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California Employment Law Blog

California Legislature Targets Employment Arbitration Agreements

Posted in Arbitration Agreements, California Labor & Employment Law, FAA, New and Proposed Laws and Legislation

It is no secret that California is no friend to arbitration agreements. As the United States Supreme Court noted in its 2011 opinion in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, “California’s courts have been more likely to hold contracts to arbitrate unconscionable than other contracts,” despite directives from the High Court that arbitration agreements must be placed “upon the same footing as other contracts.”

Not to be outdone by the courts, the California Legislature decided to weigh in on the ongoing battle over arbitration agreements with the introduction of Assembly Bill 465 (“AB 465”) earlier this year. Continue Reading

July 2015 California Employment Law Notes

Posted in Employment Law Notes

We invite you to review our newly-posted July 2015 California Employment Law Notes, a comprehensive review of the latest and most significant developments in California employment law. The highlights include:

What the Supreme Court’s Latest Rulings Mean for Employers

Posted in Supreme Court

Please join Anthony Oncidi with Proskauer and David Weisenfeld with XpertHR for today’s webinar. JULY 8 @ 2pm ET

This webinar will provide employers with expert guidance on how they are affected by the Supreme Court’s latest far-reaching rulings.

As is so often the case, the Supreme Court is once again deciding controversial issues that affect every employee in every workplace in the country. In its 2014-2015 term, the Court resolved hot-button cases involving same-sex marriage bans, the Affordable Care Act, religious discrimination, pregnancy bias and more.

Register for this webinar with Anthony Oncidi, head of the labor and employment department of Proskauer Rose in Los Angeles, and XpertHR Legal Editor David Weisenfeld, to find out what these rulings will mean for HR and in-house counsel, including:

  • Expert insights and analysis you cannot afford to miss.
  • An explanation by Anthony of the most important implications for employers across the nation.

An inside-the-courtroom perspective from David’s experience reporting on some of these cases and many other employment law disputes at the nation’s highest court.

Everyone who attends the webinar for its full duration are eligible for 1 SHRM Personal Development Credit. Attendees will be also be eligible for the post webinar e-Learning Quiz with which 1 HRCI California e-Learning Credit can be earned.

Q&A — California’s New Paid Sick Leave Law

Posted in California Labor & Employment Law

We recently held a webinar titled California’s New Paid Sick Leave Law: Are you Ready for the Big Changes Ahead? to help prepare employers for California’s new paid sick leave law.  More than 400 people registered for the webinar, and we received well over 100 participant questions.

We realized that everyone — including those who could not attend the presentation — would benefit from viewing the questions and our responses. The full Q&A follows. Continue Reading

California is at it Again! Chamber of Commerce Releases Its 2015 List of “Job Killer” Bills

Posted in Arbitration Agreements, California Labor & Employment Law, CFRA, Minimum Wage, New and Proposed Laws and Legislation, On-call, San Francisco, Workers Compensation

The Chamber of Commerce has just released its preliminary list of “job killer” bills that have been proposed in the California Legislature. Don’t forget that California remains tied with Louisiana for the fourth highest rate of unemployment in the country at 6.7%.

This year’s list identifies 16 proposed laws, including four new “Increased Labor Costs” mandates and one “Increased Unnecessary Litigation Costs” mandate, which will directly impact California employers should the bills become law.

Chamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg said that the 2015 preliminary list “represents the worst of the worst” in proposed legislation. “These proposals will unnecessarily increase costs on California employers that will likely lead to a loss of jobs.”

The “Increased Labor Costs” bills, which will directly affect California employers, are as follows:

  • AB 357 (Chiu, D-San Francisco) – Predictable Scheduling Mandate and Predictability Pay For Food and Retail Establishments: The “Fair Scheduling Act of 2015” would require food and retail establishments to provide employees with two weeks’ advance notice of their schedules and additional “predictability pay” when the retail establishment cancels or reschedules its employees’ shifts. The bill would further require food and retail establishments to allow employees to take unpaid absences for up to eight hours twice per year to attend required appointments at county human services agencies. This bill is modeled after the San Francisco Retail Workers Bill of Rights, which we recently blogged about here.
  • SB 3 (Leno, D-San Francisco / Leyva, D-Chino) – Automatic Minimum Wage Increase: Raises the minimum wage to $11 per hour by January 1, 2016 and $13 per hour by July 1, 2017. This law would increase California’s minimum wage by more than 40% over the next two years. After 2017, the bill mandates additional automatic minimum wage increases based on future increases in inflation.
  • SB 406 (Jackson, D-Santa Barbara) – Expansion of California Family Rights Act: The proposed legislation would redefine “employer” under the California Family Rights Act to include all employers with at least 5 employees within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite. Currently, the Act excludes employers with fewer than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius. The proposal would also further expand the categories of employees who are entitled to take leave under the Act and the covered reasons for which employees may take protected leave.
  • SB 563 (Pan, D-Sacramento) – Increase in Workers’ Compensation Costs: Existing law requires employers to establish a utilization review process to review physician requests for medical treatment for injured employees. This bill would prohibit the utilization review process for certain treatment recommendations, thereby increasing the cost of workers’ compensation for employers. The bill would further require employers to file with the administrative director methods of compensation and any incentive payments contingent upon the approval, modification, or denial of a claim for an individual or entity providing services pursuant to the utilization review process.

The “Increased Unnecessary Litigation Costs” bills include:

  • AB 465 (Hernández, D-West Covina) – Bars Mandatory Arbitration Agreements: The proposed legislation provides that employers cannot mandate as a condition of employment any waiver of a legal right, forum or procedure. This would result in precluding mandatory pre-dispute employment arbitration agreements, which many California employers currently use.

For more information on how these proposed bills may impact you, contact your Proskauer relationship attorney.

March 2015 California Employment Law Notes

Posted in Employment Law Notes

We invite you to review our newly-posted March 2015 California Employment Law Notes, a comprehensive review of the latest and most significant developments in California employment law. The highlights include:

Oops! California Court Gets Around to Invalidating 22-Year-Old Meal Period Waiver Rules for Healthcare Employees

Posted in Meal Periods and Rest Breaks, Wage and Hour

For nearly 22 years, IWC Wage Order No. 4 and IWC Wage Order No. 5 have permitted employees in the “health care industry” who work shifts in excess of eight total hours in a workday to “voluntarily waive their right to one of their two meal periods. . . . in a written agreement that is voluntarily signed by both the employee and the employer.” In apparent reliance on the IWC Wage Orders, Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center maintained a policy that allowed health care employees who worked shifts longer than 10 hours to waive one of their two meal periods.

Three of the Medical Center’s former employees brought a putative class action against the Medical Center on the grounds that its meal break policy was unlawful because California Labor Code Section 512(a) states that a second meal period may be by mutual consent “if the total hours worked [by the employee] is no more than 12 hours” and because the Medical Center’s policy permitted employees to “waive” their second meal period even if they worked a shift longer than 12 hours.

Reversing a grant of summary judgment in favor of the Medical Center, the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District unanimously held in Gerard v. Orange Coast Mem’l Med. Ctr. that IWC Wage Order Nos. 4 and 5 are partially invalid to the extent they create an  “unauthorized additional exception . . . beyond the express exception for waivers on shifts of no more than 12 hours.”

More significantly (and more concerning for employers), the Court also held that its decision had at least some retroactive effect in that the authorization for waiver of a second meal period in the current IWC Wage Orders was partially invalid from the moment it was promulgated because California Labor Code Section 516 states that the IWC’s authority to issue wage orders is limited by the specific terms of California Labor Code Section 512. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal held that the Medical Center’s former employees were entitled to seek premium pay under California Labor Code Section 226.7 for any failure by the Medical Center to provide mandatory second meal periods predating the Court’s decision and within the three-year statute of limitations period.

In light of Gerard, California employers in the health care industry should immediately review and revise their meal period policies to ensure that employees who work shifts in excess of 12 hours in length retain their right to unpaid, off-duty meal period of at least 30 minutes. And since Gerard authorizes the recovery of meal period premiums predating its decision, employers should be prepared for a flood of new litigation.

U.S. Supreme Court Tires (For Now) of Playing “Whack-a-Mole” With California Over Arbitration

Posted in Arbitration Agreements, California Labor & Employment Law, FAA, Federal Jurisdiction, PAGA

On January 20, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for certiorari filed in CLS Transp. Los Angeles, LLC v. Iskanian, a case in which the California Supreme Court held that waivers of employees’ right to bring representative actions under California’s Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”) are unenforceable under state law. You may read our previous post on the Iskanian decision here.

While the California Supreme Court in Iskanian declined to recognize PAGA waivers, several federal district courts are in open revolt, refusing to apply Iskanian. In fact, no fewer than four federal district courts have enforced waivers of representative PAGA claims, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740 (2010), which held that “when state law prohibits outright the arbitration of a particular type of claim, the analysis is straightforward: the conflicting rule is displaced by the FAA.” You may read more about federal courts’ rejection of Iskanian here and here. The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to accept the case for hearing likely will result in a continuing split between state and federal district courts applying Iskanian — at least until the issue reaches the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over federal courts sitting in California.

January 2015 California Employment Law Notes

Posted in Employment Law Notes

We invite you to review our newly-posted January 2015 California Employment Law Notes, a comprehensive review of the latest and most significant developments in California employment law. The highlights include:

San Francisco Passes the “Retail Workers Bill of Rights”

Posted in California Labor & Employment Law, On-call, San Francisco

San Francisco recently enacted two sweeping ordinances that are being referred to as the “Retail Workers Bill of Rights” (you can find the ordinances here and here). The new laws impose strict new requirements on retail employers and establishments in the City of San Francisco. While the ordinances became effective on January 5, 2015, employers will have until July 3, 2015 to comply. Below is an overview of the new laws’ requirements.

Affected Employers—“Formula Retail Establishments”

The new laws apply to “Formula Retail Establishments” with at least 20 retail sales establishments worldwide and 20 or more employees in San Francisco. The term “Formula Retail Establishment” applies to retail sales or service establishments that maintain at least two of the following features: (1) a standardized array of merchandise, (2) a standardized façade, (3) a standardized décor and color scheme, (4) uniform apparel, (5) standardized signage, and (6) a trademark or servicemark.

New Requirements for Formula Retail Establishments

Offering Additional Hours Worked to Current Part-Time Employees – Under the ordinances, employers must offer, in writing, additional work to qualified part-time employees before hiring new employees or using contractors or staffing agencies to perform additional work. Employers only need to offer part-time employees up to the number of hours required for the employee to reach 35 hours worked per week. Employers must retain offers of additional hours to employees for at least three years.

Good Faith Initial Estimate of Minimum Hours and Two Weeks’ Notice of Schedules – Prior to the start of employment, employers are required to provide new employees with a good faith written estimate of the employee’s expected minimum number of scheduled shifts per month and the days and hours of those shifts. The estimate need not include on-call shifts. The ordinances also require employers to provide employees with their schedules two weeks in advance. Employers must retain employee work schedules and payroll records for at least three years.

Notice of Schedule Changes and “Predictability Pay” for Schedule Changes – Employers must provide employees with notice of schedule changes. If the employer changes an employee’s schedule on less than seven days’, but more than 24 hours’ notice, the employer must provide an extra hour of pay for each changed shift. A “schedule change” is defined as changing the date or time of a scheduled shift, cancelling a scheduled shift, or requiring the employee to work when he or she was previously unscheduled. However, an employer does not need to provide “predictability pay” when it extends an employee’s scheduled shift to include overtime hours.

If the employer changes the employee’s schedule on less than 24 hours’ notice, the employer must provide an additional two hours of pay if the changed shift is four hours or less or an additional four hours of pay if the changed shift is longer than four hours.

Key Exceptions: Employers do not have to provide “predictability pay” if any of the following conditions apply:

  • Another employee was scheduled to work, but is unable to work due to illness, vacation, or other approved time off, and the employee failed to provide the employer with at least seven days’ notice.
  • Another employee was scheduled to work, but failed to report to work on time or is sent home as a disciplinary action.
  • The employee requests a change in shifts or trades shifts with another employee.
  • Emergency situations: the business closes due to threats to safety, public utility failure, a natural disaster, or a state of emergency declared by the Mayor or Governor.

On-Call Shift Pay – If an employee is required to be “on-call,” but is not called in to work, the employer must provide the employee with two hours of pay if the on-call shift lasted four hours or less, or four hours of pay if the on-call shift exceeded four hours.

Equal Treatment for Part-Time Employees – Employers must provide equal treatment, subject to certain qualifications, for full-time and part-time employees regarding: (1) starting hourly wage; (2) access to paid and unpaid time off; and (3) eligibility for promotions. However, hourly wage differentials are permissible if they are based on reasons other than part-time status, such as seniority or merit systems. Further, employees’ time off allotments may be prorated based on hours worked.

Workplace Posting – Formula Retail Establishments are required to post at the workplace a notice informing covered employees of their rights under the new laws.

Require Contractor Compliance – Covered employers must include in service contracts with contractors for janitorial or security services: (1) a provision requiring the contractor to comply with the new laws; and (2) a copy of the new laws.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

The San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (“OLSE”) is charged with implementing and enforcing the ordinances. The OLSE can order compliance, impose administrative fines, and require employers to pay lost wages and reimburse the City’s enforcement costs. Additionally, the ordinances authorize the City Attorney to bring a civil action against employers for violation of the laws. The City may recover payment of lost wages, civil penalties, reinstatement of employment, and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. Notably, if an employer fails to maintain or retain records as required by the new laws, the City will presume that the employer did not comply with the ordinances.