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 a franchisor provides a California franchisee with detailed instructions about how to operate the franchise business, but allows the franchisee to manage its own workforce, can the franchisor be held liable for the franchisee’s wage and hour violations?  The California Court of Appeals found the answer to be no under the facts in Curry v. Equilon Enterprises, LLC, 2018 WL 1959472 (Cal. Ct. App. Apr. 26, 2018).  There, the Court of Appeals concluded Equilon Enterprises, LLC, doing business as Shell Oil Products US (“Shell”), was not liable for the alleged wage and hour violations of the company that operated its Shell-branded gas stations throughout California. Continue Reading Are Franchisors Joint Employers in California Wage Cases?

On April 3, 2018, San Francisco amended its Fair Chance Ordinance, the city and county’s so-called “ban-the-box” legislation that limits how private employers can use an applicant’s criminal history in employment decisions.  The amendments, which take effect on October 1, 2018, expand the scope and penalties of the San Francisco ordinance and add to the growing framework of ban-the-box legislation across California.  The complete text of the amendment can be found here.

Continue Reading San Francisco Sharpens the Teeth of its “Ban-the-Box” Ordinance and Adds to California’s Growing Ban-the-Box Framework

[From Hunton’s Retail Blog]  If you are a retailer, you may have policies and procedures in place regarding who can speak on behalf of your company. Such policies may generally instruct employees not to speak to the press as a representative of the company, and to direct all media inquiries to a particular person or department. Similarly, if you are a retailer, you may have a policy in place that instructs employees to forward any reference requests to your human resources department. These commonplace policies allow retailers to control their public image and protect employee privacy, among other benefits. But, according to a recent decision by a National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) administrative law judge (“ALJ”), such policies may violate the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) by interfering with, restraining or coercing employees in their right to engage in concerted activity.

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Imagine that you are a company with two openings for the same position.  After selecting the two most qualified candidates, you offer each candidate a salary equal to his or her prior salary, plus 5%, pursuant to your established policy for setting new hire salaries.  On its face, your policy has nothing to do with sex, but does it violate the Federal Equal Pay Act?  This was the issue addressed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the recent decision Rizo v. Yovino, No. 16-15372, slip op. at 11–12 (9th Cir. Apr. 27, 2017).

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Holds Prior Salary Is A “Factor Other Than Sex” Under Equal Pay Act

Last Monday, the California Supreme Court in Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc. clarified the meaning of California’s requirement that all working employees be provided with suitable seating “when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats.” Answering three questions raised by the Ninth Circuit, the Court ruled that:

(1) The “nature of the work” refers to an employee’s tasks performed at a given location for which a right to a suitable seat is claimed, rather than a “holistic” consideration of the entire range of an employee’s duties anywhere on the jobsite during a complete shift. If the tasks being performed at a given location reasonably permit sitting, and provision of a seat would not interfere with performance of any other tasks that may require standing, a seat is called for;

(2) Whether the nature of the work reasonably permits sitting is a question to be determined objectively based on the totality of the circumstances. An employer’s business judgment and the physical layout of the workplace are relevant but not dispositive factors. The inquiry focuses on the nature of the work, not an individual employee’s characteristics; and

(3) The nature of the work aside, if an employer argues there is no suitable seat available, the burden is on the employer to prove unavailability.

Continue Reading California Supreme Court Provides Guidance on Suitable Seating Requirements

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) is asking the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to recognize that discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation constitutes unlawful discrimination “because of . . . sex,” in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The EEOC advances this argument in an amicus brief in support of Barbara Burrows, a lesbian college professor and administrator who claims she was subjected to sex discrimination by her former employer, the College of Central Florida, based on her same-sex marriage and how she looked and acted. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the College, holding that Burrows’s sex discrimination claim was “merely a repackaged claim for discrimination based on sexual orientation, which is not cognizable under Title VII.” Burrows appealed, and the case is currently pending before the Eleventh Circuit.

Continue Reading EEOC Argues Title VII Prohibits Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Under a new California law that took effect on January 1, 2016, California employers may face civil penalties of up to $10,000 for misusing E-Verify, the federal electronic employment verification system some employers use to verify employment eligibility of newly hired employees.

The new E-Verify law makes it more difficult for some California employers to comply with both federal and state laws relating to workers’ employment eligibility.

Continue Reading California’s New E-Verify Law – Get It Right or Pay the Price

Over the weekend, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill aimed at prohibiting mandatory employment arbitration agreements as a condition of employment.  The bill also would have made it unlawful for an employer to discriminate or retaliate against an employee who refused to sign an arbitration agreement.  The Governor’s veto marks a victory for the dozens of business associations (and California employers) that opposed the bill.

Continue Reading California Bill Prohibiting Arbitration Agreements Vetoed By Governor Brown