California Supreme Court

In Kim v. Reins International California, Inc. 18 Cal.App.5th 1052 (2017), the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District held an employee-plaintiff that settled and dismissed his individual claims was no longer an “aggrieved employee” for purposes of standing to bring a claim for civil penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act

Putting an end to employees’ backdoor attempts to recover unpaid wages in Private Attorneys General Act-only actions under California Labor Code Section 558, the California Supreme Court has ruled against allowing such claims. ZB, N.A., et al. v. Superior Court, No. S246711 (Sept. 12, 2019).

This is surprising, as the Court provided this much-needed guidance

The California Supreme Court recently held that the tort claim of conversion is not an appropriate vehicle for plaintiffs seeking recovery of unpaid wages. In Voris v. Lampert (Cal. 2019) Case No. S241812, the plaintiff brought suit against three start-up ventures and two individual defendants to recover wages which had been promised to the plaintiff

In Brinker Rest. Corp. v. Superior Court (53 Cal. 4th 1004), the California Supreme Court explained that an employer must relieve the employee of all duty for the designated meal period, but need not ensure that the employee does not work. In other words, no policing of meal breaks by the employer is required; and

The California Supreme Court recently heard the case of Troester v. Starbucks Corporation which could significantly increase employers’ exposure to claims by hourly paid employees for small pre-shift and post-shift tasks that are currently treated as insignificant and not compensable.

The de minimis doctrine, an established defense under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), permits

In Hamid H. Khan v. Dunn-Edwards Corporation (January 4, 2018), the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District held that the plaintiff failed to comply with required administrative procedures prior to bringing a claim under the California Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) because he failed to provide sufficient notice to the California Labor

On April 4, 2016, the California Supreme Court took a stand by issuing a long-awaited opinion in Kirby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc.  The decision clarifies certain ambiguities in an employer’s obligation to provide suitable seating to employees.  At issue was a provision in California’s Wage Orders that requires employers to provide all employees “with suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats.”  The Court held that “nature of the work” refers to the task performed at a given location where the employee is claiming a right to a suitable seat, instead of a holistic approach.  The Court also adopted a “totality of the circumstances” test to assess whether a work location “reasonably permits” suitable seating.

Background

Kirby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc. arises from a putative class actions filed by a cashier and bank teller. The plaintiffs alleged their employer violated the suitable seating provision in various California Wage Orders by failing to provide seats. The plaintiffs appealed unfavorable district court decisions to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Ninth Circuit requested clarification from the California Supreme Court on the proper interpretation of three areas of the suitable seating provision, including the meaning of “nature of work” and “reasonably permits,” and who bears the burden to show suitable seating is available.
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Declining to enforce a representative action waiver contained in an arbitration agreement, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco, has held that the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) does not preempt California’s “Iskanian rule,” which prohibits waiver of representative claims under the state Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”), Cal. Lab. Code § 2698 et seq. Sakkab v. Luxottica Retail North America, Inc., No. 13-55184 (9th Cir. Sept. 28, 2015).

The PAGA “authorizes an employee to bring an action for civil penalties on behalf of the state against his or her employer for Labor Code violations committed against the employee and fellow employees, with most of the proceeds of that litigation going to the state.” Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC, 59 Cal.4th 348, 360 (2014). Thus, a PAGA claim is a type of government enforcement action where the representative employee acts as the state’s proxy.


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On May 4, 2015, the California Supreme Court ruled that a prevailing defendant in a California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) lawsuit can only recover ordinary litigation costs if it demonstrates that the plaintiff’s FEHA claims were frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless.  (Williams v. Chino Valley Ind. Fire Distr. (Cal. Sup. Ct. May 4, 2015), Case No. S213100).  Prior to this ruling, a majority of California courts had ruled that a prevailing defendant in a FEHA case could recover costs as a matter of right.  As such, the Williams case significantly changes California’s employment litigation landscape by making cost shifting even more one-sided in favor of employees.

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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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