Navigating the California laws on discrimination and accommodation of pregnant employees is a significant challenge for retail employers. The Golden State’s protections for pregnant employees are many and they differ from those of federal law and of other states.

Pregnancy Disability Leave Law

Under the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law, which applies to employers with at

Despite recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions strongly upholding the enforceability of class action waivers in arbitration agreements, opposition to class action waivers on both the political and legal fronts persists, especially in California. As interpreted by California courts, the state’s law traditionally has looked with disfavor on the enforcement of class action waivers, and that attitude continues despite repeated rebukes from the federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, has held that the California Court of Appeal’s restrictive interpretation of an arbitration agreement is inconsistent with the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), and that the FAA requires that the arbitration agreement, including the class action waiver, be enforced. DirecTV, Inc. v. Imburgia, et al., No. 14-462 (Dec. 14, 2015).

The Facts


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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.
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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).
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In a wage-and-hour class action filed by food and beverage vendors working in California entertainment arenas, the California Court of Appeal has ruled that a state Labor Code provision making it unlawful for any employer to “engage” in the willful misclassification of an individual as an independent contractor applies not only to the employer actually making the misclassification, but also to any employer who is aware that the co-employer has willfully misclassified their joint employees and fails to remedy the misclassification. Noe v. Superior Court (Levy Premium Foodservice Ltd. P’ship), No. B259570 (Cal. Ct. App. June 1, 2015). However, the Court also held that an employer could not be held jointly liable under Labor Code Section 226.8 based solely on the acts of a co-employer and that the law does not provide a private right of action for enforcement. 
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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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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.
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A newspaper misclassified its newspaper carriers as independent contractors, the Superior Court for the County of Sacramento has ruled following a trial in a class action for employees’ unpaid mileage expenses under Section 2802 of the California Labor Code. Sawin v. The McClatchy Co., No. 34-2009-00033950 (Cal. Super. Ct. Sept. 22, 2014). Although the newspaper carriers signed agreements stating they were independent contractors, set their own schedules and routes, and could hire their own workers, the Court found the newspaper exercised such significant control over the newspaper carriers’ performance of their duties that it “belie[d] the contrary pronouncement in the form contracts….”

Background

Lorianne Sawin and others worked as newspaper carriers for The McClatchy Company, d/b/a The Sacramento Bee (the “Bee”). The carriers signed agreements with the Bee that stated they were independent contractors. The Bee could terminate the agreement upon 30 days’ notice or at any time for a material breach. The carriers also had the right to terminate the agreement. 
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A lawsuit against a trucking company for allegedly misclassifying drivers as independent contractors under California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”) was not preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (“FAAAA”), the California Supreme Court has ruled unanimously. P. ex rel. Harris v. Pac Anchor Transp., Inc., No. S194388 (Cal. July 28, 2014). The Court found the lawsuit did not relate to the company’s “price, route or service,” the concerns of the federal law. Therefore, the Court allowed the State of California’s lawsuit for unfair competition arising from the company’s alleged violations of California’s labor and insurance laws to proceed.
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Whether the parties to an arbitration agreement agreed to class arbitration is a question for the arbitrator, not the trial court, the California Court of Appeal has ruled, reversing an order dismissing class claims alleging violations of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and Unfair Competition Act. Sandquist v. Lebo Automotive, Inc., No. B244412 (Cal. Ct. App. July 22, 2014).
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