Posts in Labor and Employment.

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.

As has been widely reported, companies throughout the country are facing pandemic-related labor shortages, including because of workers’ childcare obligations, concerns about returning to in-person work, and the continuation of unemployment benefits.  Employers attempting to address this labor shortage are offering hiring bonuses, increasing wages, and improving benefits and flexibility.  It also appears they are hiring teenagers to fill these vacancies, which coincides with the general uptick in youth employment between April and July each year.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”), the unemployment rate among teenagers this month stands at 12.3% and is anticipated to fall further, providing a stark contrast to teen unemployment last summer.  (In July 2020, the unemployment rate for 16 to 24 year olds was 18.5%, about twice as high as the year before, according to the BLS.)

One of the many downsides to the current pandemic is that so many people have exhausted their family leave taking care of themselves as well as sick family members.  The non-COVID-19-related issues of families have not gone away, however.  Who is taking parents to chemo treatments?  Who is taking spouses to physical therapy?  How do employees and employers deal with these issues?  If family leave is no longer an option, employees may turn to associational discrimination and reasonable accommodation of associational discrimination if they are denied time off to take care of family members.

On May 3, 2021, the California Department of Public Health issued guidance that fully vaccinated people do not need to quarantine if they are asymptomatic. COVID-19 Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People.  On May 7, 2021, Cal/OSHA followed this lead and updated its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards FAQs to reflect the change as follows:

On April 7, 2021, the Department of Labor (DOL) published new model COBRA notice forms as a result of the recent COBRA subsidy program created by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

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).

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. 

 In a 7-2 decision authored by Justice Alito, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the ministerial exception set forth in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, 565 U.S. 171 (2012).  (Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, Case Nos. 19-267 and 19-348 (July 8, 2020)(“OLG”)).

On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a landmark opinion for the LGBTQ community and civil rights, holding employees are protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”).  Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia (17–1618, June 15, 2020).

Beginning July 1, 2020, California’s family temporary disability insurance program, also known as the paid family leave program (“PFL”), will provide partial wage replacement benefits for up to eight weeks in any 12-month period, which is an increase from the maximum of six weeks presently available.  The benefits are available for employee who take time off to bond with a minor child within one year of the birth or placement of the child in connection with foster care or adoption.  For purposes of new child bonding, California touts the expanded leave benefit as providing each family with a total of four months of PFL – two months per parent.

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