• Posts by Ronald Novotny
    Of Counsel

    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 ...

In a case of first impression, the California Supreme Court recently decided that an employee cannot sue a payroll company for failing to include the legally required information on the employee’s earnings statements.  The Court held that because a payroll company’s obligations are solely to the employer, an employee cannot claim that they are a third‑party beneficiary of the employer’s contract for payroll services, and cannot maintain a claim for breach of that contract against the payroll provider. (Goonewardene v. ADP, No. S238941, February 7, 2019)

On September 25, 2018, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the claims of potentially hundreds of thousands of Uber drivers for misclassification as independent contractors cannot proceed as a class action.  (O’Connor v. Uber Technologies, Ninth Circuit Case No. 16-15595.)  In this case, the drivers signed arbitration agreements containing class action waivers, which the Ninth Circuit initially refused to enforce based on the state of the law at the time.  However, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Epic Systems (Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, ––– U.S. ––––, 138 S.Ct. 1612, 200 L.Ed.2d 889 (2018)) which issued in June, the appellate court held that the waivers must be enforced and that the case cannot proceed as a class action.  The court ordered that the arbitration agreements be enforced so that the arbitrations proceed on an individual basis. 

In a decision issued by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on September 10, 2018, the court rejected a challenge based on federal preemption grounds to the California Labor Commissioner’s use of the Borello standard for determining independent contractor status. The challenge was made based on the motor carrier provisions of the Federal Aviation and Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (“FAAAA”), 49 U.S.C. § 14501, et seq., which prohibit states from enacting or enforcing laws or regulations that relate to “a price, route or service of a motor carrier . . . with respect to the transportation of property.”

What kinds of provisions in arbitration agreements will cause the courts to invalidate them?  The Court of Appeal in the recent case of Baxter v. Genworth North America Corporation analyzed and rejected several of them, in upholding the denial of a motion to compel arbitration of an employee’s wrongful termination and discrimination claims.  Baxter v. Genworth North America (October 26, 2017 ...

When can an employer be liable for failing to prevent a sexual assault or rape of an employee?  The California Court of Appeal in the recent case of M.F. v. Pacific Pearl Hotel Management, LLC (D070150, FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT, DIVISION ONE, 10/26/17), helped provide some answers to this question.

The plaintiff in the case worked as a housekeeper in a five-building hotel property.  One morning, the hotel’s ...

One problem that employers frequently confront when seeking to compel arbitration of employee claims is the employee’s failure to have signed the arbitration agreement.  In the recent case of Harris v. TAP Worldwide, LLC, however, a California appellate court held that this is not an impediment to the enforcement of such an agreement when the employer takes measures to verify that the employee has received ...

The state and federal courts in California continue to closely scrutinize employment arbitration agreements even though they remain a favored means of resolving disputes.  This was evident in the recent case of Ashbey v. Archstone Property Management, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that an employee effectively waived his right to a judicial forum for his Title VII claim and ...

On September 2, 2014, a California appellate court upheld an order requiring a college math professor to undergo a “fitness for duty examination” (“FFD”) based on behavior that his colleagues considered erratic and threatening in nature.  The court also rebuffed the efforts of the professor’s attorneys to interject themselves into the workplace dispute by placing conditions on the FFD.  The ...

On July 14, 2014, the California Supreme Court ruled that commission payments made in one pay period may not be used in another pay period to satisfy minimum payment requirements under the California commissioned employee exemption. Peabody v. Time Warner Cable, Inc. (California Supreme Court).

On July 21, 2014, a California appellate court ordered a real estate agent of a brokerage firm to arbitrate his claim that he was improperly classified as an independent contractor and not an employee.  Galen v. Redfin Corporation. The court held that the Scott Galen’s claims for unpaid overtime, missed meal and rest periods, inaccurate and untimely wage statements, waiting time penalties, and ...

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