Posts in Litigation.

Often it is said that “the best result in mediation is the one that makes everyone equally unhappy.”  Even so, experience proves that the party who usually comes out best in mediation is the one who is most prepared.  This article provides some common sense, practical tips to help with that preparation.

Mediation has become an essential part of litigation because the risks of going to trial are so considerable.  A defendant that cannot resolve a case before trial runs the risk of a court or jury awarding substantial damages to the plaintiff.  If the plaintiff recovers anything at all, the defendant also may have to pay the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees and costs.  Even when defendants win (and they do), the fees they pay to their own counsel to secure a defense win are substantial.  Plaintiffs also are at risk.  While many plaintiffs may have contingent fee arrangements with their own counsel, a losing plaintiff likely will be on the hook for significant hard costs incurred in litigation by their own counsel.  Even worse, they can be responsible for the defendant’s legal costs, and on rare occasions, attorneys’ fees.

Categories: Litigation
Tags: Mediation

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) permits background checks for employment purposes, so long as employers obtain authorization from and provide the appropriate “stand-alone” disclosure to the applicant or employee regarding the background check, among other requirements. Willful violations of the FCRA’s stand-alone disclosure requirement can lead to recovery of statutory damages ranging from $100 to $1,000 per violation. Thus, a central issue in FCRA cases is whether the employer’s violation is “willful,” which requires a showing that the defendant’s conduct was “intentional” or “reckless.” 

Categories: Litigation
California’s SB 331: New Restrictions on Employee Separation Agreements and Non-Disparagement and Confidentiality Provisions

On October 7, 2021, Governor Newsom signed SB 331 to place additional restrictions on employers offering severance agreements and settling employment claims alleging harassment, discrimination or retaliation based on purported violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). The new law, which is effective January 1, 2022, expands California’s current legal restrictions under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1001. Currently, CCP section 1001 prohibits various confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses in settlement agreements, specifically those that would prevent disclosure of factual information relating to claims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, workplace harassment or discrimination based on sex, or retaliation against a person for reporting such acts.

The Buck Stops Where?  Personal Liability in Wage and Hour Litigation in California 

Even seemingly minor wage and hour violations present a very real threat of crippling or potentially ruinous liability for California’s employers when assessed in class and Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) representative action lawsuits. To make matters worse, plaintiffs are increasingly targeting individual owners and agents in addition to their corporate employer, which begs the question: When can individuals be held personally liable in wage and hour lawsuits? 

Categories: Litigation, PAGA

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

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.

During COVID-19 Pandemic EEOC Has Paused Issuance of Right-To-Sue Notices

In yet another forum, the novel coronavirus pandemic has disrupted “business as usual.”  The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) confirmed Tuesday that it has largely paused its issuance of key notices that start the clock for workers to sue their employers for discrimination. 

Categories: Litigation
Tags: EEOC
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)).

Supreme Court Denies Plaintiffs the Ability to Seek Recovery of Unpaid Wages Under PAGA

On September 12, 2019, the California Supreme Court decided in a unanimous decision that in a Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) action seeking to recover penalties under California Labor Code Section 558, a plaintiff may recover civil penalties but may not recover actual unpaid wages. This is an important decision, which now clearly prevents a plaintiff from seeking both statutory penalties and wages under PAGA (as is often argued by the plaintiff). The high court did, however, reinforce that actions seeking statutory penalties under PAGA cannot be compelled to arbitration.

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