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California Workplace Law Blog

Be Careful What You Say—It Might End Up in a Declaration to Defeat Summary Judgment

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed summary judgment for an employer, finding that a former employee’s self-serving declaration and deposition testimony regarding alleged disability discrimination were sufficient to create a triable issue of fact. The Ninth Circuit also held the employer’s denial of the accommodation the employee requested “chilled” the exercise of the employee’s right to request an accommodation. The plaintiff suffered from ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. After being terminated, the plaintiff brought suit against his employer pursuant to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, claiming that it: (1) discriminated against him because of his disability; (2) declined to accommodate his disability; and (3) did not engage in an interactive process to determine possible accommodation for his disability. The plaintiff also alleged that his employer terminated his employment in violation of California public policy. The employer successfully moved for summary judgment before the District Court, and the plaintiff appealed. Continue Reading

California Court Rules On Protections Against Contracts: Why You Should Review Your Form Agreements Today

A divided Ninth Circuit court ruled this week that California’s protections against contracts restraining employment were not explicitly limited to non-compete agreements.  Rather, the law can apply to any type of employment agreement, including settlement agreements.

In Donald Golden v. California Emergency Physicians Medical Group et al., case number 12-16514, the employer and employee entered into a proposed settlement agreement.  The no-employment provision in the settlement agreement states that the employee will not continue to be employed at any of the employer’s current facilities, or at any other facility with which the employer may contract in the future.  The employee appealed and sought to “un-do” the settlement agreement based on this clause. Continue Reading

California Appeals Court Affirms that Employee Signature Acknowledging Clear Arbitration Policy Makes Policy Binding

In a recent opinion affirming an arbitrator’s judgment in favor of an employer on various employment law claims, the California Court of Appeal held that an employee agreed to arbitrate all claims against her former employee when she signed an arbitration policy contained in an easy-to-read document distinct from any other document the she signed at the time of her hiring.  In doing so, the Court clarified important aspects of the test for enforcing an arbitration agreement signed by a company’s employees.  Continue Reading

New California Family Rights Act Regulations Become Effective July 1

Amendments to the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) regulations, going into effect on July 1, 2015, are meant to clarify a number of uncertainties, align the CFRA regulations more closely with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) regulations (where the laws are consistent), and ensure employers and employees have a clear understanding of their rights and duties under the CFRA.

Key provisions of the revised regulations are highlighted below. Continue Reading

Jackson Lewis’ Sacramento Office Named to the Sacramento Business Journal’s Top Litigation Law Firms List

Jackson Lewis P.C., one of the country’s largest and fastest-growing workplace law firms, is pleased to announce that the Sacramento office has been named on the Sacramento Business Journal’s Top Litigation Law Firms List. The list features the area’s most prominent law firms.

The list can be found here (subscription required).

No Arbitration if Invalid PAGA Waiver Cannot be Severed

On February 27, 2015, the California Court of Appeal determined that arbitration could not be compelled in Securitas Security Services USA, Inc. v. Superior Court (Edwards). Securitas’ arbitration agreement contained a waiver provision, waiving both class actions and representative Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) actions. In addition to waiving these claims, the waiver provision expressly stated that the waiver could not be severed from the agreement. In a separate paragraph, the Agreement contained a general severability clause, providing that “in the event any portion of this Agreement is deemed unenforceable, the remainder of this Agreement will be enforceable. If the Class Action Waiver is deemed to be unenforceable, [the parties] agree that this Agreement is otherwise silent as to any party’s ability to bring a class, collective, or representative action in arbitration.” Continue Reading

California Court of Appeal Rules PAGA Claims Must Be Stayed Pending Outcome of Individual Arbitration on Underlying Individual Wage and Hour Claims

On February 26, 2015, in Franco v. Arakelian Enterprises, Inc., Case No. B232583, the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District held that trial court proceedings on claims pursuant to the California Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”) (Labor Code § 2698 et seq.) must be stayed pending individual arbitration of the underlying individual wage and hour claims (originally pled as classwide claims) pursuant to an arbitration agreement containing a classwide arbitration waiver.

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No Employer Liability If There is No Actionable Harassment or Discrimination, California Court Rules

An employer cannot be held liable for failure to prevent sexual harassment under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) if there is no actionable sexual harassment, the California Court of Appeal has ruled. Dickson v. Burke Williams, Inc., No. B253154 (Cal. Ct. App. Mar. 6, 2015). Likewise, a jury’s finding that an employer is not liable for sex discrimination precludes liability for failure to prevent discrimination.

Background

Domaniqueca Dickson, a massage therapist at a spa, sued her employer, Burke Williams, Inc. (“BWI”), for alleged sexual harassment by two customers. She asserted claims for sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and the failure to prevent sexual harassment and sexual discrimination under the FEHA, among other things.

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Oakland’s New Law Raises the City’s Minimum Wage, Provides for Paid Sick Leave, and Addresses Hospitality Services Charges

In November 2014, Oakland voters passed Measure FF, which went into effect on March 2, 2015, and made changes to the City’s minimum wage, paid sick leave laws and hospitality service charges.

Minimum Wage Increase

Effective March 2, 2015, the minimum wage in Oakland was raised from $9.00/hour to $12.25/hour for any employee who performs at least two hours of work within Oakland in a workweek. This law applies to full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees.

Paid Sick Leave

As of March 2, 2015, employers must pay paid sick leave for employees who were employed on or before that date. Employers are permitted to restrict paid sick leave for employees hired after March 2, 2015; employers can opt not to allow these employees to use any accrued paid sick leave until their 90th calendar day of employment.

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Removing Essential Job Functions Not Reasonable Disability Accommodation Under California Law, Court Rules

Affirming summary judgment in favor of an employer on an employee’s disability discrimination claims under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), the California Court of Appeal has ruled that the employer was not required to eliminate essential functions of a position as a reasonable accommodation. Nealy v. City of Santa Monica, No. B246634 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 13, 2015). The Court further held that reassigning the employee to a position for which he was not qualified and granting him an indefinite leave of absence until a suitable position became available also were not reasonable accommodations. As to the employee’s retaliation claim, the Court held that a request for a reasonable accommodation alone was insufficient to establish the employee engaged in protected activity. Continue Reading