A Bright Spot for Workers in Tuesday’s Dismal Election Results

Despite the lingering outrage and disapproval many of us have regarding the Republican victory at the polls last Tuesday, there were some major wins for workers across California and the country which should be embraced and not overlooked.Gear-and-Gavel_black

Raising Minimum Wages:

Starting local, both Oakland and San Francisco voted to raise their local minimum wages. Oakland’s minimum wage will go up to $12.25 next year and San Francisco is now on track to gradually increase its minimum wage to $15 by 2015. Continue reading “A Bright Spot for Workers in Tuesday’s Dismal Election Results”


Unpaid TV Interns Settle Large Class Action Against NBCUniversal

Last year, a federal judge in New York ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated minimum wage laws by not paying interns that worked on the set of the movie “Black Swan.”  In holding that employers could not simply avail themselves of free labor by calling employees “interns,” this case opened the pathway for other Gear-and-Gavel_blackintern cases against entertainment industry giants.

In the latest victory, a group of former interns reached a 6.4 million dollar settlement with NBCUniversal this week, representing the largest settlement yet in this new streak of cases.  While the original complaint involved New York interns, the case grew to include plaintiffs from other states.  This recent settlement makes clear that companies need to change the blanket exploitation of interns across industries and across the country, or pay the significant price that inevitably come with the growth of these cases.

Continue reading “Unpaid TV Interns Settle Large Class Action Against NBCUniversal”


California Supreme Court Holds Fast Food Employee Cannot Sue Franchisor For Sexual Harassment Claims.

On August 28, 2014, the California Supreme Court ruled that Domino’s Pizza could not be held liable for sexual harassment claims by an employee of a franchisee. The highly anticipated decision came on the eve of Labor Day weekend, dealing a blow to franchisee employees seeking accountability and meaningful Gear-and-Gavel_blackcompensation from franchisors.

Continue reading “California Supreme Court Holds Fast Food Employee Cannot Sue Franchisor For Sexual Harassment Claims.”


Ninth Circuit Clarifies California Labor Law Protections for Truck Drivers in Dilts v. Penske Logistics

California labor laws almost always offer stronger protections than their federal counterparts, which set the minimum baseline for all states. However, for some categories of employees, the California Labor Code protections can be preempted by federal laws- meaning the federal law supersedes the California law. Federal Gear-and-Gavel_blackpreemption of California laws almost always translates into fewer protections for employees.

Two federal regulatory schemes in particular contain preemption clauses: the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA), dealing with motor carriers (the trucking industry), and the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (ADA), dealing with the air carriers. Both laws bar the application of California laws “relating to the rates, routes, or services” of any air or motor carrier.

Continue reading “Ninth Circuit Clarifies California Labor Law Protections for Truck Drivers in Dilts v. Penske Logistics”


California Takes Hopeful Step to Raise the Minimum Wage to a Living Wage

The California minimum wage is set to increase to $9.00 an hour, effective July 1, 2014. This week, though, the State Senate approved more a more drastic measure to increase minimum wages. On May 29, the State Senate approved a measure that would slowly but surely raise the minimum up to $13 an hour in Gear-and-Gavel_black2017. The bill is being sponsored by Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco, who wants to help the 7.9 million Californians who are currently earning minimum wages to climb out of poverty. Continue reading “California Takes Hopeful Step to Raise the Minimum Wage to a Living Wage”


Are Salespeople Exempt from Overtime under California Law?

Non-exempt workers earning an hourly wage in California are subject to state minimum and overtime requirements under California Labor Code sections 510 and 1194. However, there are some narrow exceptions which exempt these workers from these basic wage protections. One of these is the outside sales Gear-and-Gavel_blackexemption, under Section 1171 of the California Labor Code.

The Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Orders define an outside salesperson as a person who “customarily and regularly works more than half the working time away from the employer’s place of business selling tangible or intangible items or obtaining orders or contracts for products, services or use of facilities.”

Fortunately for California workers, this is an area of law in which courts have decided that workers are more strongly protected under California law than under the similar federal exemption. The California Supreme Court considered the difference between California and federal law vis-à-vis the meaning and scope of the outside salesperson exemption in detail in Ramirez v. Yosemite Water Company (1999) 20 Cal.4th 785. Continue reading “Are Salespeople Exempt from Overtime under California Law?”


The Origins and Significance of May Day vs. Labor Day

In over 80 countries around the world, the first of May, or May Day, is commemorated and celebrated as a day of workers’ rights and workers’ solidarity. In many countries, the day is marked with marches and speeches, along with general festivities, which offer everyone a chance to reflect on the impact of labor regulations Gear-and-Gavel_black(or lack thereof) on their lives.

The official counterpart in the U.S., Labor Day, occurs on the first Monday of September and stands in stark contrast to the international celebration months before. While enjoyable in its own right, Labor Day is hardly more than a day routinely promised to barbecues, and erroneously marking the end of summer.  This innocuous rendition of what should be a socially conscious holiday deprives us of the opportunity to reflect on the importance of workers’ rights advocacy in the past, and set goals for the future.

Surprisingly to many (including myself), the origins of May Day started here in the United States. The holiday stems back to the eight hour work day movement, which began circa 1864, when the abolition of slavery highlighted the importance of matching actual freedom with practical freedom- meaning adequate time to pursue family, education and leisure. Over twenty years later, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaimed that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.”  Thus, on May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers across the U.S. went on a general strike in an effort to make the eight hour work day a reality. Continue reading “The Origins and Significance of May Day vs. Labor Day”


Saving Your Constitutional Right To A Day In Court: The Arbitration Fairness Act

Gear-and-Gavel_blackImagine after months of unemployment (not hard to imagine these days), you survive a rigorous application and interviewing process to finally arrive at that climactic moment of landing a job.  In your state of euphoria, and as day one as a perfect no-hassle employee.  You hastily review and sign the standard new hire documents you’re given, knowing that there is nothing you could do about the content, anyways.  You sign everything and vaguely hope you haven’t signed away the soul of your first born.

A while later, well after the new job excitement has worn off, you realize that maybe you should be getting paid for overtime, or maybe your supervisor should stop referring to you by a racial nickname.  Maybe you complain about these new discoveries in your workplace, and are promptly fired.

No problem! You know you have rights.  You contact an attorney with the intention of filing a lawsuit.  Then you realize, those new hire documents you signed on day one have come back to haunt you.  You’re informed that you signed an arbitration agreement and have to submit to binding arbitration.  Binding arbitration with an arbitrator chosen (and paid) by your now nemesis. Continue reading “Saving Your Constitutional Right To A Day In Court: The Arbitration Fairness Act”