• Posts by Ronald Novotny
    Posts by Ronald Novotny
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    Ronald Novotny has been representing employers in labor and employment matters in federal and state courts and administrative agencies in California since 1981. He has extensive experience involving union and employer unfair ...

California Supreme Court Issues Groundbreaking Decision Applying Prevailing Wages to Non-Construction Work for Sanitation District

On March 29, 2021, the California Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling involving the State’s prevailing wage law, holding for the first time that the law’s requirements could be applied to employees who performed work for a private employer under a contract with a sanitation district.  (Kaanaana v. B. Bus. Servs., Inc., No. S253458, 2021 WL 1166963 (Cal. Mar. 29, 2021))  Prior to this decision, the law had generally been interpreted to apply only to construction work pursuant to a contract entered into with a public entity.

Categories: Prevailing Wage
Ninth Circuit Issues Important Decision on Per Diem Pay 

On February 8, 2021, the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision clarifying the circumstances under which a per diem benefit must be included in the regular rate of pay for overtime purposes under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The court held that since per diem benefits functioned as compensation for work rather than as reimbursement for expenses incurred by traveling healthcare clinicians, they were improperly excluded from the clinicians’ regular rates of pay for purposes of calculating overtime pay under federal law. Clarke v. AMN Servs., LLC (9th Cir., 2021) No. 19-55784, 2021 WL 419473.

Categories: Wage & Hour
Employer’s Delay is Fatal to Enforcement of Arbitration Agreement

On January 4, 2021, a California appellate court held an employer waived its right to enforce an arbitration agreement against a truck driver who filed a wage and hour class action against it, by waiting almost twenty months after the case was filed to make an arbitration demand.  The court held that the delay was unjustified because the employer’s conduct in defending the case in court for that period of time was inconsistent with its right to arbitrate and because such delay prejudiced the employee’s ability to use the benefits and efficiencies of arbitration. Garcia v. Haralambos Beverage Co., No. B296923, 2021 WL 22015 (Cal. Ct. App. Jan. 4, 2021).

Recently, a California Court of Appeal held that crew members on a ship that provided maintenance services to offshore oil platforms were governed by California’s wage payment laws.  The decision, in the case of Gulf Offshore Logistics v. Superior Court, held that the State’s laws applied to such employees because California served as the basis for their operations, even though they resided in other states and their employer was located in Louisiana.  Gulf Offshore Logistics, LLC v. Superior Court of Ventura Cty., WL 7137048 (Cal. Ct. App. Dec. 7, 2020).

Categories: Wage & Hour

The City of Long Beach, California enacted a new supplemental paid sick leave ordinance on May 19, 2020, which is effective immediately.  The ordinance applies to employers with 500 or more employees nationally and excludes those who are required to provide paid sick leave benefits under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. 

In Anthony v. TRAX International Corp. (April 17, 2020, Case No. 18-15662), the Ninth Circuit held the limitation of using after-acquired evidence to merely mitigate damages did not extend to evidence used to show that an Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) plaintiff is not a qualified individual, an element of a prima facie case of disability discrimination.

EEOC Issues Guidance on Employers' Responses to the Coronavirus Pandemic

On March 19, 2020, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance for employers on responding to legal concerns under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) arising out the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.  The guidance, What You Should Know About the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and COVID-19, addresses common employer concerns about what medical inquiries an employer can make, when it can ask employees to leave the workplace based on such concerns, and under what circumstances an employer can ask for a doctor’s release from such employees before allowing them to return.  Among the key components of the guidance are the following:

Tags: EEOC
Keep On Truckin’—California State Court Judge Finds ABC Test Does Not Apply to Owner-Operators; Federal Court Extends TRO In Favor of California Trucking Association

On January 8, a trial court judge in Los Angeles issued an order finding the ABC Test—now used to determine independent contractor status in California—could not be applied to independent contractor truck drivers (“owner-operators”) due to federal pre-emption concerns.  While the decision represents a major victory for trucking companies, it will be subject to challenge.

California Supreme Court Rejects Conversion Claim for Unpaid Wages

Can an employee sue his employer for unpaid wages by claiming that his employer and its principals “converted” his personal property to their own use, and that the principals are individually liable for the employer’s conduct? No, held the California Supreme Court in the recent case of Voris v. Lampert, (Cal S Court Case No. S241812), issued on August 15, 2019. 

Unpaid Wage Claim Held not Preempted by Union Contract

In Melendez v. San Francisco Baseball Associates LLC (2019) S245607, the California Supreme Court recently held that a security guard’s state law claim for unpaid wages and “waiting time” penalties could proceed over his employer’s objections that they had to be resolved under his union’s agreement.  Because the employee’s claim was founded on a right existing in state law, and not the agreement, he was permitted to proceed with his claim in court even though the agreement was relevant to the claim and would have to be “consulted” and determining it.

George Melendez worked as a security guard at AT&T Park in San Francisco, and filed a lawsuit when he was not paid his final wages immediately after the end of each San Francisco Giant’s home stand, concert, or other event at the stadium that he worked at.  He primarily claimed that the Giants’ failure to pay him wages due at the time of termination entitled him to “waiting time” penalties of up to 30 days’ additional pay after the completion of each assignment.  He principally relied on a 2006 Supreme Court Case, Smith v. Superior Court (2006) 39 Cal.4th 77, which held that a hair dresser who was hired to work for only a single day was required to be paid at the end of that job. 

The Giants argued that there were numerous provisions in its collective bargaining agreement with the Service Employees International Union, Melendez’s collective bargaining representative, which showed that security guards were employed on a continuous year-round basis and were not terminated after single job assignments. These included provisions that classified employees based on the number of hours worked per year, provided for probationary period of 500 hours of work, and required drug screening for new hires. Because of these provisions, the Giants argued that Melendez’s claim was preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act,  because it required “interpretation and application” of the union agreement.

Relying on past cases, including the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s 2000 decision in Balcorta v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. (9th Cir. 2000) 208 F.3d 1102, the Supreme Court rejected the Giants’ federal preemption defense.  The Court stated that not every claim that requires resort to the language in a labor-management agreement is necessarily preempted, and that this is particularly the case when the meaning of the contract is not in dispute.  The case at hand did not involve a dispute over the terms of the agreement that required a court to interpret them, and preemption could not be found based only on the fact that interpretation of the contract terms was required to determine the validity of the employer’s defense. Instead, because the legal character of the claim relied on a state law right that was not substantially dependent on the contract’s terms, the employee was permitted to proceed in court with his unpaid wages and waiting time penalty claim.

The Melendez case confirms the important principle that unless a claim under a statutory law is expressly made the subject of an agreement to arbitrate under a union agreement, or is clearly and unmistakably provided for in the arbitration clause of the agreement, such a claim may proceed even though the employer’s factual and legal defenses to the claim are based on the provisions of the agreement.

Clients with questions regarding this case or arbitration and grievance procedures in collective bargaining agreements may contact the author or their usual labor law counsel at Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo.

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