California Passes AB 5: The Lawful Use of Independent Contractors in California is Drastically Limited

Caroline Powell Donelan and Caitlin I. Sanders

Just last year, the California Supreme Court in Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court (2018) 4 Cal. 5th 903 (“Dynamex”) abruptly replaced the longstanding test in California for determining whether a worker is an independent contractor (versus an employee) with a more stringent “ABC” test for purposes of the California Industrial Welfare Commission (“IWC”) Wage Orders.

Under the “ABC” test, a worker is presumed to be an employee unless the hiring entity can prove that the worker is (A) free from control; (B) providing services unrelated to the hiring entity’s business; and (C) holding him or herself out as an independent business. More on the landmark decision in Dynamex can be found here.

Last week, California Governor Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill (“AB”) 5, which codifies and expands the “ABC” test set forth in Dynamex, making it even more difficult for employers to properly classify workers as independent contractors in California.

What are the basic provisions of AB 5? Continue reading “California Passes AB 5: The Lawful Use of Independent Contractors in California is Drastically Limited”

DOL Follows Through – Sets New FLSA Salary Threshold of $35,568

Jason E. Reisman

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor has unveiled arguably the most employer-anticipated action taken during the Trump administration: the final rule raises the salary threshold for the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “white collar” exemptions to $35,568 per year ($684 per week), effective January 1, 2020. It is expected to be published in the Federal Register tomorrow. Continue reading “DOL Follows Through – Sets New FLSA Salary Threshold of $35,568”

Once in a Lifetime? Rare Battle Won for Golden State Employers—but the PAGA War Rages On

Caroline Powell Donelan and Taylor C. Morosco

While talking heads focused on the debates heating up in Houston last week, the California Supreme Court on Thursday put an end to a nearly five-year debate regarding the permissible scope of recovery and arbitrability under California’s Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”), a statute that has left employers in the Golden State scratching their heads for over a decade.

On September 12, 2019, California’s highest court held that “underpaid wages” are not recoverable under PAGA. The decision, ZB, N.A. v. Superior Court (“Lawson”), marks big changes in the wild-west of PAGA litigation, yet many key questions remain unanswered.

You May Ask Yourself, Well, How Did I Get Here?

Ahh, PAGA. Where to begin? For the last 15 years, PAGA has allowed private citizens to step into the shoes of the Labor Commissioner, essentially turning “aggrieved” employees into bounty-hunters for the State’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency (“LWDA”). Specifically, PAGA litigants are authorized to recover civil penalties on behalf of the State for certain Labor Code violations, which would otherwise be recoverable only by the Labor Commissioner. If successful, employees receive a 25 percent share of civil penalties recovered, with the remaining 75 percent going to the LWDA. And one other thing, PAGA allows for the recovery of attorneys’ fees and costs, which are often exponentially larger than the underlying civil penalties and statutory damages recovered—leaving no surprise as to why PAGA has become such a popular vehicle for plaintiffs’ attorneys. Continue readingOnce in a Lifetime? Rare Battle Won for Golden State Employers—but the PAGA War Rages On”

New York Closes in on Comprehensive Employee Wage Lien Law

Mara B. Levin, Anthony A. Mingione, and Stephen E. Tisman

New York is on the precipice of passing a law that would allow employees to easily file liens against an employer’s property in connection with pending wage disputes. The bill also would permit employee access to certain sensitive employer records and expand the scope of personal liability for owners in disputes over wages. Employers should monitor these developments and work with counsel to prepare an action plan should this bill become law.

The New York State Legislature has recently passed a bill that could substantially alter the legal landscape of wage disputes if signed into law by Governor Cuomo. The proposed Employee Wage Lien bill would allow employees to obtain liens against an employer’s real property and personal property based on allegations involving nonpayment of wages. If signed into law, the bill will become effective within 30 days. Similar laws have been enacted on other states.

The law will allow employees to file a notice of a lien up to three years following the end of the employment giving rise to the wage claim. Employees will be able to place liens up to the total amount allegedly owed based on claims relating to overtime compensation, minimum wage, spread of hours pay, call-in pay, uniform maintenance, unlawful wage deductions, improper meal or tip credits or withheld gratuities, unpaid compensation due under an employment contract, or a claim that the employer violated an existing wage order. In addition, the State Attorney General and Department of Labor will be able to obtain a lien on behalf of an individual employee—or a class of employees—against an employer that is the subject of an investigation, court proceeding, or agency action.

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Have Employers Taken Home the Iron Throne with Lamps Plus?

Caroline Powell Donelan and Taylor C. Morosco

On April 24, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 5–4 opinion in Lamps Plus, Inc., et al. v. Varela holding that class arbitration is only allowed when the parties’ agreement explicitly allows for it. In other words, when an arbitration agreement is silent or even ambiguous as to whether class-wide proceedings are allowed, claims must be arbitrated on an individual basis.

Lamps Plus is the latest decision from our highest court bolstering the enforceability of individual arbitration in the workplace.

In this post, we’ll take a semi-deep dive into Lamps Plus and evaluate potential implications for your workplace as well as for future litigation strategies. Continue reading “Have Employers Taken Home the Iron Throne with Lamps Plus?”

Trifecta! DOL Issues Proposed “Employer-Friendly” Joint Employer Rule

Jason E. Reisman

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) completed the wage and hour trifecta, issuing the third of its critically acclaimed proposed rules—this one redefines (or clarifies, if you prefer) the regulations addressing the concept of “joint employment.” Joint employment under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is an important concept as it often is used to hold multiple entities liable for the minimum wage and overtime violations relating to a group of employees. The existing regulations have not been materially updated in more than 60 years—needless to say, the nature and scope of business interactions have changed materially over that time. Continue reading “Trifecta! DOL Issues Proposed “Employer-Friendly” Joint Employer Rule”

DOL Pulls Ripcord—Proposed Rule Clarifying “Regular Rate” Parachutes In

Jason E. Reisman

Yesterday, as anticipated (see our prior blog post here), the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) released its proposed guidance to clarify the rules regarding what is and is not required to be included in the “regular rate of pay” (“RROP”). Remember, the RROP is the rate used for the calculation of overtime pay to non-exempt workers.

Though completely unexpected when the DOL initially announced its plan to clarify these rules, employers will undoubtedly be pleased by the effort. Nothing—from the employer standpoint—is really ever perfect, but this is progress. Originally targeted to be released in December 2018, like many other DOL projects, it was delayed a bit.

According to the DOL’s announcement, this proposal attempts to clarify that employers can exclude the following from the RROP:

  • the cost of providing wellness programs, onsite specialist treatment, gym access and fitness classes, and employee discounts on retail goods and services;
  • payments for unused paid leave, including paid sick leave;
  • reimbursed expenses, even if not incurred “solely” for the employer’s benefit;
  • reimbursed travel expenses that do not exceed the maximum travel reimbursement under the Federal Travel Regulation System and that satisfy other regulatory requirements;
  • discretionary bonuses, by providing additional examples and clarifying that the label given a bonus does not determine whether it is discretionary;
  • benefit plans, including accident, unemployment, and legal services; and
  • tuition programs, such as reimbursement programs or repayment of educational debt.

Though we’re still working our way through the proposal, we are hopeful that it actually does address certain items that have long created quagmires for employers. Of course, the proposal will be subject to 60 days of public comment. Then, once the DOL reviews all comments, it will issue a final rule. Please stay tuned for further updates as this process continues!