United States: California Employment Law Notes - May 2016

Employee Who Needed To Assist Disabled Son Could Proceed With "Associational Disability Discrimination" Claim

Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, Inc., 246 Cal. App. 4th 180 (2016)

Luis Castro-Ramirez sued his former employer, Dependable Highway Express, Inc., for "associational disability discrimination," failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA") and wrongful termination. Castro-Ramirez's son requires daily dialysis, and Castro-Ramirez must administer the treatment to his son. Castro-Ramirez's supervisors had for several years scheduled his work so that he could be at home to administer the dialysis, but that accommodation changed when a new supervisor took over and terminated Castro-Ramirez for refusing to work a shift that did not permit him to be home in time to administer the dialysis. The trial court granted the employer's motion for summary judgment, but the Court of Appeal (over a strong dissent) reversed, holding that FEHA creates a duty on the part of the employer "to provide reasonable accommodations to an applicant or employee who is associated with a disabled person," not just to applicants and employees who themselves are disabled (citing Cal. Gov't Code § 12926(o) ("physical disability" includes a perception that a person is associated with a person who has, or is perceived to have, a disability)). See also Wallace v. County of Stanislaus, 245 Cal. App. 4th 109 (2016) (Harris v. City of Santa Monica, 56 Cal. 4th 203 (2013) does not require an alleged victim of disability discrimination to prove "animus or ill will," onlythat discriminatory intent was a substantial motivating factor/reason for the
employer's actions).

Employees Are Entitled To Suitable Seating If The Tasks Being Performed Reasonably Permit Seating

Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc., 63 Cal. 4th 1 (2016)

In this opinion, the California Supreme Court answered three questions posed to it by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit involving suitable seating requirements under California law. Section 14(A) of California Wage Order No. 7-2001 states that "All working employees shall be provided with suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats." Section 14(B) states that "When employees are not engaged in the active duties of their employment and the nature of the work requires standing, an adequate number of suitable seats shall be placed in reasonable proximity to the work area and employees shall be permitted to use such seats when it does not interfere with the performance of their duties." The federal trial court concluded that Sections 14(A) and (B) were mutually exclusive and that the former applied when an employee was actually engaged in work, while the latter applied when an employee was not actively working. The California Supreme Court answered the Ninth Circuit's questions as follows: (1) If the tasks performed at a given location reasonably permit sitting, and provision of a seat would not interfere with performance of any other tasks that may require standing, a seat is called for; (2) Whether the nature of the work reasonably permits sitting is a question to be determined objectively based on the totality of the circumstances. An employer's business judgment and the physical layout of the workplace are relevant but not dispositive factors. The inquiry focuses on the nature of the work, not an individual employee's characteristics; and (3) The nature of the work aside, if an employer argues there is no suitable seat available, the burden is on the employer to prove unavailability.

Supreme Court Affirms $2.9 Million Class Action Judgment Based On Expert's Study Of Time Spent On Donning And Doffing Activities

Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, 577 U.S. ___, 136 S. Ct. 1036 (2016)

Following a jury trial, the employees in this class/collective action recovered $2.9 million in compensatory damages for violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). The employees alleged that they did not receive statutorily mandated overtime pay for the time they spent donning and doffing protective equipment at a pork processing plant in Storm Lake, Iowa. Tyson compensated some employees for between four and eight minutes of donning and doffing time per shift but paid others no additional wages. Tyson argued that because of the variance in protective gear that each employee wore, the employees' claims were not sufficiently similar to be resolved on a classwide or collective basis. Because Tyson did not keep records of donning and doffing time, the employees relied upon employee testimony, video recordings of donning and doffing at the plant and a study performed by an industrial relations expert, Dr. Kenneth Mericle. Dr. Mericle conducted 744 videotaped observations and analyzed the average length that various donning and doffing activities took for different departments. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in favor of the employees, holding that the employees could rely upon Dr. Mericle's sample as a permissible means of establishing hours worked in a class action setting and rejecting the employer's argument that use of the study represented an improper "Trial by Formula." See also Rodriguez v. E.M.E., Inc., 2016 WL 1613803 (Cal. Ct. App. 2016) (rest breaks in an eight-hour shift should fall on either side of the meal break and should not be combined before or after the meal break).

Employer Did Not Violate ADA When It Failed To Return Employee To Full-Time Position Following Medical Leave

Mendoza v. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, 2016 WL 1459214 (9th Cir. 2016)

Alice Mendoza worked as a full-time bookkeeper for a small parish church. She took sick leave for 10 months, during which time the pastor of the church took over the bookkeeping duties himself and determined that Mendoza's job could be done by a part-time bookkeeper. When Mendoza returned from her leave of absence, there was no longer a full-time bookkeeping position available, so the pastor offered her a part-time job, which Mendoza declined before suing for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Archbishop, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that Mendoza failed to establish that a full-time position was available and, therefore, that a discriminatory reason more likely than not motivated the employer.

Employee Could Proceed With Misclassification Claim, Though Wrongful Termination Claim Was Properly Rejected

Davis v. Farmers Ins. Exch., 245 Cal. App. 4th 1302 (2016)

William A. Davis brought suit against Farmers, claiming he had been wrongfully classified as an independent contractor rather than an employee and asserting that he had been wrongfully terminated on the basis of his age. The trial court directed a verdict in Farmers's favor on the wage claim, and the jury found for Farmers on the wrongful termination claim, having concluded that Farmers would have made the same termination decision for legitimate non-discriminatory reasons – even though the jury agreed with Davis that his age was a "substantial motivating factor" in his termination. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment in favor of Farmers on the wrongful termination claim, holding that the trial court had properly instructed the jury based upon Harris v. City of Santa Monica, 56 Cal. 4th 203 (2013). However, the appellate court reversed the directed verdict, holding that Davis had presented sufficient evidence to allow his wage claim to go to the jury. The Court also affirmed denial of Davis's claims for recovery of attorney's fees, costs and injunctive and declaratory relief. See also Goodrich v. Sierra Vista Reg'l Med. Ctr., 2016 WL 1702035 (Cal. Ct. App. 2016) (former employee who filed three motions attempting to relitigate trial court's denial of her challenge to hospital's termination decision was properly declared a vexatious litigant).

EEOC Sufficiently Conciliated Class Claims Before Bringing Suit, And Employee Stated Hostile Environment Claim

Arizona ex rel. Horne v. The Geo Group, 2016 WL 945634 (9th Cir. 2016)

Alice Hancock was employed by Geo as a correctional officer at the Arizona State Prison. Geo contracts with the Arizona Department of Corrections to maintain and operate two facilities in the state. Hancock filed a charge of discrimination and harassment based on sex and also alleging retaliation. After concluding its investigation, the Arizona Civil Rights Division and the EEOC issued a reasonable cause determination, substantiating Hancock's allegations, and subsequently filed a class action lawsuit. The district court granted summary judgment to the employer, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, relying upon Mach Mining, LLC v. EEOC, 135 S. Ct. 1645 (2015) and holding that the EEOC's pre-suit conciliation efforts are subject to limited judicial review and were sufficient. The Court held that the EEOC is not required to conciliate on an individual basis prior to bringing a class action and that the proper starting date of the class action was 300 days prior to the filing of Hancock's charge (not the date of the filing of the reasonable cause determination). The Court also held that the district court had improperly dismissed another employee's (Sofia Hines) claims of a hostile environment, which allegedly included unwanted comments about her breasts, the grabbing of her breast on one occasion, an unwanted "spanking on her butt," and several unwanted sexually explicit comments directed at her. See also Baughn v. Department of Forestry, 2016 WL 1386040 (Cal. Ct. App. 2016) (former employer's anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss union's challenge to employer's termination of alleged sexual harasser was properly denied on the ground that the action did not arise from protected speech).

Employee Who Dismissed Claims Upon Receipt Of Settlement Can Recover Costs As Prevailing Party

DeSaulles v. Community Hosp. of the Monterey Peninsula, 62 Cal. 4th 1140 (2016)

Maureen deSaulles agreed to dismiss her causes of action for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in exchange for a settlement payment from her former employer in the amount of $23,000. The trial court subsequently exercised its discretion and awarded $12,731.92 in costs to the employer. DeSaulles appealed, claiming that the settlement payment to her was a net monetary recovery, which entitled her – rather than the employer – to recover costs. The Court of Appeal agreed and reversed, holding that the trial court should have recognized DeSaulles was entitled to costs under the statutory definition of "prevailing party" (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 1032(a)(4)). The Court further concluded that because the employer was not the prevailing party, the trial court should not have exercised its discretion to determine which party prevailed based on the merits of the case. Finally, the Court cautioned that "[o]f course, parties can avoid this mechanical approach by taking care to provide for costs in their settlements." The California Supreme Court affirmed.

Employee's Qui Tam Fraud Claims Should Not Have Been Dismissed

United States ex rel. Mateski v. Raytheon, 816 F.3d 565 (9th Cir. 2016)

Steven Mateski worked as an engineer at Raytheon. Mateski filed a complaint in federal court alleging that Raytheon had violated the False Claims Act ("FCA") by failing to comply with numerous contractual requirements in developing a project for the government, fraudulently covering up areas of noncompliance and improperly billing the government for erroneous and incomplete work. Six years after he filed the initial complaint, the United States declined to exercise its right under the FCA to intervene in the lawsuit, and Raytheon successfully moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that the suit was barred by the public disclosure bar (i.e., that the subject matter about which Mateski was complaining was already publicly known when he filed his lawsuit). The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that Mateski's allegations differ in both degree and kind from the very general previously disclosed information about problems with the project in question. As such, "if his allegations prove to be true, Mateski will undoubtedly have been one of those 'whistle-blowing insiders with genuinely valuable information,' rather than an 'opportunistic plaintiff[] who ha[s] no significant information to contribute.'"

California Employment Law Notes - May 2016

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.