Employment Law Blog

Filter:  Arias v. Superior Court

Civil Actions Under the Private Attorneys General Act

Under the Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”), an aggrieved employee may bring a civil action personally and on behalf of other current or former employees and the State of California to recover civil penalties for Labor Code violations. Iskanian v. CLS Transp. Los Angeles, LLC (2014) 59 Cal.4th 348, 380. Seventy-five percent of any PAGA penalties go to the Labor & Workforce Development Agency (“LWDA”), leaving the remaining 25 percent for the employees. Id.; see also ZB, N.A. v. Superior Court (2019) 8 Cal.5th 175, 275. PAGA is intended to augment the limited enforcement capability of LWDA by empowering employees to enforce the Labor Code as representatives of the Agency. Id. at p. 383. A judgment in a PAGA action binds all those who would be bound by a judgment in an action brought by the government. Id. at 381.

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Awarding Attorneys Fees in PAGA Actions

Under PAGA, an aggrieved employee may bring a civil action personally and on behalf of other current or former employees and the state of California to recover civil penalties for Labor Code violations. Iskanian v. CLS Transp. Los Angeles, LLC (2014) 59 Cal.4th 348, 380. Seventy-five percent of any PAGA penalties go to the LWDA, leaving the remaining 25 percent for the employees. Id. PAGA is intended to augment the limited enforcement capability of by empowering employees to enforce the Labor Code as representatives of the Agency. Id. at p. 383. A judgment in a PAGA action binds all those who would be bound by a judgment in an action brought by the government. Id. at 381.

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California Law: Class Action Suits & Missed Meal/Rest/Break Periods

Labor Code §§ 226.7 and 512 and the applicable wage orders require an employer to authorize and permit meal and rest periods to their employees. California law prohibits employers from employing an employee for more than five hours without a meal period of at least 30 minutes. “[A]n employer’s obligation is to provide an off-duty meal period: an uninterrupted 30–minute period during which the employee is relieved of all duty.” Brinker Rest. Corp. v. Super. Ct., 53 Cal. 4th 1004, 1035 (2012). “An employer must relieve the employee of all duty for the designated period.” Id. at 1034. An employer cannot “impede or discourage [employees] from [taking off-duty rest periods].” Id. at 1040. Section 226.7 and applicable wage orders also require employers to authorize and permit employees to take 10-minute rest periods for each four hours or major fraction thereof of work, and to pay employees their full wages during their rest periods. “[A]s a general matter,” one rest break should fall on either side of the meal break.” Id. at 1032. Unless the employee is relieved of all duty during the 30-minute meal period and 10-minute rest period, the employee is considered “on duty” and the meal or rest period is counted as time worked under the applicable wage orders. Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc. (2016) 2 Cal.5th 257, 264.

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Penalties in California Wage & Hour Suits

California Labor Code § 510 requires employers to pay overtime compensation for hours worked over eight hours per day and 40 hours per week. An employer may avoid paying overtime for hours worked over eight per day by adopting a valid Alternative Workweek Schedule (“AWS”). The procedures for adopting a valid AWS are set forth in Labor Code § 511 and the relevant Industrial Welfare Commission (“IWC”) Wage Order No. 16 (California Code of Regulations, title 8, § 11160, subd. 3(B), 3(C)). Among other things, the law requires an employer to hold a secret ballot election regarding the AWS amongst its employees and to file the results of the election with the State. Prior to the election, the employer must issue a written notification to the affected employees, explaining the election process and the effects of the AWS on the employees’ work schedule and compensation.

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Overtime, Wage Violations, and Employer Obligations Regarding Disabilities

California Labor Code section 510 requires employers to pay overtime compensation for hours worked over 8 per day and 40 per week. An employer may avoid paying overtime for hours worked over 8 per day by adopting a valid Alternative Workweek Schedule. The procedures for adopting a valid AWS are set forth in Labor Code § 511 and the relevant Industrial Welfare Commission (“IWC”) Wage Order No. 4 at California Code of Regulations, title 8, § 11040, subd. 3(B). Among other things, the law requires an employer to hold a secret ballot election regarding the AWS amongst its employees and to file the results of the election with the State.

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Certification of a Class Under California Law

The California Supreme Court has identified three requirements for the certification of a class: (1) “the existence of an ascertainable and sufficiently numerous class”; (2) a well-defined community of interest”; and (3) “substantial benefits from certification that render proceeding as a class superior to the alternatives.” Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (Hohnbaum) (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004, 1021. The community of interest requirement in turn has three factors: (1) common questions of law or fact predominate over individual questions; (2) the class representatives have claims or defenses typical of the class; and (3) the class representatives can adequately represent the class. Id.

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California Wage and Hour Laws for Large Corporations

“Meal and rest periods have long been viewed as part of the remedial worker protection framework.” Murphy, infra. California law requires employers to authorize and permit rest breaks for every four hours of work or major fraction thereof. The California Supreme Court in Brinker, infra, explained that the “major fraction thereof” requirement means one break for a shift greater than 3.5 but less than 6 (“3.5>6”) hours long, two breaks for a shift greater than 6 but less than 8 (“6>8”) hours long, and three breaks for a shift greater than 10 but less than 12 (“10>12”) hours long.

California Labor Code section 226.7 prohibits employers from requiring its employees to work during any rest period mandated by the Industrial Welfare Commission (“IWC”) Wage Orders. “[I]n light of the remedial nature of the legislative enactments authorizing the regulation of wages, hours and working conditions for the protection and benefit of employees, the statutory provisions are to be liberally construed with an eye to promoting such protection.” Industrial Welfare Com. v. Superior Court, 27 Cal.3d 690, 702 (1980). “[T]he IWC’s wage orders are entitled to ‘extraordinary deference, both in upholding their validity and in enforcing their specific terms.’” Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal.4th 1004, 1027 (2012) (quoting Martinez v. Combs, 49 Cal.4th 35, 61 (2010)). Rest break requirements “have long been viewed as part of the remedial worker protection framework.” Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., 40 Cal.4th 1094, 1105 (2007).

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Determining Employment Status in California

“The California Supreme Court has developed a multi-factor test for determining employment status.” Ruiz v. Affinity Logistics Corp. (9th Cir. 2011) 667 F.3d 1318, 1324, quoting S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Dept. of Indust. Rel. (1989) 48 Cal.3d 341 (“Borello”).  “[U]nder California law, once a plaintiff comes forward with evidence that he provided services for an employer, the employee has established a prima facie case that the relationship was one of employer/employee.” Narayan v. EGL, Inc. (9th Cir. 2010) 616 F.3d 895, 900, citing Robinson v. George, (1940) 16 Cal.2d 238, 243-244. “Once the employee establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer, which may prove, if it can, that the presumed employee was an independent contractor.” Id. (citation omitted).
Under California law, primary test of an employment relationship is whether “the person to whom service is rendered has the right to control the manner and means of accomplishing the result desired….” Borello, supra, at 350. While the right to control work details is the most important factor, there are also “’secondary’ indicia of the nature of a service arrangement.” Id. These secondary factors, principally derived from the Rest.2d Agency, include

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