The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is a popular venue for class action lawsuits. As of November 1, 2018, it is also the first to require parties settling such lawsuits to make broad public disclosures regarding the settlements.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, many state legislatures have begun to take action to provide greater protections for victims of sexual harassment and make it easier for them to make complaints in the workplace. For example, in California, AB 2770 amends Civil Code Section 47 to protect alleged victims of sexual harassment by a co-worker in making complaints to the employer without the fear of being found liable for defaming the alleged harasser. It similarly protects employers when making statements to interested parties (such as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and/or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) concerning the complaints of sexual harassment. In both instances, however, the statements and/or complaints are only protected from liability for defamation if they are made without malice and based upon credible evidence.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, California has had the highest number of reported cases of human trafficking in the country over the last six years, followed by Texas and Florida. Human trafficking victims include men and women, adults and children, and foreign nationals and United States citizens. Recent studies indicate that hotels and motels are common locations for sex trafficking.
In light of these startling statistics, now is a good time for employers to become informed about new legislation associated with human trafficking crimes and to implement or update their anti-human trafficking policies and practices. Continue Reading New California Legislation Imposes Human Trafficking Training Requirements on Hotel and Transit Employers
Sexual harassment is a recurring theme in the bills signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown on September 30, 2018. These new laws, which take effect on January 1, 2019, continue the trend of expanding protections for California employees.
Hush-Money – Three of the bills signed by Governor Brown on September 30 target settlement agreements that prohibit disclosure of sexual harassment claims. AB 3109 makes void and unenforceable any provision in a contract or settlement agreement that waives a party’s right to testify in an administrative, legislative, or judicial proceeding concerning alleged criminal conduct or sexual harassment. SB 820 prohibits settlement agreements from including a provision that prevents the disclosure of factual information related to claims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. However, this bill does not prohibit confidentiality of the settlement amount. SB 1300 voids any agreement in which an employee forfeits his or her right to disclose unlawful acts in the workplace, including acts of sexual harassment.
Redefining The Hostile Work Environment Standard – SB 1300 also declares that a single incident of harassing conduct could be sufficient to create a triable issue regarding the existence of a hostile work environment in certain circumstances. Continue Reading California Enacts New Sexual Harassment Laws
When negotiating a settlement agreement in an employment dispute, “no rehire” language is often a standard term. This language typically bars the litigating employee from seeking re-employment with the former employer. However, in California, at least one “no rehire” provision was invalidated because it was not narrowly tailored to the employer at issue.
In Golden v. California Emergency Physicians Medical Group (“CEP”), CEP terminated Dr. Golden’s employment, and he subsequently filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination. The parties settled Dr. Golden’s claims, and CEP included a “no rehire” provision in the settlement agreement. The provision states:
The California Supreme Court has ruled that California employers cannot rely on the federal de minimis doctrine to avoid claims for unpaid wages on small amounts of time. Under the de minimis doctrine, employers may be excused from paying workers for small amounts of otherwise compensable time if the work is irregular and administratively difficult to record. Federal Courts have frequently found that daily periods of approximately 10 minutes are de minimis even though otherwise compensable.
In Troester v. Starbucks Corporation, the California Supreme Court held that California wage and hour laws have not adopted the FLSA’s de minimis doctrine. As a result, Starbucks was not permitted to avoid paying an employee who regularly spent several minutes per shift working off-the-clock. The Supreme Court acknowledged, however, that there may be circumstances involving “employee activities that are so irregular or brief in duration that it would not be reasonable to require employers to compensate employees for the time spent on them.”
California was one of the leading states to tackle pay discrimination by banning inquiries into salary history. California Labor Code Section 432.3, which went into effect on January 1, 2018, prohibits public and private employers from seeking or relying upon the salary history of applicants for employment. But some of the law’s terms were undefined and some of the provisions were unclear, so after Section 432.3 went into effect, employers had questions about how to remain compliant with the law when hiring new employees.
In AHMC Healthcare, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. B285655 (June 25, 2018) (“AHMC Healthcare”), California’s Second District Court of Appeals upheld an employer’s use of a payroll system that automatically rounds employee time up or down to the nearest quarter hour. Although the California Supreme Court has not yet addressed this issue, AHMC Healthcare aligns with decisions from the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, many federal district courts, and California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals, which also upheld time-rounding practices.
The Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2), confers federal subject matter removal jurisdiction over purported class actions filed in state court when, among other things, there is an amount-in-controversry (“AIC”) exceeding $5,000,000. Deciding whether a class action can be properly removed under CAFA typically turns on whether this high jurisdictional threshold can be met.
The Supreme Court of California has ruled that a general liability insurer must defend an employer against allegations of employee misconduct, reinforcing the breadth of (1) what constitutes an “occurrence” under an employer’s commercial general liability (CGL) policy and (2) the duty to defend regarding claims for negligent hiring, retention and supervision.