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In a highly-anticipated decision, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana (Case No. 20-1573) on June 15, 2022. The Court examined whether the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempted California court precedent, which invalidated contractual waivers of representative claims under California’s Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA).

Under PAGA, an employee may sue their current or former employer as a representative of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (“LWDA”). In such an action the employee can seek penalties for alleged violations of the Labor Code suffered by the employee themselves and other allegedly “aggrieved employees” if the employee was subjected to one or more violations of the California Labor Code.Continue Reading Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Arbitrability of PAGA Action

The release of the COVID-19 vaccine came as welcome news for employers. With it, however, employers will now confront myriad new questions about how the vaccine will affect workplace terms and conditions. The foremost question across all sectors has been simple: Can and should employers mandate that their employees get vaccinated? While issuing a mandate may seem appealing, doing so creates a variety of both legal and practical risks that, for many businesses, may militate in favor of a voluntary compliance program.

Faced with this reality, many employers have begun exploring incentive-driven voluntary programs, including offering additional PTO, gift cards, and even cash “bonuses” to employees who provide proof of vaccination.  While such a voluntary system avoids many of the pitfalls of a mandatory system, it also carries its own complexities and risks in an already complicated and unsettled area of law.  This post examines some of those risks while also highlighting the unique uncertainty surrounding this emerging issue. 
Continue Reading Managing the risks of incentivizing COVID-19 vaccines for employees

On December 16, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released updated and expanded guidance addressing questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic that arise under the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Laws.  The publication, “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws,” includes new guidance on the implications of the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccines on a number of federal laws.

The EEOC guidance provides a high-level overview of some of the basic concerns confronting employers as they attempt to navigate the intersection of vaccine necessity and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and Title VII.  While the EEOC asserts that “[t]he EEO laws do not interfere with or prevent employers from following CDC or other federal, state, and local public health authorities’ guidelines and suggestions,” it also makes clear that employers will have to undertake careful efforts to comply with these statutes as they also seek to comply with public health authority instruction.Continue Reading EEOC releases updated and expanded COVID-19 guidance

On September 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 1383 (SB-1383), which significantly expands employee eligibility for family and medical leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

The law, which will go into effect January 1, 2021, reduces the number of employees required for an employer to be covered under the CFRA and also expands the reasons why employees may take these leaves.

Currently, private employers with 50 or more employees working in a 75-mile radius are required to provide employees with leave under the CFRA, while private employers with 20 or more employees are required to provide limited leave time for baby bonding pursuant to the New Parent Leave Act (NPLA).

SB 1383 expands the leave entitlement to cover smaller employers, requiring employers with five or more employees to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period for a qualifying reason. Qualifying reasons include:

  • Leave for the birth of a child of the employee or the placement of a child with an employee in connection with the adoption or foster care of the child by the employee;
  • Leave to care for a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner who has a serious health condition;
  • Leave because of an employee’s own serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the position of that employee, except for leave taken for disability on account of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions;
  • Leave because of a qualifying exigency related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent in the Armed Forces of the United States;

This list of qualifying reasons further expands leave entitlement beyond what employers are required to provide under the current CFRA and NPLA. Under SB 1383, qualified employees will be entitled to take leave to care for the serious health condition of a grandparent, grandchild, or sibling in addition to the current requirement covering an employee’s parent, child, and spouse or domestic partner.Continue Reading California expands Family Care and Medical Leave eligibility

On May 6, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-62-20, which dramatically expands workers’ compensation eligibility for employees who are diagnosed with COVID-19, as part of his continued plan to create a robust safety net for California workers. The Order creates a rebuttable presumption that employees who test positive for or are diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days of performing work at their place of employment contracted the virus while at work.

To be entitled to this presumption, an employee must show: (1) the employee was diagnosed with or tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of performing work at the employee’s place of employment and under the employer’s direction; (2) the work day at issue was on or after March 19, 2020; (3) the place of employment at issue was not the employee’s place of residence; and (4) when the employee was diagnosed with COVID-19, the diagnosis was done by a California board-certified physician and confirmed by further testing within 30 days of the initial diagnosis.Continue Reading California Executive Order expands workers’ compensation eligibility for employees diagnosed with COVID-19

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has had, and will continue to have, a substantial impact on the U.S. workplace. Please click here for a series of FAQs we have compiled based on some of the more common questions that clients with U.S.-based employees have posed to us within the past few weeks.

These FAQs are general

On April 6, 2020, the California Judicial Council held its second emergency meeting to address issues arising in the California court system as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Judicial Council, led by Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court Tani Cantil-Sakauye, is the rulemaking body of the California court system. California’s Government Code section 68070 authorizes the Judicial Council to adopt rules “to provide for uniformity” including, but not limited to, “rules relating to law and motion.”

The Judicial Council passed 11 emergency rules, two of which pertain to statutes of limitations and may affect potential and pending employment litigation. Emergency rule 9 tolls the statute of limitations for all civil causes of action, beginning on April 6, 2020 and ending 90 days after the governor declares the statewide state of emergency related to COVID-19 is lifted. Emergency rule 10 extends the time in which a case must be brought to trial from five years to five years and six months. This extension applies to all civil cases filed before April 6, 2020.Continue Reading California’s Judicial Council adopts emergency rules tolling statutes of limitations

Please see an updated version of our FAQs as of April 18, 2020. 

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has had, and will continue to have, a substantial impact on the U.S. workplace. Please click here for a series of FAQs we have compiled based on some of the more common questions that clients with U.S.-based employees

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

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Department of Labor recently announced new guidance outlining ways states can be more flexible in administering and expanding unemployment insurance (UI) programs in order to assist employees affected by COVID-19.

Generally speaking, UI is a joint state–federal program that provides cash benefits to eligible workers. Although each state has discretion to establish its own eligibility guidelines, an employee typically is eligible for UI benefits if they:

  • Are unemployed through no fault of their own;
  • Meet certain work and wage requirements; and
  • Meet any other additional state requirements.

Continue Reading States expand unemployment benefits for employees impacted by COVID-19