California Employment Law

The Ninth Circuit recently held in Morris v. Ernst & Young, LLP that employees have a substantive right to pursue work-related claims collectively, and employers may not force employees to waive this right as a condition of employment.  As a result, class action waivers in arbitration agreements signed as a condition of employment are no longer enforceable in California.

Like many employers throughout the country, Ernst & Young required that all its employees sign arbitration agreements as a condition of employment, and each agreement required that the employees promise not to join with other employees in bringing legal claims against the company.  Specifically, the agreements required that the employees pursue legal claims (1) exclusively through arbitration, and (2) only as individuals and in “separate proceedings.”  As a result, employees could not initiate concerted legal claims against the company in any forum, whether court, arbitration proceedings or elsewhere.


Continue Reading Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements Signed as a Condition of Employment No Longer Enforceable in California

On June 27, 2016, the Fair Employment and Housing Council considered a proposal to amend the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) regulations with respect to the use of criminal history records in employment decisions. The proposed regulations would outline current law while also imposing additional restrictions that would further limit an employer’s use of such information.

Under current law, California employers are prohibited from utilizing certain criminal records and information in hiring, promotion, training, discipline, termination, and other employment decisions. In particular, when making an employment decision, employers may not consider: (1) an arrest or detention that did not result in conviction; (2) an individual’s referral to or participation in a pre-trial or post-trial diversion program; (3) a conviction that has been judicially dismissed or ordered sealed, expunged, or statutorily eradicated; or (4) a non-felony conviction for possession of marijuana that is more than two years old.


Continue Reading Council Discusses Proposal that Would Further Restrict an Employer’s Ability to Review Criminal History

California recently amended state law with regards to smoking in the workplace. The bill, which was signed by the governor on May 4, 2016, is intended to “prohibit the smoking of tobacco products in all (100 percent of) enclosed places of employment in this state . . . eliminating the need of local governments to enact workplace smoking restrictions.” The former law had not applied to employers with five or fewer employees and had allowed employers to permit employees to smoke in the company break room. It had also exempted several types of workplaces and enclosed spaces from coverage, including hotel lobbies, banquet rooms, bars, taverns, and warehouses.
Continue Reading California Passes Tighter, Statewide Restrictions on Smoking in the Workplace

California employers must now juggle two additional sick leave laws.  Although California already has a statewide mandate requiring that all employers within the state provide their employees with paid sick leave (see March 17, 2016 blog post), several cities, including Emeryville, Oakland, and San Francisco, have passed their own ordinances imposing additional obligations on employers with employees within their city limits.  Los Angeles and San Diego have now joined that list, with new paid sick leave laws going into effect as of July 1, 2016, and July 11, 2016, respectively.
Continue Reading New Los Angeles and San Diego Sick Leave Ordinances Now in Effect

In addition to passing their own paid sick leave laws, Los Angeles and San Diego have also chosen to raise minimum wages over the course of several years.

The Los Angeles ordinance provides the following schedule of minimum wage increases:

For employers with 26 or more employees:

  • July 1, 2016: $10.50/hr
  • July 1, 2017: $12.00/hr
  • July 1, 2018: $13.25/hr
  • July 1, 2019: $14.25/hr
  • July 1, 2020: $15.00/hr


Continue Reading Los Angeles and San Diego Raise Minimum Wage

The California Court of Appeals recently held that California employers may not combine required 10 minute rest periods into one larger rest period absent justifiable circumstances, further clarifying the California Supreme Court’s decision in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, which had held that employers were not always required to provide a rest period before a meal break (suggesting that they may in fact be combined).

The California Legislature originally authorized the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) to issue wage orders governing wages, hours, and working conditions for workers in various industries and occupations.  Although the IWC has since been defunded, the wage orders still generally hold the force of law in California.  Under those wage orders, employers must provide all employees with a 10 minute paid rest period for every four hours, or major fraction thereof, worked.  If an employer fails to provide a required rest period, the employer must pay a wage penalty equivalent to one hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of pay for each workday that the rest period was not provided.


Continue Reading California Employers Generally May Not Combine Required Rest Periods

On April 21, 2016, San Francisco became the first city to impose a mandatory paid parental leave ordinance.  Under the new law, certain covered employers must provide supplemental compensation to employees who are receiving California Paid Family Leave (PFL) for purposes of bonding with a new child.  Employers should be mindful of these new obligations, which are likely to expand to other cities and possibly the entire State of California in the future.

Under previously existing law, no California city required that employers provide paid parental leave for bonding with a new child.  Employers were only required to notify employees of their rights under the state’s PFL program.  The PFL program is a component of the California State Disability Insurance (SDI) program and entitles employees who have paid into SDI to receive up to 55% of their lost wages when they must take a leave of absence to care for a child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner.  Benefits are capped at six weeks in a 12-month period, and benefits are funded entirely by the SDI program.  (Note that California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed legislation that will increase the benefits paid by the California PFL program for eligible leaves from 55% to 60% (or 70% in some cases) beginning on or after January 1, 2018.)
Continue Reading San Francisco Becomes First City to Require Employers to Fund Paid Family Leave