California Developments

The arbitrability of wage-and-hour actions brought under the California Private Attorneys General Act is an increasingly important issue due to the growth of PAGA-only actions in California.   In that regard, a split has emerged among courts regarding the arbitrability of PAGA claims for unpaid wages under Labor Code Section 558.
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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a District Court’s ruling in favor of employer Medtronic, Inc. in a lawsuit alleging Medtronic unlawfully terminated employee Jose Valtierra’s employment because he was morbidly obese, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  In doing so, the Court declined to decide whether morbid obesity is a disability, leaving this issue unsettled in the Ninth Circuit.
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As California braces for wildfire season, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health approved an emergency regulation on July 30, 2019, that requires California employers to monitor air quality for particle pollution, and reduce workers exposure to the potential harmful pollutants from wildfire smoke.
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The California Labor Code requires employers to reimburse employees for certain expenses, but it’s not always clear which expenses should be reimbursed by the employer, and which expenses should be borne by employees.  Here’s a list of Five Things to Remember About Employee Reimbursements to help California employers navigate this area of the law.
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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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