After 35 days of the government shutdown, one of the (many) issues currently facing companies who contract with government agencies affected by the shutdown is if, when, and how, they must pay their employees upon the reopening of the government.
Continue Reading Recovering After the Shutdown: Proposed Legislation to Guarantee Back Pay for Government Contractors

On January 15, 2019, the Supreme Court issued its decision in New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira, where it decided independent contractor truck drivers cannot be forced into arbitration.  The Court’s decision is based on Federal Arbitration Act § 1, which excepts from coverage disputes involving “contracts of employment” with “workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” 
Continue Reading SCOTUS Holds Independent Contractor Truck Drivers Exempt from Arbitration Under FAA

On January 1, 2019, California’s Senate Bill No. 1431 went into effect, making a slight, but potentially significant amendment to Civil Code Section 1542. The prior version of the statute read: “A general release does not extend to claims which the creditor does not know or suspect to exist in his or her favor at the time of executing the release, which if known by him or her must have materially affected his or her settlement with the debtor.” SB 1431 amended Section 1542 to now read: “A general release does not extend to claims that the creditor or releasing party does not know or suspect to exist in his or her favor at the time of executing the release and that, if known by him or her, would have materially affected his or her settlement with the debtor or released party.” The amended version of the Code adds “releasing party” and “released party” alongside creditor and debtor, respectively, and also changes “must have materially affected” to “would have materially affected” the releasing party’s decision to settle.
Continue Reading California Legislature Amends Section 1542: Are Employer Settlement Agreements Now More Vulnerable to Attack?

On December 10, 2018, the California Supreme Court handed down its unanimous decision in Gerard, et al. v. Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center, affirming the Court of Appeal ruling that voluntary meal period waivers are permissible for healthcare employees who work long shifts, even if they work more than 12 hours. By allowing healthcare employees to waive one of their two meal periods, the Gerard decision preserves a choice for employees who work 12-hour shifts. They continue to have the flexibility to work shifts that span 12 ½ hours with one 30-minute meal period or shifts that span 13 hours and include two 30-minute meal periods.

Sheppard Mullin argued this case before the California Supreme Court and has represented Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in the case since 2008.

Not only was this case hard fought throughout California courts for 10 years, but it also involved novel legislative action. Notably, it was the only wage-hour victory for an employer before the California Supreme Court in 2018.
Continue Reading California Supreme Court Confirms Validity Of Meal Period Waivers For Healthcare Employees

In Jesus Cuitlahuac Garcia v. Border Transportation Group, LLC, et al, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District has held that the ABC test set forth in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, 4 Cal.5th 903 (2018) applies only to causes of action brought under wage orders.

Plaintiff Garcia was a taxicab driver for several years with Border Transportation Group (“BTG”). In 2015, a year after ceasing work for BTG, he sued BTG and two individual defendants for various wage and hour violations.
Continue Reading California Court of Appeal Affirms That Dynamex’s ABC Independent Contract Test Is Limited To Claims Arising Under Wage Orders

On July 26, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued its long awaited decision in Troester v. Starbucks Corporation (S234969) on whether California wage and hour law recognizes the de minimis doctrine established by the United States Supreme Court in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. 328 U.S. 680 (1946) for wage claims arising under federal law.  Under the federal de minimis rule, small amounts of otherwise compensable work time are not actionable when tracking and paying for it is impractical.  Anderson held: “When the matter in issue concerns only a few seconds or minutes of work beyond the scheduled working hours, such trifles may be disregarded.  Split-second absurdities are not justified by the actualities of working conditions or by the policy of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  It is only when an employee is required to give up a substantial measure of his time and effort that compensable working time is involved.”  Id. at 692.  In deciding whether compensable work time is de minimis, federal courts consider “(1) the practical administrative difficulty of recording the additional time; (2) the aggregate amount of compensable time; and (3) the regularity of the additional work.” See e.g. Lindow v. U.S. 738 F.2d 1057, 1063 (9th Cir. 1984); Kellar v. Summit Seating Inc., 664 F.3d 169, 176 (7th Cir. 2011); Kosakow v. New Rochelle Radiology Assocs., P.C. 274 F.3d 706, 719 (2d Cir. 2001).  Ten minutes or less is generally considered de minimis under federal law.  See Lindow, 738 F.2d at 1062.  The issue before the California Supreme Court in Troester (certified from the Ninth Circuit) was whether California wage and hour law recognizes the same or a similar rule.  Even though de minimis worktime is (by definition) small and insignificant, whether or not a de minimus exception to the requirement to pay for all time worked applies has major implications because relatively small amounts of unpaid wages have the potential to trigger substantial penalties and liability for plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees in California.
Continue Reading California Supreme Court Issues Narrow Holding In De Minimis Case, Leaving Many Issues Unresolved

On Monday, April 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in the matter of Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles. In a voluminous, 82-page decision, the California Supreme Court reinterpreted and ultimately rejected the Borello test for determining whether workers should be classified as either employees or independent contractors for the purposes of the wage orders adopted by California’s Industrial Welfare Commission (“IWC”) in favor of a worker-friendly standard that may upend the existing independent contractor labor market.

In particular, the Court embraced a standard presuming that all workers are employees instead of contractors, and placed the burden on any entity classifying an individual as an independent contractor of establishing that such classification is proper under the newly adopted “ABC test” which will be discussed in further detail below.
Continue Reading The Dynamex Decision: The California Supreme Court Restricts Use of Independent Contractors

In December 2017, the California Court of Appeal published a decision confirming obesity is a protected disability in California if it has a physiological cause.

In Cornell v. Berkeley Tennis Club, 18 Cal. App. 5th 908 (2017), Plaintiff was a woman diagnosed as severely obese, weighing over 350 pounds, at five feet five inches tall. Plaintiff began working for Defendant the Berkeley Tennis Club in 1997. Over the course of her employment, Plaintiff worked as a lifeguard, pool manager, and night manager. During her employment, Plaintiff received positive reviews, merit bonuses, and raises.
Continue Reading Obese Employees May Be Protected Under FEHA

The Senate voted yesterday to begin formal negotiations with the House of Representatives to reconcile their two versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a bill that seeks to make sweeping changes to federal tax law. Republicans are racing to enact a final bill before Christmas. Under both versions of the bill, tax-exempt organizations would face new burdens and taxes in order to pay for tax cuts elsewhere. In particular, the proposed changes would:

  1. make it harder for larger tax-exempt organizations to attract and retain top talent, by imposing a new 20% tax on annual compensation of over $1 million per year paid to any of their top 5 highest paid employees (including certain severance payments);
  2. reduce revenues, by eliminating certain tax incentives to make charitable donations;
  3. eliminate critical low-cost financing for hospitals and universities from tax-exempt bonds;
  4. make certain employee benefits more expensive, by taxing organizations that pay certain fringe benefits and taxing employees on certain employer-provided education and tuition assistance; and
  5. add new pressures on Section 501(c)(3) organizations to support or oppose political candidates, by loosening the current absolute prohibition against political activity.


Continue Reading Tax Reform: Nonprofits and their Executives Brace for Impact

On August 31, 2017, Judge Amos Mazzant in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas issued an order granting a group of twenty-one states’ and fifty-five business associations’ motion for summary judgment in consolidated cases seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against a May 23, 2016 Department of Labor rule drastically increasing the minimum salary an employee must earn to qualify for the most common exemptions from the federal overtime laws. The rule was originally scheduled to go into effect on December 1, 2016 and would have increased the minimum salary an employee must earn to qualify for the administrative, executive or professional exemption from federal overtime requirements from $455 per week ($23,660 annually) to $913 per week ($47,476 annually). The rule also would have provided for automatic increases to the minimum salary level every three years. Judge Mazzant had issued a nationwide preliminary injunction on November 22, 2016 delaying implementation of the Department of Labor’s new minimum salary rule, finding that it was likely unlawful and would cause irreparable harm to the plaintiff states and business groups. Judge Mazzant’s August 31, 2017 order confirms the findings in the November 22, 2016 preliminary injunction and represents a final decision at the district court level that the Department of Labor’s May 23, 2016 minimum salary rule is illegal and void.
Continue Reading Federal Court Strikes Down Department of Labor’s Overtime Rule