California Employment Law Update
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Philippe A. Lebel

Senior Counsel

Philippe (Phil) A. Lebel represents employers in all aspects of employment litigation, including wage and hour, wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, defamation, trade secrets, and breach of contract litigation, in both the single-plaintiff and class- and/or representative-action context, at both the trial and appellate level, and before administrative agencies.

In addition to his litigation work, Phil regularly advises clients regarding compliance with federal, state and local employment laws, and assists a variety of companies and financial firms in evaluating labor and employment issues in connection with corporate transactions. Phil also has experience assisting employers with sensitive employee investigations and trainings.  Phil also represents employers in connection with labor law matters, such as labor arbitrations and proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board.

Phil has assisted clients in a wide array of sectors including in the biotech, education, entertainment, financial services, fitness, healthcare, high-tech, legal services, manufacturing, media, professional services, sports, and staffing industries, among others.

Phil regularly speaks on emerging issues for employers and has been published or quoted in Law360, the Daily JournalThe Hollywood ReporterBusiness Insurance, and SHRM.org regarding a variety of labor and employment law topics.

During college, Phil worked on political campaigns in Atlanta, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama, and was an intern with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. Phil is a former member of the Board of Directors of the AIDS Legal Referral Panel.

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New Lawsuit Reminds Employers to Check Their Grooming Policies

A suit filed last week in San Diego Superior Court serves as a reminder to employers about the importance of keeping up-to-date on California’s evolving Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). In the new suit, an employee, Jeffrey Thornton, claims that he was discriminated against on the basis of his race when his former employer, … Continue Reading

Governor Newsom Signs A Slew of New Employment Laws for 2022

As the 2021 legislative season came to a close, Governor Gavin Newsom signed numerous bills into law. From arbitration to workplace safety, these laws will impact employers across the state.  We have summarized the most important ones for you here: Arbitration Arbitration fees will now need to be paid upon receipt of invoice unless the … Continue Reading

Los Angeles City Council Approves Sweeping Vaccine Ordinance for Indoor Establishments

Following New York City and San Francisco, Los Angeles is the latest city to require proof of vaccination for individuals entering indoor portions of establishments.  This ordinance, which the Los Angeles City Council approved in an 11-to-2 vote, takes effect November 4, 2021.  However, beginning October 21, 2021, the ordinance requires businesses and City facilities … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Holds That Meal And Rest Break Premiums Must Include All Forms Of Remuneration (Not Just Base Hourly Rate)

On July 15, 2021, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, LLC, in which it held that meal and rest break premiums required under California Labor Code section 226.7 (“Section 226.7”) must be paid at non-exempt employees’ regular rate of pay—not merely their base hourly rate.  The decision, which … Continue Reading

California Safety Board Narrows Emergency Temporary Standards (Effective Immediately)

As we previously reported (here), Cal/OSHA’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (“OSHSB”) held a series of special meetings to revise its controversial Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”) related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  And, on June 17, 2021, OSHSB approved updated ETS language that more closely aligns California’s workplace safety requirements with recommendations from the … Continue Reading

California Revokes Controversial Masking Rules

As we previously reported (here), on June 3, 2021, California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (“OSHSB”) approved some controversial revisions to its Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”) related to COVID-19.  Among other highly-contested provisions, the updated ETS would have required even fully-vaccinated individuals to don masks indoors unless everyone in a room was fully-vaccinated.  However, … Continue Reading

California Workers Can’t Ditch Masks Just Yet

In a closely-watched vote, yesterday (June 3, 2021), California’s Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board  approved controversial amendments to the Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”) related to COVID-19.  If approved by the Office of Administrative Law within the 10 day review period, the new ETS (available here) will require (among many other things) most California workers … Continue Reading

Alleged Employer Violation of a Local Ordinance Cannot Support a Wrongful Discharge Claim

The California Court of Appeal has determined that a wrongful discharge claim cannot be based upon an alleged violation of a municipal ordinance.  Bruni v. The Edward Thomas Hospitality Corporation. The California Supreme Court has previously ruled that wrongful termination claims must be based upon a violation of a “fundamental public policy.”  In the years … Continue Reading

Big Brother Comes to Santa Clara County with Latest COVID-19 Order

On May 18, 2021, Santa Clara County issued a new Order of the Health Officer (the “Order”) that took effect on May 19th.  Of particular note, the Order imposes two new obligations:  First, it mandates that employers require all personnel to immediately alert their employer if they test positive for COVID-19 and were present in … Continue Reading

You Get a Shot, and You Get a Shot! California Paves the Way for Mandatory Vaccination Policies

Weeks after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) weighed in, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) recently released updated COVID-19 employment FAQs addressing the permissibility of employer-mandated COVID-19 vaccination policies. Taking a page from the EEOC’s January 2021 guidance, the DFEH indicated that employers may require employees to receive an FDA emergency use … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Hands Employers a Mixed Bag on Meal Periods

On Thursday, a unanimous California Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC, providing answers to two important questions about meal periods:  (1) whether it is permissible to round meal period punch times, as with work start and stop times; and (2) whether records showing a missed, late, or short meal … Continue Reading

No Reservations! A Beverly Hills Dining Institution Provides a Reminder to Adhere to Health Officer Orders

As recently reported by the Los Angeles Times, People, and a slew of other national and local media outlets, famed Beverly Hills restaurant, La Scala, recently faced significant public backlash after sending out invitations to a Prohibition-themed, indoor New Year’s Eve celebration.  The invitation, which was distributed to select customers, read: “We are considering taking … Continue Reading

As COVID-19 Cases Overwhelm the Golden State, Cal/OSHA Imposes More Burdens on Employers

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as “Cal/OSHA,” recently issued new emergency temporary standards to protect workers from COVID-19 (the “Emergency Temporary Standards”), which were approved by the Office of Administrative Law earlier this week.  The Emergency Temporary Standards, which are now in effect, apply to virtually all California employers, employees, and … Continue Reading

California Expands Its Already Generous Leave Requirements To Cover Even Smaller Employers

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the flurry of associated leave issues, Gov. Newsom recently signed Senate Bill 1383 (“SB 1383”) into law, which provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave under the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) to employers with as few as five employees.  Beginning on January 1, 2021, when SB 1383 takes … Continue Reading

California Mandates Diversity Quotas for Corporate Boards

On September 30, 2020, Gov. Newsom signed Assembly Bill 979 (“AB 979”) into law.  The new statute, which adds section 301.4 to the Corporations Code, is aimed at increasing representation from communities of color and the LGBT community on the boards of publicly traded companies.  The law follows in the footsteps of earlier legislation that … Continue Reading

Spread The Word: California Enacts COVID-19 Exposure Notification Law

Late last week, Gov. Newsom signed AB 685 into law which, among other things, adds section 6409.6 (“Section 6409.6”) to the Labor Code.  The new statute, which takes effect January 1, 2021, requires that employers notify employees and, in some instances, public health officials about COVID-19 exposures at work. Specifically, Section 6409.6 requires that employers … Continue Reading

California’s New Supplemental Paid COVID-19 Sick Leave, Effective September 19, 2020

On September 9, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1867 (“AB 1867”), which is intended to fill gaps left by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). The new law requires that private employers with 500 or more employees in the United States provide eligible (non-food sector) employees with up to 80 hours of supplemental … Continue Reading

“Oh, We Were Just Leaving!”: California Court Halts Order Requiring Uber and Lyft to Reclassify Drivers

Last week, Uber Technologies, Inc. and Lyft, Inc. announced that they would suspend ridesharing operations in the State of California in response to an August 10, 2020 San Francisco Superior Court judge’s preliminary injunction, requiring the companies to reclassify their California drivers as “employees” within 10 days.  The order came in the context of a … Continue Reading

Even a Worldwide Pandemic Is No Excuse For Blowing A Class Certification Deadline!

For years, federal courts in California have been inundated with wage and hour class actions.  Because these cases often clogged district court dockets for months (and, sometimes, even years) on end, the Central District of California issued the former Local Rule 23-3, which set a 90-day deadline to file a motion for class certification from … Continue Reading

California Court of Appeal Confirms that PAGA Claims Cannot be Compelled to Arbitration

Even after the Supreme Court’s favorable decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis (“Epic”), California courts will not compel a PAGA claim to arbitration. In Collie v. The Icee Co., a former employee of The Icee Company, Tauran Collie, alleged a single cause of action under California’s Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”) against her former … Continue Reading

Mask On, Roll Camera: LA County Greenlights Hollywood Production Restart

As we previously reported, last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom and California’s State Public Health Officer cleared the music, film and television industry to resume work no earlier than this Friday, June 12, 2020, subject to county-by-county approval.  On June 10, 2020, Los Angeles County Director of Public Health, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, announced that she was … Continue Reading

Time to Work Off the COVID 19 (lbs)… California Fitness Employers Reopen!

California has long been considered one of the “capitals” of the fitness industry as it is home to thousands of gyms and boutique fitness studios.  COVID-19 hit the state’s fitness industry particularly hard when shelter-in-place orders were announced in mid-March and, as we detailed in an article last month, now presents unique reopening challenges. On … Continue Reading

The Wait is (Almost) Over! California Greenlights Resumption of Music, Film and Television Production

  On Friday June 5, Gov. Newsom announced that California has authorized the music, film and television production industries to reopen on or after this coming Friday, June 12, 2020.  The same day, Gov. Newsom announced the reopening of fitness facilities, day camps, and several other industries. Although the State Public Health Officer had been … Continue Reading

Lights, Camera, PPE: Hollywood Guilds and Studios Take Action On Resuming Production

As we discussed in a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter in April, the entertainment industry faces unique challenges as it plans to resume operations.  On May 20, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom suggested that California would release guidelines for reopening the entertainment industry by Memorial Day.  However, to date, California’s Public Health Officer has not … Continue Reading
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