Labor and Employment Law

Newly-Published Labor and Employment Law Cases

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De Leon v. Juanita’s Foods (CA2/3 B315394 11/23/22) Late Payment of Arbitration Fees 
Code of Civil Procedure sections 1281.97 and 1281.98 provide that if a company or business that drafts an arbitration agreement does not pay its share of required arbitration fees or costs within 30 days after they are due, the company or business is in “material breach” of the arbitration agreement, and an employee or consumer can, among other things, withdraw his or her claim from arbitration and proceed in court. The trial court correctly allowed De Leon’s claims to proceed in court when Juanita’s Foods was late paying arbitration fees because the statutory 30-day deadline is a bright-line rule that does not give the trial court discretion to consider additional factors such as delay or prejudice.

Valiente v. Swift Transp. Co. of Ariz. (9th Cir. 21-55456 11/23/22) Meal & Rest Breaks | Motor Carrier Safety Act Preemption 
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) 2018 decision to preempt California’s meal and rest break rules with respect to truck drivers subject to federal regulations applied retroactively to lawsuits that commenced before the decision was made.

Patel v. Chavez (CA2/1 B312985 11/22/22) Labor Commissioner Orders 
To challenge a Labor Commissioner order, Labor Code section 98.2 requires the appellant to post a bond or cash deposit in the amount owed under the order. The bond posting gives the trial court jurisdiction to hear a section 98.2 appeal but the filing of a valid appeal is not necessary for the court to issue orders regarding a posted bond. Here, the appellants never filed a valid section 98.2 appeal and thus, by operation of law the Labor Commissioner orders became final and enforceable judgments. The trial court accordingly properly ordered the bond forfeited in satisfaction of the judgments.

Collier v. Lincoln Life Assurance Co. of Boston (9th Cir. 21-55465 11/21/22) ERISA 
When a district court reviews de novo a plan administrator’s denial of benefits, it examines the administrative record without deference to the administrator’s conclusions to determine whether the administrator erred in denying benefits. The district court’s task is to determine whether the plan administrator’s decision is supported by the record, not to engage in a new determination of whether the claimant is disabled. Accordingly, the district court must examine only the rationales the plan administrator relied on in denying benefits and cannot adopt new rationales that the claimant had no opportunity to respond to during the administrative process. The panel held that the district court erred because it relied on new rationales to affirm the denial of benefits.

Navas v. Fresh Venture Foods, LLC (CA2/6 B312888A 11/21/22) Arbitration 
Under deferential substantial evidence standard, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s finding that two of the plaintiffs did not sign the arbitration agreement. The court found the agreement unconscionable because it (1) required the employee to waive individual Private Attorneys General Act claims; (2) was ambiguous as to whether an employee could represent themself in arbitration; and (3) applied only to claims typically brought by employees against employers. Because the arbitration agreement explicitly incorporated California arbitration procedure, the trial court properly stayed arbitration pending judicial resolution of the related claims of plaintiffs who were not subject to the agreement.

Ramirez v. PK I Plaza 580 SC LP (CA1/1 A162593 11/10/22) Privette Doctrine 
Under the Privette doctrine, there is a strong presumption that a hirer is not liable for injuries sustained by an independent contractor or its workers while on the job. Ramirez was hired by a shopping center tenant to remove signage, and fell through an opening in the building’s roof while performing that work. The Privette doctrine did not apply to Ramirez’s tort claims against the shopping center owner because the tenant, not the owner, hired Ramirez to perform the work and thus the owner did not delegate its responsibility for workplace safety to Ramirez.

Price v. Victor Valley Union High School Dist. (CA4/2 E076784 11/9/22) Disability Discrimination and Retaliation 
The District denied Price, a substitute special education aide, a full-time position after a physician found she was not “medically suitable for the position.” The appellate court found triable issues of material fact as to whether the District regarded Price as having a disability and whether she was able to perform the essential functions of the full-time position with or without reasonable accommodation. The court affirmed summary judgment for the District on Price’s claims of failure to engage in the interactive process, failure to accommodate, retaliation, and failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation.

Zhang v. Super. Ct. (CA2/8 B31438611/9/22) Arbitration 
Zhang was an equity partner in a law firm. The partnership agreement required arbitration of disputes in Chicago or New York. Upon Zhang’s termination, the firm initiated arbitration in New York; Zhang then filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in California, where he resided and worked. The California court stayed proceedings pending resolution of the firm’s motion to compel arbitration in New York. The appellate court affirmed the stay, finding that the arbitration agreement delegated arbitrability issues to the arbitrator, including whether Zhang was an employee who could invoke Labor Code section 925 to require the dispute be resolved in California.

Shouse v. County of Riverside (CA4/2 E076975 11/3/22) POBRA 
Government Code section 3304 requires an employing agency to complete its investigation of a peace officer’s alleged misconduct and notify the officer of proposed discipline within one year of discovery of the alleged misconduct. Chief’s awareness of rumors of a sexual relationship between deputies did not start the one-year limitations period; the period began to run only when the chief confirmed that one of the deputies was in the other’s chain of command, and thus that the relationship may constitute misconduct in violation of department policy.

Taska v. The RealReal, Inc. (CA1/5 A164130 11/4/22) Wrongful Termination & Retaliation | Attorneys’ Fees & Costs 
Code of Civil Procedure section 1284 gives an arbitrator 30 days to correct an award; after the 30-day period has run, the arbitrator loses jurisdiction and the award is final. The trial court properly vacated an award of attorney fees and costs issued by the arbitrator three months after the award on the merits because the first award became final by operation of CCP section 1284 before the fee award issued.

Ray v. Los Angeles County Dept. of Social Services (9th Cir. 20-56245 11/4/22) FLSA Overtime | In-Home Support Services  
The County was a joint employer of in-home supportive services providers and thus could be held liable under the Fair Labor Standards Act for unpaid overtime compensation. The County did not act willfully and thus was not liable for liquidated damages because the County had no ability to pay overtime wages in the absence of the State making funds available to satisfy the overtime obligations.

Villareal v. LAD-T, LLC  (CA2/7 B313681M, filed 10/20/22, mod. 11/2/22) Arbitration 
Trial court properly denied LAD-T’s motion to compel arbitration because Business and Professions Code section 17918 barred the LAD-T from enforcing an arbitration agreement made in the name of an unregistered fictitious business. While its appeal was pending, LAD-T registered the fictitious business name. Because the failure to file a fictitious business name statement does not invalidate the agreement in the name of the business, instead only abating the proceeding until there is compliance, the appellate court vacated the trial court’s order and remanded for the court to consider whether defendants’ motion to compel arbitration should now be granted.

Mills v. Facility Solutions Group (CA2/7 B313943 11/1/22) Arbitration Unconscionability | Wage & Hour | PAGA 
Mills filed two lawsuits against Facility Solutions Group (FSG): one alleging disability discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, and one alleging various Labor Code violations, including a Private Attorneys General Act claim. The judge in the FEHA suit granted FSG’s motion to compel arbitration, while the judge in the Labor Code suit denied an identical motion, finding the arbitration agreement unconscionable. The appellate court found no issue or claim preclusion because the order granting the motion to compel arbitration was not final, and affirmed the trial court’s conclusion that the arbitration agreement was unconcscionable.

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