Seyfarth Synopsis: With the recent partial shutdown of the federal government, many federal contractors have faced tough decisions balancing their reduced revenue with their desire to keep their workforce intact. One potential solution is to impose mandatory employee furloughs to reduce costs. This cost-saving measure has some risks peculiar to California that are worth a
Non-California employers with non-exempt workers who work in California will be interested in the following piece, originally posted on Seyfarth’s Wage Hour Litigation Blog.
Seyfarth Summary: On July 12, 2018, the California Supreme Court agreed to address questions posed by the Ninth Circuit about whether California Labor Code provisions apply to an out-of-state employer
Seyfarth Synopsis: Dominating this spring’s planting of proposed employment-related legislation are bills aimed at ending sexual harassment and promoting gender equity. Among the secondary crops are bills regarding accommodation, leave, criminal history, and wage and hour law. It threatens to be another bitter fall harvest for California’s employer community.
California legislators stormed into the second…
Seyfarth Synopsis: Yes, it’s true: California employees can be entitled to pay for time they haven’t worked. Here, we highlight two common instances: split shifts and reporting time.
Your head—already spinning if you’ve wrapped it around California’s quirky wage and hour laws—may explode when you consider the notion of having to pay for time not…
Authored by Christopher A. Crosman.
We are excited to announce the 16th edition of Seyfarth Shaw’s publication Litigating California Wage & Hour and Labor Code Class Actions. As in previous editions, this publication reviews the most commonly filed wage and hour and Labor Code class and representative claims and the development of the …
With March Madness in full swing, we interrupt your crumbling tournament brackets to ensure you’re aware of a truly maddening development. California law now makes individuals potentially liable for employer violations of many often-convoluted wage and hour rules.
That’s right—individuals, not just companies, may be liable for wage and hour violations.
The California Legislature seems intent on ending piece-rate pay as we have known it. A law effective January 1, 2016, goes beyond the previously discussed Bluford and Gonzalez decisions to mandate that employees who earn piece-rate wages be paid a special, separate rate for rest and recovery periods, as well as for all “other non-productive…
By David Kadue
The traditional posture of California employers apprehensive about “gotcha” wage and hour claims is to hunker down and wait for the next lawsuit. But a few brave souls have taken the offensive. We celebrate two examples here. We cannot guarantee the success of their efforts, but we applaud their courage.
Declaratory relief action against California Labor Commissioner
One annoying peculiarity of California employment law is the Bluford doctrine, announced in a 2013 Court of Appeal decision called Bluford v. Safeway Inc. The Bluford case announced that truck drivers—already paid handsomely by mileage rates and by hourly rates for specified tasks and situations—were entitled to additional, separate pay for each rest period, under a notion that “employees must be compensated for each hour worked at either  the legal minimum wage or  the contractual hourly rate.” The court found it immaterial that the truck drivers earned, on an hourly average, far more than the minimum wage. Although Bluford was a controversial decision, the California Supreme Court declined to grant the employer’s petition for review.
OK. Fair (or unfair) enough. Then came the California Labor Commissioner and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, to rub salt in the Bluford wound. The DLSE determined that employers who pay on a piece-rate basis not only must separately pay for rest periods, but also must pay for those periods at a rate higher than the minimum wage or a contractual wage. According to the DLSE, an employer must pay piece-rate workers for rest periods at a rate equal to their average hourly piece-earning rate (which would vary on a continuous basis and which could greatly exceed the minimum wage). The DLSE announced this determination in a November 2013 internal memorandum, developed without the benefit of a rule-making process. The resulting “underground regulation” robs piece-rate paying employers of the certainty of paying rest periods at a fixed, pre-determined hourly rate.
Certain agricultural employers, heavily reliant on piece-rate labor, got mad as heck and decided not to take it anymore. In April 2015, in a case entitled Ventura County Agricultural Association v. Su, employer associations sued the government. They brought a petition for writ of mandate and a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief in Sacramento County Superior Court. They argue that the DLSE has issued an unlawful regulation and one that is contrary to Bluford. We wish them well.
Making a federal case out of compelling a plaintiff to arbitrate PAGA claims…
Emergency legislation promises to revitalize the California economy and place our state in the forefront of jurisdictions promoting economic growth and employment opportunity.
The California’s Open for Business—Really!—Act (“COBRA”), AB 666, effective April 1, works the following reforms in California employment law.
PAGA repeal. Article I of COBRA repeals the…
Remember the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail? The overconfident fellow who refuses to desist, even after losing four limbs in combat? Some lawyers are like that.
Although the California Supreme Court in Iskanian (June 23, 2014) upheld employer efforts to force waivers of class-action claims in mandatory arbitration agreements, some plaintiffs’ lawyers say that the real take-away from Iskanian is its holding that those agreements cannot be used to waive an employee’s right to bring representative PAGA actions. Moreover, say these lawyers, PAGA actions are particularly potent for plaintiffs because they are categorically unremovable to federal court, thus permitting the plaintiff to remain in more favorable state court.
So does this mean that Iskanian really was a disaster, signaling a new reign of terror for hapless employers who now must confront “gotcha” claims of obscure wage and hour violations while being subject exclusively to the tender mercies of California Superior Court?
Well, perhaps there are a couple of chinks in the Black Knight’s armor.
First, how solid is the dogmatic view about categorical unremovability of PAGA claims? PAGA cases once were routinely removed to federal court under diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction, where the defendant employer was a non-California citizen and the amount in controversy exceeded the jurisdictional threshold ($75,000 in an individual action or $5,000,000 in a class action, although PAGA claims need not be brought as class actions). The amount in controversy was often easy to establish, as PAGA penalties mount rapidly: $100 per employee per pay period, even if one counts only the 25% of the penalties that go to the employees (75% go to the State of California).
But recent Ninth Circuit decisions dropped flies in the removal ointment. They rejected the efforts of removing defendants, in calculating the amount in controversy, to aggregate the potential individual recoveries of all the employees the plaintiff purported to represent. These decisions now suggest that one should consider only the PAGA plaintiff’s individual recovery, which would be well below $75,000. And the Ninth Circuit has stated, rather elliptically, that the State of California is not a citizen, suggesting that this observation precludes a finding of diversity of citizenship. Hence the basis for a new conventional wisdom that PAGA claims are categorically unremovable. But is this necessarily so?…