Posts in Labor/Employment.
California Department of Fair Employment and Housing Issues New Guidance on Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training

In light of recent amendments to SB 1343, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) issued an updated FAQ which sheds light on areas of ambiguity for employers regarding sexual harassment prevention training.   

As the end of the year descends upon us, it is time for workplaces to have their December gatherings, and like everything else in the employment setting these days, employers must be on their guard to not create situations that could lead to potential legal liabilities.  The following is a quick reminder of considerations for holiday parties.

Raising the Bar: DOL Increases Salary Threshold for Federal White Collar Exemptions

On September 24, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a final rule modifying the earnings thresholds necessary to exempt executive, administrative and professional employees from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime pay requirements. The rule also allows employers to count a portion of certain bonuses/commissions towards meeting the salary level. The thresholds were last updated in 2004, though the DOL briefly adopted more significant changes—which never took effect—in 2015.

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.

On January 1, 2018, the California Legislature enacted the New Parent Leave Act (“NPLA”). The NPLA expanded baby-bonding benefits to employees of smaller employers (20-49 employees), a benefit that had been previously available only to employees of larger employers (50 or more employees) under the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”).

New Posting Requirement

Along with this expansion comes a new poster that discusses the NPLA, CFRA, and Pregnancy Disability Leave:

www.dfeh.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/32/2017/06/CFRA_PregnancyLeave_English.pdf 

All employers with 20 or more employees must display the poster.  The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) requires that the posters be placed where they can be easily seen by employees and applicants for employment.

In addition, if 10% or more of the employer’s workforce at any given location speaks a language other than English, the employer is required to post the notice in such other languages.  The DFEH published several translated versions of the poster at its website:

www.dfeh.ca.gov/resources/posters-and-brochures-and-fact-sheets/poster-and-brochure-tab-list/?target=posters

An employer must also incorporate a description of the NPLA in the next version of its employee handbook.

As an alternative to displaying multiple government-issued posters, some employers prefer to purchase and display an “all-in-one” poster from various sources.  Employers should review the posters to ensure they are up to date.

Medical Certification Form

The DFEH also recently updated the form that addresses the certification of a health care provider for leaves under the CFRA and the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”):

www.dfeh.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/32/2017/12/CFRA-Certification-Health-Care-Provider_ENG.pdf

Please contact the authors or your usual employment law counsel at AALRR if you have any questions regarding the DFEH, NPLA, CFRA, or other posting requirements.

California Courts Issue Twin Decisions Enforcing Arbitration Agreements

In two decisions issued within the last month, the California appellate courts broadened the circumstances under which agreements to arbitrate civil claims can be enforced. One court held that an employee effectively entered into an agreement by continuing to work for the company around the same time a claim was filed, while another held that an arbitration agreement applied to a claim even after a lawsuit was filed. The two cases clarified the availability of arbitration agreements to insulate employers from the prospect of jury trials in both such situations.

On April 10, 2019, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a detailed breakdown of workplace discrimination charges the agency received in fiscal year 2018, which ended on September 30, 2018.  The enforcement and litigation statistics are available on the EEOC website.

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.

California Supreme Court Prohibits Employee’s Lawsuit Against Payroll Provider for Inaccurate Pay Stubs

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)

Golden Years: California Rolls Out CalSavers Program to Boost Employee Retirement Savings

California announced the debut of its CalSavers program this month, designed to help employees save for retirement when their employers are not able to offer participation in another retirement program.

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