News & Analysis

Oh joy! Guest worker case answers tricky wage and hour questions

A recent decision from a California Court of Appeal addressed the issue of whether a worker without a work permit was entitled to minimum wage and overtime protections under federal and state law. Further, the court examined the novel issue of whether lodging and meals provided to an employee may be used to satisfy the minimum salary requirement for exempt employees.

Diversity and inclusion director gets a little inclusion

The California Court of Appeal threw a solitary bone to Toyota's director of diversity and inclusion when it reversed a trial court's dismissal of his sexual orientation discrimination claim. The court of appeal held that the former employee had provided sufficient evidence that a senior manager's perception that he was "too gay" was a substantial motivating factor for his termination. However, his evidence of sex or gender stereotyping didn't support, and therefore didn't save, his retaliation and wrongful discharge claims, both of which were dismissed by the trial court without going to the jury.

Work product privilege: Who's the 'attorney'—the law firm or the lawyer?

A California Court of Appeal was recently asked to determine whether a law firm or a former attorney at the firm was the holder of the attorney work product privilege. California's civil attorney work product privilege is codified in Section 2018.030 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Subsection (a) provides absolute protection to any "writing that reflects an attorney's impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal research or theories." However, it does not define "attorney." As the court of appeal acknowledged, the plain text of the law didn't answer the question before the court because the statute is silent about who is the holder of the privilege. In answering the question, the court of appeal instead relied on the statute's purpose, legislative intent, and public policy.

The unique status of California's largest employer

In a recent case, the court of appeal agreed with a public university, which also happens to be California's largest employer, that certain laws regulating the retirement status and rights of peace officers do not apply to the university under its own retirement plan—even after the university reversed its own practice of complying with those laws.

Supreme Court delivers sermon on ERISA 'church plan' exemption

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) generally requires private employers offering pension plans to adhere to a lengthy list of rules designed to ensure plan solvency and protect plan participants. Church plans, however, are exempt from those requirements. But what exactly constitutes a "church plan"? The U.S. Supreme Court has just ruled—unanimously—on this issue.

What happened to common decency?

Rudeness is everywhere. Road rage abounds. It's all about "me" these days, and manners are a laughable thing of the past. Our politicians aren't even close to being civil with one another. Political philosophies are far to the right, far to the left, and what you believe is the only thing that's correct. Everyone else's beliefs are just flat wrong—end of debate. This isn't your grandma's America.

Violent culture, violent workplaces

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported an increase in work-related gun violence for each of the past 10 years. There were 417 workplace homicides in America in 2015; guns were used in 354 of them. In 2017, the epidemic continues.

Union Activity

UAW celebrates NLRB decision on Boston College. The United Auto Workers (UAW) union is hailing a May 2017 decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that cleared the way for a union election for Boston College graduate students who work for the university as graduate assistants, research assistants, teaching fellows, and teaching assistants. The Boston College Graduate Employees UnionUnited Auto Workers filed a petition for a union election with the NLRB on March 3 after a two-year organizing campaign. A UAW statement said the Board rejected the universitys arguments that its employees were exempt from the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) because of the colleges religious mission and recognized the similarity between the work of Boston College graduate employees and those at other private universities such as Columbia University, whose case restored rights for graduate employees to unionize in 2016.

Title VII doesn't cover denial of dependent's insurance coverage

The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose decisions apply to all Arkansas employers) recently affirmed a lower court's dismissal of a nurse's lawsuit against her employer and its insurer, in which she claimed that the denial of insurance coverage for her son's gender reassignment treatment amounted to sex discrimination.

Deciding ballot: Quarry foreman's vote in union election won't count

The 8th Circuit recently upheld the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) certification of a union election because the foreman who cast the potentially determinative ballot was a supervisor and therefore not entitled to vote.