California Employment Law

Commentary on Issues Facing California Employers

The Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) is crazy making for California employers. In plain English, PAGA allows a Court to award a penalty for each pay period that includes a wage-and-hour violation.  It does not include the damages for the underlying violation, just the discretionary penalty, which starts at $100 per employee per pay period, and increases to $200, and even $250 (or in extreme cases of knowing violations, $1000). How does this craziness work you ask?  Let’s say an employee took a late meal break, but the system didn’t generate a meal premium (or the manager incorrectly removed it). …
Think back pre-Covid, the end of 2019, a law was set to take effect in California that banned mandatory arbitration, and imposed criminal penalties on employers for mandating arbitration.  This law (AB51) also prohibited the often used opt-out clauses, which actually are allowable under current California law and rebut procedural unconscionability under the Armendariz standard. AB51 was stopped at the last minute (by a temporary restraining order at year end 2019), then an injunction in January 2020 in the US District Court.  So mandatory arbitration remained legal.  Many felt this ruling was correct, that AB51 conflicted with…
As I’ve written about in prior blog posts, female entrepreneurship is on the rise globally.  Women increasingly drive creation and innovation, and female decision makers power economies around the world. My new podcast series—Legally EmpowHERed—spotlights the challenges and triumphs of women entrepreneurs. In each episode, I join forces with lawyers and founders to share the advice I’d give a close friend launching and growing a business. The conversations will run the gamut as we address the myriad of challenges female bosses face – everything from funding roadblocks to employment issues to formulating a winning brand strategy, and much more. In…
You can tell by the number of blog posts in your inbox that vaccine-related topics are all the rage right now.  We covered mandatory vaccination policies, exemptions, and the accommodation process already.  Today, I wanted to share an article by Stephanie Vozza at Fast Company that featured some of my advice on how to ask coworkers, employees and customers about their vaccination status. Here are some practical pointers, which are more fully detailed in the article: Different laws apply dependent on who is asking and who will be answering.  Check state laws as things are rapidly changing.…
As more and more employers are considering mandatory vaccination policies (especially post FDA approval), let’s not forget the importance of engaging in the interactive process with those workers who have a bona fide medical or religious reason to remain un-vaccinated. Keep in mind that failure to engage in the interactive process is a separate legal claim in California.  Therefore, part of any mandatory vaccination program for California must include a consistent process for assessing the needs of those seeking accommodation.  As many of my clients have grappled with this very issue (if only for a small percentage of their…
The LA City Council took a step closer to approving a widespread vaccine mandate.  The Council voted unanimously to direct the city attorney to draft an ordinance requiring customers to have at least one dose of the vaccine to be able to enter various indoor public spaces. The motion, which was introduced last week by Council President Nury Martinez and Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, applies to restaurants, bars, retail establishments, fitness centers, spas, and entertainment centers like stadiums, concert venues and movie theaters. The motion is similar to, but more expansive than, a recent New York City ordinance. However, the exact…
With the national vaccination rate at around 51% (fully-vaccinated) and the Delta variant wreaking havoc on our return to work plans, many clients are exploring mandatory vaccination policies. While a minority of private companies have adopted such policies (see the latest list here), some localities are taking more aggressive measures.  All LA County workers must be vaccinated by October 1st. Effective September 30th, private “high-risk” businesses in Denver must require employee vaccinations. New York City mandated employee vaccinations for workers at indoor restaurants, gyms and entertainment centers by August 16th.  LA City Council proposed a similar measure that has…
Background The California Supreme Court just made it even more difficult to do business in California.  Overturning the ruling of two lower courts, on July 15, 2021, the Court held in Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, LLC that meal and rest premiums must be paid at the “regular rate” not the base hourly rate.  The Court’s opinion can be found here. The central legal question was whether the California Legislature intended that the “regular rate of compensation” under Labor Code section 226.7(c) had the same meaning as “regular rate of pay” under Labor Code section 510(a).  The Court unanimously…
During the pandemic when workplaces were closed and employees had to work from home due to Covid-19 restrictions, employers were required to either provide the equipment needed to work from home (such as internet access and a computer/phone), or to reimburse employees for those costs.  Case law interpreting Cal. Labor Code Section 2802 holds that employers cannot benefit from employees’ use of their own equipment, even if it doesn’t cost the employee extra to use their phone or internet.  Bottomline:  Some portion must be paid, typically in some sort of Work From Home or Phone Allowance.  If you are doing…
Effective July 1, 2021, San Francisco’s minimum wage increases to $16.32. This is an increase of 25 cents from the prior minimum wage ($16.07). The increases are tied to increases in the Consumer Price Index. You can access the poster, which employers are required to display at each San Francisco work site, here. Employers with operations in California need to be aware that numerous cities have their own minimum wages, many of which increase effective July 1. Failure to comply with local minimum wage requirements exposes employers to significant penalties.…