California Developments

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing last month filed an enforcement action in Los Angeles Superior Court against Riot Games, Inc. to compel compliance with its ongoing investigation into allegations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and retaliation.  While the identified claims are broad, the primary thrust appears to be the contention that female employees at Riot Games are paid less than their male counterparts. 
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Claims under California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) are recently much in vogue.  With the proliferation of arbitration agreements and class action waivers, plaintiffs’ attorneys all over California been using PAGA claims – which cannot be waived in an arbitration agreement – as a preferred vehicle to pursue representative wage-and-hour lawsuits against employers.
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In a recent decision, the California Supreme Court refused to overturn an arbitrator’s award, despite finding the award was incorrect.  Specifically, the Court held that an arbitrator should have considered evidence of a rejected section 998 settlement offer and changed its cost award, even after issuing a final arbitration decision.  However, the Supreme Court determined a trial court does not have authority to correct this error. The ruling emphasized the broad scope of an arbitrator’s powers and narrow scope of judicial review when the parties choose arbitration. 
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On May 2, 2019, the Ninth Circuit ruled in Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising International, holding that the new independent contractor test established by the California Supreme Court in its 2018 decision in Dynamex v. Superior Court applies retroactively to franchisors. As a result of this decision, employers and franchisors who have classified workers as independent contractors may see an increase in wage and hour class actions alleging that the workers are or have been misclassified. Additionally, the decision has serious implications for any California companies that operate under a franchise business mode
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Each year, the California Chamber of Commerce identifies proposed state legislation that the Chamber believes “will decimate economic and job growth in California.”  The Chamber refers to these bills as “Job Killers.” In March, the Chamber identified the first two Job Killers of 2019: AB 51 and SB 1.
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California has long been considered one of the most – if not the most – protective states of employee rights.  This continues to ring true, as the legislature has proposed another law aimed at prohibiting employers from requiring employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements as a condition of employment.   In essence, Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51), would prevent employers from requiring their employees to bring all employment related claims, including discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wage and hour claims, in arbitration instead of state or federal court.
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In a recent case, Correia v. NB Baker Electric, Inc., the California Court of Appeal held that employers cannot require employees to arbitrate their representative claims under the California Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”), Labor Code § 2699 et seq., without the State’s consent.
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Our California labor and employment team has been nominated by Benchmark Litigation as a California – Labor & Employment Litigation Firm of the Year, and Partner Roland Juarez  has been nominated as a California – Labor & Employment Litigation Attorney of the Year.
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