• Posts by Amber Healy
    Posts by Amber Healy
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    Amber Healy has extensive experience litigating class actions and complex matters in state and federal courts throughout California. Her practice focuses on the defense of employers and management in class action ...

Seventeen years ago, in 2004, the California Legislature enacted the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”).  Appropriately dubbed a “bounty hunter” law, PAGA authorizes any current or former “aggrieved” employee of a California employer to file suit to seek statutory penalties for essentially any violation of the California Labor Code together with attorney’s fees, hence the incentive for plaintiff attorneys to bring such cases.  Specifically, under PAGA a current or former employee who is “aggrieved” by a violation of the California Labor Code can seek in addition to damages and liquidated damages, civil penalties on the employee’s behalf and on behalf of all other similarly “aggrieved” (i.e., affected) current and former employees.  The recoverable civil penalties are up to $100 per employee per pay period for an initial violation and $200 per employee per pay period for each subsequent violation, plus attorney’s fees and litigation costs.  When such penalties are awarded, the plaintiff current or former employee along with all other similar “aggrieved” employee will receive 25% of the penalties together with their attorney’s fees as a “bounty,” with the balance of the penalties payable to a State agency known as the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency.  Click Here to read entire post.

In Magadia v. Wal-mart Associates, Inc., et al., No. 19-16184, 2021 WL 2176584 (9th Cir. May 28, 2021), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the district court’s award of $102 million to an employee who sued the company alleging that he and other employees did not receive compliant wage statements or meal periods.  Unlike the district court, the Ninth Circuit found that the former employee who sued Walmart had suffered no meal period violations, and thus the employee had no standing to sue on behalf of others.  The Ninth Circuit also held that the district court incorrectly concluded Walmart’s wage statements did not comply with California law.

Categories: Litigation, PAGA
President Biden’s Administration Halts Department of Labor’s Final Rule for Worker Classification

On January 6, 2021, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced the new final rule for worker classifications called the “economic reality” test. The new DOL final rule provided that two core factors were to be examined to determine whether a worker is properly classified as an independent contractor under federal law: (1) the nature and degree of control over the work; and (2) the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss based on initiative and/or investment. As previously discussed here, these requirements are much less stringent than the “ABC” test adopted by California, which requires that the worker perform work outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business and that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established business of the same nature.

Categories: Wage & Hour
Ninth Circuit Upholds Victory for Trucking Industry: California Meal and Rest Break Rules Preempted by Federal Law as to Commercial Drivers

In a welcome surprise to the trucking industry, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on January 15, 2021, upheld the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (“FMCSA”) December 2018 determination that California’s meal and rest break rules (“MRB rules”) are preempted by federal law and do not apply to commercial truck drivers engaged in interstate commerce.  California’s strict meal and rest break laws require more breaks, more often, and with less flexibility as to timing than the federal hours-of-service regulations do for commercial drivers.  The decision is a welcome reprieve for the trucking industry which has faced a fair share of wage and hour battles in California over the last decade.

Categories: Court Ruling

The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) just announced a “final rule” setting forth the standard for worker classifications – employee versus independent contractor – under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  The FLSA establishes federal minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards for the public and private sectors.  All employers in the United States must abide by the FLSA; however, many states, including California, set forth more stringent requirements for worker classifications. 

Employers Must Ensure Unlimited Vacation Policies Are Truly Unlimited Otherwise They May Be On The Hook To Pay Out Vacation When Employment Ends

Do employers have to pay out unlimited vacation time to an employee when employment ends?  According to the California Court of Appeal Second Appellate District, when an employer’s unlimited vacation policy is not truly unlimited, they must pay out unused vacation time upon termination.  (McPherson v. EF Intercultural Foundation, Inc., Case No. B290869 (Apr. 1, 2020)).

On May 29, Assembly Bill (AB) 5 passed the California State Assembly, moving Californians one step closer to full implementation of a new test for independent contractor classification. AB5, which was introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, seeks to codify the California Supreme Court’s April 2018 Dynamex decision, which established the “ABC test” to determine classification of workers as employees or independent contractors.

Since its introduction in December 2018, AB5 has undergone several revisions.  Most significantly, the bill would confirm that the ABC test will be used in making worker classification decisions under California’s Wage Orders, Labor Code, and Unemployment Insurance Code.  Also important is a set of carve-outs that appeared in the most recent iteration of the bill: the ABC test would not apply to doctors, dentists, lawyers, architects, accountants, engineers, insurance agents, investment advisers, direct sellers, real estate agents, hairstylists and barbers renting booths at salons, some marketers, and human resources professionals. 

The California Chamber of Commerce and the “I’m Independent” Coalition are seeking to make additional exemptions to AB5, including carve-outs for short-term projects, business-to-business contracts, and others.

AB5 will now move to the Senate, where it will be heard in Senate Labor Committee in late June 2019.

Guidance for Employers

Though AB5 has not yet been passed into law, California businesses using independent contractors should consult with employment counsel concerning classification of contractors under the Dynamex ABC test.  The authors of this article welcome any questions on the legislation or the ABC test, and are following developments in the law closely. 

For more information and updates about Dynamex and its implications, employers can read our prior Alert on Dynamex here and register for the Firm’s complimentary webinar on this topic here.

California Court of Appeal Confirms (Again) That Claims Brought Under the Private Attorneys General Act Cannot Be Arbitrated

Representative claims brought under the California Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”), Labor Code § 2699 et seq., will remain before the court for the foreseeable future. In a recent case, Correia v. NB Baker Electric, Inc., the California Court of Appeal again confirmed that employers cannot compel employees to arbitrate their PAGA claims, no matter the existence of an arbitration agreement, without some evidence that the State of California consented to the employee’s waiver of the right to bring the PAGA claim in court.

Tags: PAGA
DOL New Overtime Pay Rule for FLSA Exemptions – Splitting the Difference

On Thursday March 7, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) published its new overtime pay regulation, which raises the minimum salary threshold to $35,308 per year for an employee to qualify for the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (“FLSA”) “executive, administrative, or professional” exemption from federal overtime and minimum wage laws (commonly referred to as the “white collar exemption”).  The FLSA exempts from both minimum wage and overtime requirements “any employee employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity.”  29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1).  When enacting the FLSA, Congress did not define the terms “bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity” and instead delegated the power to define and delimit these terms to the Secretary of Labor through regulations, which the Secretary of Labor delegated to the DOL.

Parsing Piece Rate: California Appellate Court Validates Certified Tire’s Compensation System

California’s Fourth Appellate District, Division One, recently upheld a trial court judgment in favor of Certified Tire and Service Centers (“Certified Tire”), finding the company’s compensation system for its tire technicians complied with California’s wage and hour laws.

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