California Supreme Court: Employees who settle their own wage and hour claims still have standing to pursue PAGA

The California Supreme Court ruled on March 12, 2020 that an individual plaintiff’s settlement of their claims against an employer for purported wage and hour violations does not deprive that plaintiff of standing as an authorized representative in a Private Attorney General’s Act (PAGA) action.

PAGA deputizes an employee to file a lawsuit for purported California Labor Code violations against their employer to recover civil penalties on behalf of themselves, other similarly situated employees and the State of California. To pursue a PAGA action, the plaintiff must have standing as an “aggrieved employee.” PAGA defines an “aggrieved employee” as “any person who was employed by the alleged violator and against whom one or more of the alleged violations was committed.”

In Kim v. Reins International California, Inc., March 12, 2020, Case No. 5246911, Justin Kim, an employee of Reins International (Reins), brought a putative class action and PAGA representative action for Labor Code violations against his employer. While the case was pending, Reins moved to compel arbitration as to Kim’s individual claims and dismissed the class action claims based on the arbitration agreement. While the PAGA litigation remained in the trial court, the trial court stayed the action pending the arbitration of Kim’s individual claims. Kim ultimately settled his individual claims and dismissed them, leaving only the PAGA claim for resolution. Reins then moved for summary adjudication of the PAGA claim on the ground that Kim was no longer an aggrieved employee and his rights had been “completely redressed” by his own settlement and dismissal of his underlying claims. The trial court granted the dismissal and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

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To RIF, or Not to RIF: How federal loans can help small and mid-size businesses under the CARES Act

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) passed on March 27, 2020, authorizing more than $2 trillion to battle COVID-19 and its economic effects on the U.S. economy. For U.S. employers, the CARES Act provides significant support in the form of loans for small businesses, a loan forgiveness program to encourage employers to retain their workforces during this difficult time, and expanded unemployment benefits applying in most cases to terminated employees, furloughed employees, and those given reduced hours. It also significantly expands the definition of who can receive unemployment benefits to include self-employed workers in the gig economy, independent contractors, and those who may not have an expanded work history.

Although a more fulsome discussion of the contents of the CARES Act can be found here, the purpose of this blog is to discuss certain provisions of the CARES Act on a high level and to identify concerns that employers may face in making the decision to furlough or reduce their workforce.

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Florida issues statewide stay-at-home order

Referencing President Trump’s March 31, 2020 “30 Days to Slow the Spread” guidance, on April 1, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis joined the majority of other states and issued a Stay-at-Home Order.  The order takes effect on April 3, 2020 at 12.01 a.m.

The order instructs senior citizens and those with significant underlying medical conditions to stay at home and take all necessary measures to limit exposure to the virus.

Other individuals are required to limit their travel to what is necessary to provide or obtain “essential services” or to conduct “essential activities.”

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Responding to COVID-19 in a unionized workplace

While all employers are facing an unprecedented whirlwind of rapidly changing circumstances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers with unionized workforces face additional challenges as they take action in response to the outbreak while trying to avoid running afoul of the requirements of their collective bargaining agreements and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Here are a few suggestions for employers to consider as they navigate this new landscape. Continue Reading

NLRB extends effective date of its final rule modifying representation case procedures – Now effective May 31, 2020

On March 24, 2020, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decided to postpone the effective date of its final rule modifying the Agency’s regulation on union representative-case procedures, from April 16, 2020 to May 31, 2020, in order to facilitate the resolution of legal challenges.

The NLRB’s final rule, which rolled back some of the burdensome requirements of the “quickie election” rule issued under the Obama Administration, was published on December 13, 2019. Many employers argued that the original quickie election rule stripped them of the proper due process that they should have been afforded when served with a union representation petition. Further, employers complained that the rule inherently shortened the election campaign timeframe and impeded those employers that had hoped to give employees guidance about union representation, leaving such employees with substantially less time to consider important facts necessary for making a thoughtful choice during a union election. Continue Reading

“Staying at home means you must stay home”: Pennsylvania’s governor issues state wide stay-at-home order

Effective 8 p.m. on April 1, 2020, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is under a stay at home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order, which encompasses all counties throughout the Commonwealth, prohibits individuals from leaving their place of residence except as needed to access, support, or provide life-sustaining business, emergency or government services. The order is currently slated to remain in effect through April 30, 2020.

This order comes on the heels of Governor Tom Wolf’s March 23, 2020 order, which initially provided for such restrictions in only seven of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Over the course of the following week, the original order was amended six times to eventually encompass 33 counties, yet was still limited to areas where community spread was assumed. Now, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases throughout Pennsylvania climbs to nearly 6,000, and the number of cases nationally rapidly approaches 200,000, Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order reaches every county in the Commonwealth.

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) monthly round up as at 1 April 2020

What a month March has been! With the COVID-19 pandemic taking hold across the UK and globally, we’ve seen the UK government responding to the crisis by imposing increasingly restrictive limits on our activities, closing schools and workplaces, introducing emergency legislation within days, and announcing unprecedented levels of financial support. With updates and developments happening daily, it can be hard to keep up. So here’s a roundup of where we are, as at 1 April 2020, in respect of key COVID-19 issues affecting the workplace.

Workplace closures

On 20 March 2020, the prime minister announced that certain businesses (pubs, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, gyms, casinos, leisure centres, etc.) should close, and within days this was extended to businesses that were not providing essential services.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 26 March 2020 detailing, specifically, which businesses must close (schedule 2), which can remain open (any business not listed in schedule 2), and which can remain open with limitations (schedule 1). This legislation will be reviewed every 21 days, with the first review due by 15 April 2020. Businesses failing to comply with this legislation face prosecution and fines.

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District of Columbia residents ordered to “stay at home” to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus

On March 30, 2020, in the latest effort to combat the COVID-19 virus, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued Mayor’s Order 2020-054 ordering District of Columbia residents to “stay at home” effective April 1, 2020. Previously, Mayor Bowser declared a public emergency [Mayor’s Order 2020-045] and a public health emergency [Mayor’s Order 2020-046], directed the closure of non-essential businesses, and prohibited public gatherings of more than 10 people [Mayor’s Order 2020-053]. The Mayor’s Orders are designed to keep the maximum number of people in their residences to the greatest extent feasible, while enabling essential activities, government services, and businesses to continue functioning. Continue Reading

Texas update: Governor Abbott issues statewide executive orders while counties amend stay-at-home orders

Recently, additional action has been taken at both the state and county levels in Texas to prevent the spread of COVID-19. At the state level, Governor Greg Abbott has issued three executive orders mandating both roadway and air travelers originating at certain locations to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days upon their arrival in Texas. Governor Abbott has also issued an executive order instructing all individuals in Texas, except where necessary to provide or obtain essential services, to minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. At the county level, the shelter in place orders issued last week by Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties have all been amended or clarified.

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FFCRA payroll tax credits: Here’s how it works

Effective April 1, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain private sector employers with fewer than 500 employees and governmental employers of all sizes to provide their employees with emergency paid sick leave and emergency paid medical leave. More information about the FFCRA is available here.

Given the current unknowns, many employers are evaluating the financial implications of the Act’s expansive mandatory paid leave and making difficult decisions, including reducing head count.

To incentivize employers (in particular, those deemed essential under various shelter orders) to retain their employees and bear the costs of emergency paid leave, the FFCRA offers covered employers a refundable payroll tax credit. This tax credit offsets the cost of the paid leaves required under the Act, and could make all the difference for certain businesses concerned that the cost of these paid leaves will run them out of business. Here’s how it works.
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