To close out the 2019 legislative season, Governor Gavin Newsom signed dozens of bills into law, which will have lasting impacts for California employers. In addition to the summaries and clarifications from prior blog posts, below is an overview of key new employment laws.
Continue Reading 2020 Vision: California’s New Employment Laws

After years of uncertainty, on September 24, 2019, the Department of Labor released a Final Rule making changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) overtime regulations.

BACKGROUND

Since 2004, there had been no significant changes in the overtime salary thresholds under the FLSA. In 2016, the Obama administration attempted to make significant increases to the salary thresholds. Those proposed changes came to a halt when a federal judge in the Eastern District of Texas, granted a preliminary injunction, and ultimately invalidated the rule. Now, several years later, the DOL’s Final Rule provides employers with much more certainty as to their obligations under the FLSA.
Continue Reading It’s Here: The DOL’s Final Overtime Rule has Been Released

On September 18 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB-5, which codified the California Supreme Court’s Dynamex v. Superior Court decision.  In Dynamex, the California Supreme Court adopted the so-called “ABC” test to determine coverage under the Industrial Welfare Commission (“IWC”) Wage Orders.  AB-5 expands the application of the ABC test to the entire California Labor Code and will take effect on January 1, 2020.
Continue Reading It’s Official: Newsom Expands The Definition of “Employee” Under California Law

On September 5, 2019, the Washington Supreme Court issued a huge win for all non-agricultural employers who pay commission or piece-rate pay to their employees in Washington state. In a 6-3 decision, the Washington Supreme Court held in Sampson v. Knight Transportation (No. 96264-2) that a non-agricultural piece-rate employer complies with the Washington Minimum Wage Act when an employee’s total earnings in given workweek divided by the employee’s total hours worked in the same workweek exceeds the applicable minimum wage rate. While this conclusion may seem obvious, the Washington Supreme Court in 2018 rejected the same workweek averaging method for agricultural workers. Carranza v. Dovex Fruit Co., 190 Wn. 2d 612 (2018) held that the Washington Minimum Wage Act (“MWA”) requires agricultural workers earning piece-rate pay to be separately compensated on an hourly basis for all “activities outside of piece-rate [] work.” The question in Sampson was whether the holding in Carranza should be extended to non-agricultural piece-rate employers. Relying on a regulation promulgated over 40 years ago by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (“DLI”), the Washington Supreme Court held that Carranza’s separate compensation rule is confined to the narrow context of agricultural employment.
Continue Reading Peace for Piece-Rate Employers in Washington

Following the launch of the so-called “MeToo” movement, the California Legislature (controlled by a Democratic supermajority) has aggressively churned out new bills that further strengthen the ability for workers to sue their employers and increase the already-significant regulatory burden on these companies. This fall, the California Legislature is geared to send three significant bills to Governor Gavin Newsom that all California employers should carefully follow.
Continue Reading Three Major Workplace Bills to Land on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Desk

On June 4, 2019, the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District issued an unpublished opinion in Krista Townley v. BJ’s Restaurants, Inc. holding that BJ’s Restaurants was not required to reimburse its employees for the cost of black, slip-resistant, closed-toe shoes that BJ’s required its restaurant employees to wear. Due to the lack of California case law addressing the issue, BJ’s requested the opinion be published in the Official Reports. On July 5, 2019, the Court of Appeal granted BJ’s request and ordered the opinion certified for publication. This is the first published opinion in California to adopt the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement’s (“DLSE”) interpretation of a “uniform” and to hold that an employer is not required to reimburse employees for the cost of “non-uniform” work clothing. Matthew Sonne and Jason Guyser of Sheppard Mullin represented BJ’s Restaurants in this matter.
Continue Reading Employers Can Now Stand Firmly On Not Paying Employees For The Cost Of Slip-Resistant Shoes

Many California employees received a raise on January 1, 2019 when the state increased the minimum wage to $12 per hour for large employers (26 employees or more) and $11 per hour for small employers (25 employees or fewer). Effective July 1, 2019, several counties and municipalities in California are adding to these minimum wage increases. The amount of the increase varies by city and county, and some local governments make a distinction between large and small employers. Hotel workers in places like Long Beach, the County and City of Los Angeles, and Oakland are entitled to wages significantly higher than the minimum wage for other types of employees. The following chart summarizes these changes.
Continue Reading July 1, 2019 Minimum Wage Increases in California Counties and Municipalities

Signaling another positive development for interstate motor carriers operating in California, the United States District Court for the Central District of California (the “Central District”) recently dismissed a truck driver’s claims that motor carrier U.S. Xpress failed to provide a class of drivers with legally required meal and rest periods compliant with California law. See, Ayala v. U.S. Express Enters., Inc. et al. Case No. 5:16-cv-00137-GW-(KKx) (Order Granting Partial Summary Judgment). The Court, in granting U.S. Xpress’s motion for partial summary judgment, stated that it did not possess the authority to review the merits of the case since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) determined, in December 2018, that Federal law preempts California state law. The Central District applied the FMCSA’s order retroactively to the Ayala case, filed in 2016, stating that it was bound by the FMCSA order and would apply the order in similar cases unless and until the order was invalidated by the Ninth Circuit.
Continue Reading California’s Meal and Rest Break Rules for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Remain Preempted by Federal Law . . . For Now

Last year, the California Supreme Court decided Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, a landmark decision that dramatically increased the risk of misclassifying individuals as independent contractors. As previously reported, although Dynamex replaced the longstanding Borello standard with the “ABC” test, it also left two critical questions unaddressed. First, Dynamex did not address whether the ABC test applies retroactively. Second, Dynamex did not decide whether its scope was limited to coverage under the Industrial Wage Commission’s (“IWC”) Wage Orders or if its holding generally applied to the Labor Code as a whole. In the last five days, both questions have been answered.

On May 2, 2019, the Ninth Circuit found that Dynamex applies retroactively under California law in Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising International, Inc., the most notable decision to date regarding Dynamex’s retroactivity. Shortly thereafter, on May 3, 2019, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”), California’s wage and hour enforcement agency, issued a letter opining the ABC test applies to both the IWC Wage Orders and any Labor Code provisions that enforce requirements set forth in the Wage Orders. Although neither the Ninth Circuit nor the DLSE can authoritatively interpret California law, these developments indicate that Dynamex’s scope—which governs hundreds of thousands of independent contractor relationships throughout the state—has continued to expand its already extensive reach.
Continue Reading The Future of Independent Contractors: Ninth Circuit Applies Dynamex Retroactively and the DLSE Issues Opinion Letter Expanding Its Scope

On March 27, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, an act designed to amend and strengthen the existing federal Equal Pay Act (“EPA”), 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). The Paycheck Fairness Act, which passed the House by a vote of 242-187 on a largely party-line basis, is sponsored by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and would make sweeping changes to existing law.
Continue Reading Equal Pay Act Amendment Passes House of Representatives