers to two of its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), and added 10 new FAQs and answers concerning the wage notice required by the California Wage Theft Prevention Act (WTPA) in Labor Code section 2810.5.2
In a matter of significance for California employers, in Seeâ€™s Candy Shops, Inc. v. Superior Court of San Diego, the California Supreme Court recently ordered the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, to review a trial court decision holding that rounding employee time entries violated California law.
On January 24, 2012, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, issued an important decision providing new and needed guidance on the commissioned sales exemption. In Muldrow v. Surrex Solutions Corporation, the court concluded that a class of â€œsenior consulting service managersâ€ was exempt from overtime pay requirements.
A provision in an employment application requiring the applicant, but not the employer, to submit all disputes to arbitration was both procedurally and substantively unconscionable, and therefore unenforceable, the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, has ruled. Wisdom v. AccentCare, Inc., No. C065744 (Cal. Ct. App. Jan. 3, 2012). The agreement was procedurally unconscionable, the Court said, because the trial court found the plaintiff-applicants had no opportunity to negotiate its terms, the applicable arbitration rules were not provided, and the employer did not explain the agreementâ€™s meaning. The agreement also was substantively unconscionable because, unlike the applicant, the employer was not bound to submit claims to arbitration. Consequently, the appellate court affirmed the order denying arbitration.
In Arnold v. Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company, a California appellate court issued a published decision holding that insurance agents are not employees under the California Labor Code. This appears to be the first time the court has addressed the status of insurance agents.
In the waning days of 2011, a unanimous California Supreme Court gave California employers a holiday present in its long-awaited opinion that diminishes the importance of the outmoded analytical tool known as “the administrative/production worker dichotomy” for determining whether employees are properly classified as exempt “administrative” employees for the purposes of wage and hour law. In its decision in Harris v. Superior Court (Liberty Mutual), the court re-establishes the necessity of analyzing all aspects of the administrative exemption and emphasizes the relevance of federal law in interpreting the exemption. As a result, the decision could help California employers relying upon the administrative exemption.