Posts in Wage & Hour.
Department of Labor Rescinds Independent Contractor and Joint Employer Rules from Previous Administration

On March 11, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor announced plans to rescind two final rules which were promulgated under the prior administration: (1) the Independent Contractor Rule, which sets forth the standard under which a worker may be considered an independent contractor or employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); and (2) the Joint Employer Rule, which provides guidance for determining joint employer status when an employee performs work for his or her employer that simultaneously benefits another individual or entity.

Categories: DOL, Wage & Hour
President Biden’s Administration Halts Department of Labor’s Final Rule for Worker Classification

On January 6, 2021, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced the new final rule for worker classifications called the “economic reality” test. The new DOL final rule provided that two core factors were to be examined to determine whether a worker is properly classified as an independent contractor under federal law: (1) the nature and degree of control over the work; and (2) the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss based on initiative and/or investment. As previously discussed here, these requirements are much less stringent than the “ABC” test adopted by California, which requires that the worker perform work outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business and that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established business of the same nature.

Categories: Wage & Hour
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

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. 

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
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.

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.

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)

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