We previously alerted employers to California employment law bills that were still alive toward the end of the most recent legislative session. That session ended on September 14, 2023 and Governor Newsom had until October 14, 2023 to either sign, approve without signing, or veto the bills that survived. Below is an update on the fate of these employment law bills so employers will know which ones are slated to become law. The Governor vetoed several noteworthy bills that would have expanded the state’s protected classes, employee work-from-home rights and CalWARN notice requirements. On the other hand, the Governor signed multiple significant employment law bills into law, including those creating increased paid sick leave requirements, expanded re-hiring rights, a new reproductive loss leave, and a new requirement that employers establish a workplace violence prevention plan. Unless otherwise noted, the approved bills will take effect January 1, 2024.Continue Reading California employment law legislative update: bills that will become law in 2024 and beyond

The California Legislature had until September 14, 2023, to pass bills in the current Legislative Session before these bills are sent to Governor Newsom to either sign, approve without signing, or veto each bill by October 14, 2023. Several key bills relate specifically to employment law, including expansion of paid sick leave, CalWARN notice requirements

On September 11, 2023, labor unions and the California restaurant industry reached an agreement that promises to significantly impact the fast-food chains throughout California. This deal involves, among other things, raising the minimum wage for fast food workers to $20 an hour and eliminating an industry-supported referendum scheduled for the 2024 ballot. The deal also

On May 23, 2022, the California Supreme Court handed down its decision in Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services. The decision discusses the penalties recoverable by employees for an employer’s alleged failure to pay meal and rest period premiums where a proper meal or rest period is not provided. The Naranjo Plaintiffs filed a putative class action lawsuit alleging that his employer failed to provide meal and rest periods or premium compensation in lieu thereof as required by California law. In addition to premium pay for meal and rest periods, Plaintiffs also brought derivative claims alleging failure to timely pay wages at termination and failure to provide accurate wage statements. Specifically, Plaintiffs argued that because meal and rest period premiums were not paid, they also were not timely paid all wages due at termination and their wage statements were invalid because they did not reflect the premiums that were not paid.Continue Reading California Supreme Court rules additional penalties may be recoverable for meal and rest period violations

A split Ninth Circuit panel vacated a 2020 preliminary injunction that blocked the enforcement of California’s A.B. 51, which prohibits mandatory arbitration clauses in employment contracts. If the majority decision stands, it will mean that California employers can no longer require their employees or new hires to sign arbitration agreements (among other types of waivers)

Federal contractors and other employers should anticipate greater scrutiny related to their compensation policies and practices as a result of recent policy shifts. President Biden has made it clear that a key priority of his administration is closing the gender and racial wage gap that currently exists in the United States, and that he plans to encourage changes at both the state and federal levels. At the federal level, that means the reintroduction of the Paycheck Fairness Act, the rollout of new policy initiatives, and the issuance of executive orders. This prioritization of pay equity will likely result in renewed enforcement efforts related to pay discrimination from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). State legislatures also continue to pass laws enhancing pay equity and transparency.

Background

The Equal Pay Act (EPA), passed in 1963, was one of the first anti-discrimination laws enacted and was intended to abolish wage disparity based on sex. The act prohibits wage discrimination between men and women who perform jobs that require substantially the same skill, effort and responsibility within the same company. Despite the existence of the EPA, however, the gender-wage gap still exists with the focus on pay disparities across both gender and race, as evidenced by statistical data.

Biden priority

On International Women’s Day, March 8, 2021, President Biden created the White House Gender Policy Council via Executive Order, to ensure that gender equity and equality are pursued in domestic and international policy. Specifically, the Council is tasked with advancing gender equity and equality by coordinating federal policies and programs that address the structural barriers to women’s participation in the labor force and by decreasing wage and wealth gaps. The Council is to work closely with the Domestic Policy Council, which is coordinating the interagency, whole-of-government strategy for advancing equity, as set forth in Executive Order 13985 of January 20, 2021 (Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.) In addition, the President has promised additional funding for agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to investigate violations and enforce pay equity laws.Continue Reading Biden’s pay equity priority: federal and state updates, and what federal contractors can expect going forward

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 October 10, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom officially signed a bill expanding protected leave rights under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to flight crew employees. We covered this issue in more detail here. The new law will allow flight crew employees to be eligible for CFRA protected leave with certain conditions.

In April 2018, the California Supreme Court turned worker classification on its head when it decided Dynamex Operations West Inc v. Superior Court (Dynamex). In Dynamex, the court adopted a three-factor “ABC” test for analyzing misclassification claims under the California Wage Orders. Under the ABC test, for an employer to show that workers were properly classified as independent contractors, they must demonstrate that: the worker (A) was not under the company’s direct control and direction; (B) performed work that was outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and (C) was customarily engaged in an independent business. Because of, in particular, the second element of the test, this standard makes it very difficult for businesses to prove that workers are independent contractors.

Since last year’s ruling in Dymanex, there has been much speculation about the application of the decision, specifically whether it applies retroactively and the scope of any application of the “ABC” test.

To the shock of employers, on May 2, 2019, a unanimous three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals (the Panel), in Vasquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising International, Inc. (Jan-Pro), held that the Dynamex rule should be applied retroactively.Continue Reading Dynamex in retrograde – misclassification test and its retroactive reach may open the flood gates for misclassification cases in California

In 2010, the United States Supreme Court struck a blow to class action plaintiffs subject to Federal Arbitration Act (FAA)-covered arbitration agreements when it concluded that a court may not compel class arbitration when the agreement is silent regarding the availability of such proceedings. Stolt-Nielsen SA v. AnimalFeeds Int’l, 559 U.S. 662 (2010). “[A] party may not be compelled under the FAA to submit to class arbitration unless there is a contractual basis for concluding that the party agreed to do so.” Id. at 684.

On April 24, 2019, the Court went one step further, holding that “[l]ike silence, ambiguity does not provide a sufficient basis to conclude that parties to an arbitration agreement” consented to class arbitration. Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela, Case No. 17-988 (Apr. 24, 2019) (Lamps Plus). The Court reversed the Ninth Circuit decision, which found that contractual ambiguity coupled with state contract law requiring courts to construe ambiguities against the drafter created a contractual basis for class arbitration. See Varela v. Lamps Plus, Inc., 701 Fed. Appx. 670, 673 (9th Cir. 2017). The Court held that the FAA preempted the state contract law doctrine as applied by the Ninth Circuit because it “manufactured [class arbitration] by state law rather than consen[t].” When an arbitration agreement is ambiguous regarding class proceedings, the Court will “not seek to resolve the ambiguity by asking who drafted the agreement.” Rather, the FAA provides the default rule that class arbitration is not available when the contract is ambiguous.Continue Reading Class arbitration requires contractual clarity