Labor and Employment Law

Newly-Published Labor and Employment Cases

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Wilson-Davis v. SSP America, Inc. (CA2/3 B306781, filed 3/11/21, pub. ord. 4/9/21) Arbitration

Motion to compel arbitration of statutory wage and hour claims properly denied where the collective bargaining agreement provided for arbitration of claims arising under the agreement but did not waive employees’ right to a judicial forum for statutory claims.

Contreras-Velazquez v. Family Health Centers of San Diego, Inc. (CA4/1 D075577M 4/7/21) Disability Discrimination/Punitive Damages 

Jury’s special verdict finding in first trial that plaintiff was not able to perform the essential duties of her job with reasonable accommodation was not preclusive on that same issue in retrial. Trial court properly reduced punitive damages award from $5 million to $2 million.

Garcia v. SEIU (9th Cir. 19-16934 4/5/21) LMRA § 301 Preemption 

Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act preempts state law claims based on a union constitution to the extent the constitution is a contract between labor unions that must be interpreted to resolve the claims.

Department of Industrial Relations, etc. v. Built Pacific, Inc. (CA4/1 D076601, filed 3/15/21, ord. pub. 4/5/21) DLSE/Civil Wage Penalty Assessment 

Civil Code section 1671(b), which prohibits enforcement of an unreasonable liquidated damages provision in a contract, does not apply to a court order enforcing a civil wage penalty assessment by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Alternatively, the liquidated damages provision of the settlement agreement between DLSE and the employer was not unreasonable because in the event of a breach it essentially placed the parties in the position they would have been in absent the agreement.

Kaanaana v. Barrett Business Services, Inc. (SC S253458 3/29/21) County Contract Workers/Public Works/Minimum Wage 

Employees of a private company that contracted with a public sanitation district to sort recyclable materials from refuse were engaged in public works as defined in Labor Code section 1720(a)(2), and therefore were entitled to be paid at prevailing wage rates.

Curtis v. Super. Ct. (CA2/7 B292967 3/24/21) CELA/Breach of Confidentiality/Attorney Work Product Protection 

The identity of a nontestifying expert who advises an attorney on a particular case is subject to qualified work product protection if disclosure of the expert’s identity would affect the attorney’s right to thoroughly prepare his case or allow opposing counsel to take undue advantage of the attorney’s efforts. The party seeking disclosure of the expert’s identity must show that denial of disclosure would unfairly prejudice its claim or defense. The trial court properly granted a motion to compel disclosure of a nontestifying expert’s identity when the moving party had no other way to identify the expert, whose alleged breach of a confidentiality agreement formed the basis of the moving party’s claims.

Clark v. Super. Ct. (CA4/1  D077711 3/19/21) FEHA/Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies 

Plaintiff’s complaint filed with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing was sufficient to exhaust administrative remedies despite not identifying the employer by its proper legal name because the respondents named in the complaint were very similar to the employer’s actual fictitious business name and the body of the complaint named the plaintiff’s managers, supervisors, coworkers, job title, and period of employment.

Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (9th Cir. 20-35222 3/18/21) First Amendment Free Speech and Free Exercise Claims/Title VII 

Public school district did not violate football coach’s First Amendment rights when it terminated his employment after he refused to cease or modify his practice of praying with students at midfield immediately after each game. The district’s interest in avoiding an Establishment Clause violation outweighed the coach’s First Amendment interests, and provided a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the termination that defeated his Title VII retaliation claim.

Freyd v. University of Oregon (9th Cir. 19-35428 3/15/21) Equal Pay Act, Title VII, Title IX 

Plaintiff, a psychology professor, alleged that the University paid her several thousand dollars less per year than four of her male colleagues who were of equal rank and seniority. Summary judgment reversed on Equal Pay Act claim because a reasonable jury could find plaintiff and her comparator professors performed a common core of tasks and did substantially equal work. Summary judgment reversed on Title VII disparate impact claim because plaintiff’s statistical sample, while small, nonetheless indicated a gender pay disparity arising from the University’s policy of giving retention raises without also increasing salaries of other professors of comparable merit and seniority.

Wilson v. The La Jolla Group (CA4/1 D077134 3/12/21) Wage and Hour/Class Action

The existence of a common question of misclassification as independent contractors is not sufficient for class certification when the misclassification issue does not predominate over individual issues that must be resolved to establish the employer’s liability. Trial court did not err by denying class certification as to minimum wage, overtime, meal and rest break, final wage payment, and reimbursement claims where individual issues would predominate in liability phase. Remand for determination of whether class treatment of wage statement claims would be manageable and superior to litigating individual claims.

Sargent v. Bd. of Trustees of the Cal. State Univ. (CA1 A153072 3/5/21) PAGA/CalOSHA Retaliation 

A claim under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 may be maintained against a public entity only when the Labor Code provision underlying the PAGA claim provides for a penalty. Public entities are not subject to PAGA’s default penalties because a public entity is not “a person” as defined in PAGA.

Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs’ Assn. v. County of Ventura (CA2/6 B300006 3/3/21) Public Records Act/Peace Officer Conduct 

The January 1, 2019 amendments to Penal Code section 832.7 deem peace officer personnel records relating to officer-involved shootings, serious use of force, and sustained findings of sexual assault or serious dishonesty, to be non-confidential. Such records may be disclosed in response to a California Public Records Act request even if they were created prior to 2019.

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