Employment Law News Roundup: December 2015
In December, we saw many important employment and labor law stories, cases, and settlements in the headlines; including California’s soon-to-be proposed 1099 Self-Organizing Act, minimum wage increases, and Uber’s newly blocked arbitration agreement.
Because many employment law news stories are published on a daily basis, we’ve decided to keep our readers informed by offering an employment law news roundup each month with summaries and links to top employment law content from around the web.
The following stories are an overview of just some of the latest developments in employment law news, cases and legislation for December 2015.
Top Employment Law News for December 2015
On-demand tech enterprises like Lyft, Uber and TaskRabbit currently employ workers on a contract basis for short-term “gigs” like driving and running errands. While the “gig economy” offers flexibility to California workers, it doesn’t classify them as employees under federal or state labor laws. This means that these workers are classified as independent contractors and are not allowed employee benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, or unemployment insurance, nor are they guaranteed the state minimum wage. These workers also cannot legally unionize. Employing 1099 contractors makes operational costs lower, which benefits the employer at the expense of the workers. By allowing 1099 workers to organize, this bill would give these “gig” workers leverage and bargaining power to improve their work conditions. The California 1099 Self-Organizing Act will be proposed in January 2016.
Read the full story on LATimes.com
The news of California’s recent minimum wage increases has inspired minimum wage-boosting initiatives across the nation. California is host to 15 of the 30 cities and counties nationwide that recently voted to increase minimum wages. Movements such as Fight for $15 have had a broad focus to raise the minimum wage in not just California, but across the nation, and have influenced New York State employers with their demonstrations. Not only that, but both Los Angeles and San Francisco have passed ordinances to raise local minimum wages to $15 an hour by 2020, with the rest of the state seeing an increase to $10 per hour in January 2016.
Read the full story on KQED.org
The Hillshire Brands Company has agreed to pay $4 million in a race discrimination lawsuit to a group of 74 former African-American employees who were harassed and discriminated against in a racially hostile work environment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims that this group of employees was made to endure racist graffiti in the bathrooms and locker room, plus were berated with racial slurs by their white coworkers and supervisors. The EEOC claims that complaints made by the plant workers also went unaddressed by Hillshire management.
Read the full story on The National Law Review
The Home Care Association of America recently petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a court decision that extended the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) overtime protections to most home care workers. The petition claims that the revival of the USDOL rule, which gives home care workers identical FLSA benefits that workers who provide services in institutions enjoy, conflicts with the ruling in Long Island Care at Home v. Coke, where the Supreme Court re-affirmed that employees in home care situations who work for third parties are exempt from overtime.
Read the full story on Wage & Hour: Developments & Highlights
The labor and employment war rages on in the Uber Technologies Inc. legal matter over whether California Uber drivers are independent contractors, or employees. Recently, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen, decided to block Uber’s latest arbitration agreement with drivers saying the new agreement could mislead the drivers, limiting their ability to participate in a pending class action suit against Uber over their employment status. Chen’s decision to block the agreement is a victory for Uber drivers who drove for the ride-sharing service since 2014 and were subject to the arbitration clause, as they are now added back into the class.
Read the full story on Reuters.com
The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Office of the Whistleblower 2015 annual report shows that its whistleblower program is seeing growth. Whistleblower tips came in from 50 states totaling 3,923 in the prior fiscal year – an increase of 8 percent over the prior fiscal year, and a 30 percent increaseof tips received in 2012. These whistleblowers reported on a variety of unlawful behaviors; from Foreign Corrupt Practices Act-related activity to insider trading. Eight awards were given to whistleblowers in 2015, totaling $34 million, plus the first 30 percent recovery award (the maximum amount permitted by statute) in the first anti-retaliation case.
Read the full story on Lexology
See the full report on SEC.gov
Employers who wish to avoid costly jury have bene relying on mandatory arbitration agreements with their employees. This means that both parties agree to submit any disputes involving the employment relationship to arbitration rather than relying on the judicial process. In effect, this allows employers to impose a private – and confidential – judicial system on their employers as a condition of employment. But recently, many employers have been going beyond simple arbitration clauses, sometimes drafting agreements that require their employees to arbitrate disputes as individuals rather than as a class or collective action. A number of state courts have been resistant, finding that class action arbitration waivers violate state laws governing acceptable arbitration agreement provisions. The U.S. Supreme Court recently dealt a serious blow to employees’ ability to collectively seek redress for employer abuse by rejecting California’s claim that class arbitration waivers violate state law.
Read the full story on JDSupra.com
Just before Christmas, Time Warner agreed to pay $1.25 million to settle a lawsuit from call center employees claiming that the company failed to pay them minimum wage and overtime – requirements under California labor laws. According to the settlement agreement, Time Warner accepts no wrongdoing or liability in the matter. The putative class which represents Time Warner call center employees who worked for the company from June 2006 through April 2015, alleged various violations to California labor code. The allegations included failure to pay minimum wages and overtime pay, failure to pay wages as identified and entrenched in a contract – and subsequent breach of contract – failure to pay final wages in a timely manner, and failure to provide itemized wage statements.
Read the full story on LawyersandSettlements.com
A North Dakota transgender woman recently launched an employment discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, Sanford Health. The woman claims that the company discriminated against her due to her gender identity. The former employee, Faye Seidler, worked as a technician in a Fargo, North Dakota Sanford hospital. Seidler was previously a Sanford patient who received gender-affirming health care, beginning hormone therapy two years ago. Seidler claims that she was interrogated and intimidated by her employer about her gender identity and was made to change in an emergency shower room. Seidler’s discrimination suit also claims she was forced to quit her job due to onerous workplace conditions that prevented her from executing her job humanely.
Read the full story on Advocate.com
University of Southern California head football coach, Steve Sarkisian was fired in October due to an incident where he appeared drunk during a preseason speech. On December 7, 2015, Sarkisian decided to sue his former employer, filing a 14-count complaint in California Superior Court claiming disability (alcoholism) discrimination, failure to provide reasonable accommodation, employer retaliation, and wrongful termination.
Read the full story on The Employer Handbook