Articles Posted in Employment Arbitration

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling last month limiting the California state worker protections law. Now, a group of lawyers say the SCOTUS got it wrong, and are imploring the court to hold a rehearing. They are characterizing the ruling in Viking River Cruises v. Moriana as a “gross misinterpretation.”Los Angeles employment lawyer

The attorneys represent the plaintiff in that case, a worker who sued her former employer through the Private Attorneys General Act, a statute that allows employees in California to pursue litigation against their employers on behalf of the state. The company had been late issuing her last paycheck after she quit her job, which she asserted was a violation of the state’s labor law. However, plaintiff and other similarly situated employees were bound by arbitration agreements. Thus, the employer defense argued, a PAGA claim would have been invalid. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the employer.

Lawyers for the plaintiff believe this was absolutely the wrong call, and want the court to grant a rehearing on the matter. However, as our Los Angeles employment lawyers can explain, such hearings are pretty rare. The majority of justices must agree in order to hold one, so it doesn’t happen often. On the other hand, what makes this case fairly unusual is that the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held since its founding that it lacks the authority and jurisdiction to issue rulings on matters of state law.

California law with respect to PAGA is pretty straightforward. Attorneys for the plaintiff in Moriana argue that the Court engaged in deliberations on the case without fully grasping what PAGA is and how it works.

The Court had held that PAGA was superseded by federal law that compels private disputes to be resolved through arbitration. The court also said that such claims could be divided into two: One by the individual, and another on behalf of other workers. The Court held that even if a worker could pursue a claim on behalf of other workers, that claim could be nullified if the employer had the right to force them into arbitration. Therefore, with one part of a PAGA claim invalid, the whole thing becomes null and void.

This concept of dividing a PAGA claim in two was a decision the Court apparently reached after oral argument. Neither side was able to respond to this until after the ruling was published. Lawyers for the plaintiff say the ruling represents a “completely new analysis,” with the splitting of PAGA not being a concept on which either party briefed the Court, argued on, or asked about. They say this action is the latest in a string of actions between the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court and the progressive laws and policies of the State of California. Continue Reading ›

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a dispute over the California labor law that gives private attorneys the right to pursue litigation on behalf of workers (even if they agreed on their own to arbitrate) and to collect penalties on the state’s behalf for wage and hour violations. As our Riverside employment lawyers can explain, the case is being closely watched, as it is an important test of whether employers can shield themselves from employment lawsuits with arbitration clauses that prohibit group or class action lawsuits. Riverside employment lawyer

The case is Viking River Cruises v. Moriana. The primary question is whether the Federal Arbitration Act requires enforcement of bilateral arbitration agreements, provided an employee can’t raise representative claims, including those under California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA).

During oral arguments, the court’s conservative justices spoke very little, while the liberal justices were more vocal in their defense of the state labor law.

The Private Attorneys General Act was passed in 2004 and allows private attorneys in California to sue employers and collect penalties for violations of the state’s labor code. The underlying reason for the act? Rampant labor law violations, particularly in the following industries:

  • Restaurants.
  • Car Washes.
  • Construction.
  • Garment companies.
  • Agriculture.

The state simply doesn’t have enough staff to adequately police these industries. PAGA lawsuits are often complaints of unpaid overtime work or wage theft. The law allows 75 percent of penalties collected to go to the state. The remainder goes to the affected employees and attorneys. Continue Reading ›

California may see an increase in workplace retaliation claims since Assembly Bill 749 , which bans no-rehire clauses with limited exception in employment dispute settlements, was enacted this month. Los Angeles employment attorney

Prior to the passage of this bill, it was common practice for companies to settle discrimination or harassment claims with employees with a settlement that included a no-rehire clause. These provisions can vary in scope, but usually indicated that any future application for employment by that person wouldn’t be considered, and if the worker was hired by chance, he or she would be terminated automatically.

The California Chamber of Commerce had argued the law wasn’t necessary because there were already existing laws against overly-broad no-rehire clauses (specifically, Business and Professional Code section 16600).

The new law, codified in the California Code of Civil Procedure section 1002.5, indicates that no agreement to settle an employment dispute should contain any provision that prohibits, prevents or otherwise restricts an aggrieved person who is settling from obtaining future employment with that employer or any parent company, division, affiliate, subsidiary or contractor. Companies can include no-rehire provisions in cases where the company made a good faith determination that the person signing committed sexual harassment or sexual assault OR where there was a legitimate (i.e., non-discriminatory, non-retaliatory) reason for firing that person. There is also an exclusion for severance agreements. Continue Reading ›

Non-solicitation clauses in California employment agreements have been deemed illegal in California per two recent court decisions. This includes out-of-state employers with California employees. Orange County employment attorneys are encouraging companies to review their employment agreements and consider removing non-solicitation clauses that may be in conflict with state law. California nonsolicitation agreements

Non-solicitation agreements are provisions in employment contracts (sometimes standalone contracts) wherein an employee agrees he or she will not try to solicit customers or clients of the employer for his or her personal benefit or for that of a competitor if/when he/she leaves the firm. Non-solicitation agreements can also encompass an employee’s agreement not to solicit other employees to leave once he/she quits.

Restrictive Covenants in California Labor Code

California has some of the strongest worker rights provisions in the country. For instance, California Business and Professions Code section 16600 states that all employment contracts that would keep anybody from engaging in a lawful profession, business or trade is void.

Courts in California have long held that it is against public policy to restrict former employees’ right to work for competitors. Further, state courts have soundly rejected the argument put forth by the inevitable disclosure doctrine, which asserts employees who immediately go work for a competitor is going to inevitably disclose or use trade secrets of the former employer. In the 2008 case of Edwards v. Arthur Andersen LLP, the California Supreme Court ruled previous workers are entitled to solicit the clients of former employers – assuming they don’t do so using their former employer’s trade secrets or confidential information while doing so.

This ruling marked a shift from the 1985 ruling by a California Court of Appeal in Loral Corp. v. Moyes, in which justices declined to void as unenforceable an employee agreement restriction indicating the employee was not allowed now or in the future to damage, interfere, impair or disrupt the business of the former employer by interfering with or “raiding” its employees, business relationships, agents, representatives, customers, vendors, etc. The clause created an express exception for being employed by or engaging with a competing business. The court didn’t expressly allow employment contracts with non-solicitation agreements, but rather ruled the one in question wasn’t an obvious, unenforceable restriction on fair trade.  Continue Reading ›

The U.S. Supreme Court handed a significant victory to American workers in a case that started as a California employment lawsuit over forced arbitration by independent contractors working in transportation. The decision in New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira was a somewhat surprising outcome given that the court in recent years has a history of favoring corporate interests over workers. (Note: Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who assumed the bench after the oral argument, did not participate in the decision, but the ruling was unanimous.) As our Los Angeles employment arbitration lawyers can explain, this will allow hundreds of thousands of independent contractors nationally to take their cases to court, rather than be mandated to settle them quietly before an arbitrator. Los Angeles employment arbitration lawyer blog

The problem with arbitration – whether it’s a case of product liability or premises liability or unfair wages or sexual harassment – is that it tends largely to favor employers and big corporations. The arbitrators are paid by the companies, the outcomes are not public (depriving the public of pertinent information regarding unfair or unsafe business practices) and even when cases are decided in plaintiff’s favor, they tend to be lesser than what one could expect to receive when cases go to a jury.

This case stems from a dispute between a trucking company employer and a truck driver, who was hired to complete some 10,000 miles of driving as an “apprentice” before he could expect payment. Even after that, he was expected to drive for 30,000 miles as a trainee, during which time he was paid $4 hourly. Then, once he was finally designated a full-time driver, he was still misclassified as an independent contractor, as opposed to an employee. He was required to lease the truck he drove from the defendant, buy his own equipment from their store and purchase his own diesel fuel, often from gas pumps that were owned by the defendant. In any other employment situation, the employer would be the one footing the bill for these expenses. The result, in several cases, was that the “independent contractor” truck driver would have to deduct these expenses from his income, meaning sometimes his paychecks actually wound up being negative. He was paying this company to work for them.  Continue Reading ›

Only certain background information of ex-convicts will be searchable for employment now that Governor Jerry Brown has signed SB 1412, which amends Section 432.7 of the California Labor Code. As our Riverside employment attorneys can explain, the measure stipulates that employers conducting criminal background checks on job applicants may only ask about/ weigh convictions that are relevant to the job for which a prospective employee is applying.Riverside employment lawyer

The new California employment law, effective January 1, 2019, applies not just to private individuals and corporations but also public agencies. Companies won’t be barred from conducting criminal background checks on job applicants, but they will be restricted in doing so. It doesn’t stop public or private employers from conducting criminal background checks as required by local, state or federal law. It does however replace the provision that allows employers to inquire about “criminal convictions” to instead say, “particular convictions.”

Doesn’t California Law Already Protect Ex-Convict Job Seekers?

As your Riverside employment attorney can explain, California law does to an extent already protect those seeking a job from being required to reveal certain information. However, SB 1412 takes it a step further in shielding more workers from discrimination based on prior criminal history.  Continue Reading ›

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and employee rightsMunicipal Employees quickly rose to landmark status in employment law. The 5-4 ruling by the high court determined it is unconstitutional to force nonunion workers to pay fees to unions in the public sector. Justices for the majority decisions explained that forcing workers to financially back an organization whose views they did not necessarily agree with was a violation of their First Amendment right to free speech, according to a CNBC report. The decision overturned the 1977 Supreme Court ruling in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which stated fees could be collected for collective bargaining, but not for political purposes. Some believe, however, that by nature collective bargaining and union practices are political.

While the ruling does not affect the private sector directly, the spirit of the decision certainly sets a precedent for legal disputes with private employment unions. It also helps bolster laws that already exist in 27 states which forbid agreements between unions and employers to force all employees who are part of a bargaining unit to contribute to union dues. The ruling is viewed by many as a victory for individual liberties. Continue Reading ›

A longtime agent in Tennessee has filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles-headquartered Agency for the Performingemployment lawyers Arts alleging a hostile work environment and seeking to be released from his contract. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Tennessee. Plaintiff claims executives at the agency have tried to edge him out and take his clients, sent hostile and abusive emails to him, and threw him into a wall during an argument, according to a report from Tennessean. The agent alleged an internal inquiry into the events led to a vague response from the company, essentially calling on all parties involved to follow the rules and get along. Plaintiff found this conclusion unacceptable, and believes APA’s tolerance of a hostile work environment frees him of his contract, which is set to expire in 2019. Continue Reading ›

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court made it significantly harder for workers to join together to stand up against their employer.employment lawyers The highest court in the land determined it is permissible for employers to include language in hiring contracts banning employees from joining class-action lawsuits, according to an ABC News report. This disheartening revelation flies in the face of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, which was drafted to protect employees’ rights to organize and take collective action to fight for their own interests.

The supporting justices seemed to favor instead the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925, which validates arbitration clauses, making it legal for employers to bind an employee’s right to sue their employer as a term of employment. This forces employees who have signed an arbitration agreement to address their grievances without filing a lawsuit. Instead, they would have to handle disputes individually through a third party arbitrator, often hired by the company whose actions are in question. Continue Reading ›

We’ve heard all too many stories since the emergence of the #MeToo movement about women who wanted to come forward with theirwhistleblower attorneys accounts of workplace sexual misconduct, but their companies had created loopholes that made it nearly impossible or too risky to go public. One former Uber employee is kicking down some of those barriers and working alongside the California Assembly to make it happen.

The former Uber engineer drew national attention when she previously wrote a blog post about alleged sexual harassment and questionable practices within the company, according to Tech Crunch. Her courage to speak up led to the resignation of Uber’s then CEO last summer. Now the ex-employee is supporting a bill that will help women in situations like hers to be able to seek public legal action. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales Fletcher (D-San Diego) introduced AB-3080, a bill that addresses one of the major ways companies try to silence internal complaints: forced arbitration.

Continue Reading ›

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