Labor and Employment Law

Newly-Published Labor and Employment Cases

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Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru (US 19-267 7/8/20) Ministerial Exception

The First Amendment’s Religion Clauses foreclose certain employment-discrimination claims brought against religious organizations. This “ministerial exception” applies to employees who perform vital religious duties on behalf of the organization.

In these consolidated cases, two teachers at Catholic elementary schools sued the schools for age and disability discrimination, respectively. Both were employed under nearly identical agreements that set out the schools’ mission to develop and promote a Catholic School faith community; imposed commitments regarding religious instruction, worship, and personal modeling of the faith; and explained that teachers’ performance would be reviewed on those bases. Each was also required to comply with her school’s faculty handbook, which set out similar expectations. Each taught religion in the classroom, worshipped with her students, prayed with her students, and had her performance measured on religious bases.

A seven-Justice majority held that the ministerial exception applied to the teachers’ claims. The majority found abundant record evidence that both teachers performed vital religious duties, such as educating their students in the Catholic faith and guiding their students to live their lives in accordance with that faith. Their titles did not include the term “minister” and they had little formal religious training, but their core responsibilities were essentially the same. And their schools expressly saw them as playing a vital role in carrying out the church’s mission. In dissent, two Justices asserted the majority was too deferential to the schools’ characterization of the teachers’ role and that its expansion of the ministerial exception stripped antidiscrimination protection from a wide array of persons employed by religious organizations.

Oman v. Delta Air Lines, Inc. (SC S248726 6/29/20) Wage and Hour/Flight Attendants

California’s wage statement laws apply only to flight attendants who have their base of work operations in California, and the same is true of California laws governing the timing of wage payments.  In this case, as in the companion cases Ward v. United Airlines, Inc., and Vidrio v. United Airlines, Inc. (June 29, 2020, S248702) ___ Cal.5th ___ (Ward), the Court of Appeal confronted a question about the application of various California wage and hour laws to flight attendants who work primarily outside California’s territorial jurisdiction. The Court held that, whether or not California’s minimum wage laws apply to work performed on the ground during the flight attendants’ brief and episodic stops in California, the pay scheme challenged here complies with the state requirement that employers pay their employees at least the minimum wage for all hours worked.

Ward v. United Airlines, Inc. (SC S248702 6/29/20) Wage and Hour Laws/Pilots and Flight Attendants

Whether plaintiffs are entitled to California-compliant wage statements depends on whether their principal place of work is in California.  For pilots, flight attendants, and other interstate transportation workers who do not perform a majority of their work in any one state, this test is satisfied when California serves as their base of work operations, regardless of their place of residence or whether a collective bargaining agreement governs their pay.

County of Fresno v. Fresno Deputy Sheriff’s Assn. (CA5 F076417, filed 5/29/20, pub. ord. 6/26/20) Meyers-Milias-Brown Act/MOU

Two sheriff’s deputies, through their employee organization, filed a grievance challenging their involuntary reassignment from their specialty assignments to patrol assignments.  They asserted the reassignments violated both the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the County of Fresno (the county) and the employee organization, and an established past practice that deputies would not be involuntarily reassigned in the absence of disciplinary issues, documented performance issues, layoffs, or pending disability retirement.  The administrative hearing of the grievance resulted in a decision in favor of the deputies.  The county filed a petition for a writ of mandate to reverse the decision, and the trial court granted the petition.  The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment, concluding that the arbitrator who heard the matter abused his discretion because his findings were not supported by substantial evidence.

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