Increasingly, employers are asking employees to sign arbitration agreements. If the arbitration agreement is valid and enforceable, the employee generally waives the right to sue the employer in court and have the case tried before a jury of his or her peers. Employers typically favor arbitration for a variety of reasons, including privacy, control over arbitrator selection, limited rights to appeal, and the ability to have employees waive the right to bring class action lawsuits.
What happens if an employee has claims against an employer, files a lawsuit and then signs an arbitration agreement? Can that employee still be compelled to arbitrate his or her claims? The Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District recently addressed this issue in Franco v. Greystone Ridge Condominium, et al. The Court of Appeal held that an arbitration agreement that is signed after the employee initiates his lawsuit does not preclude compelling those claims to arbitration. (Franco v. Greystone Ridge Condominium, et al., No. G056559, filed Aug. 14, 2019, certified for publication on Aug. 27, 2019). Continue reading “Employees Beware: Arbitration Agreements Can Sometimes be Applied Retroactively”→
Plaintiff Jose Valtierra, a facility maintenance technician, sued his employer Medtronic, Inc. alleging that he was terminated on account of his disability, morbid obesity, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Mr. Valtierra worked for Medtronic, Inc. for about ten years. By the last year of his employment, he had gained 70 pounds, taken time off due to joint pain, and struggled to walk. Mr. Valtierra’s supervisor, noticing that the employee was struggling to walk, allegedly became concerned about whether Mr. Valtierra was able to complete his work assignments. When the supervisor checked the computer system, he discovered that Mr. Valtierra had falsified work records, so Medtronic, Inc. terminated him.
A 54-year old Filipino woman, Shirley Galvan, worked for Dameron Hospital Association (Dameron) as a nurse for approximately twenty-five years. In 2011, Doreen Alvarez became Ms. Galvan’s supervisor and allegedly began harassing Ms. Galvan and other Filipino employees. Ms. Alvarez commented that the Filipino employees could not speak English, had thick accents, made too much money, were too old, and had been at Dameron too long. Ms. Alvarez threatened to “clean house” and repeatedly humiliated the Filipino employees by making derogatory statements about their accents, level of education, and work performance. Ms. Galvan went out on stress leave due to the anxiety she was experiencing as a result of this harassment. She was constructively terminated in 2014.
After reviewing a client’s settlement agreement, it is not uncommon for attorneys to sign beneath a notation “approved as to form” or “approved as to form and content.” When an attorney provides such a signature, is he or she bound by the contents of the settlement agreement? Possibly. The California Supreme Court recently held that counsel’s signature approving a release as to content and form does not preclude a factual finding that counsel both recommended that his or her client sign the document and intended to be bound by its provisions. Monster Energy Co. v. Schechter, Cal. S. Ct. Case No. S251892 (published July 11, 2019). Continue reading “Can Attorneys be Bound by Provisions in their Client’s Settlement Agreements?”→
The California Court of Appeal recently issued an opinion that looked into whether an employee has a disability for purposes of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Ross v. County of Riverside, D075106 (published June 10, 2019). Plaintiff Christopher Ross worked for the County of Riverside as a deputy district attorney. In 2013, Mr. Ross discovered that he might have a serious neurological condition. Continue reading “California Court of Appeal Addresses Meaning of “Physically Disabled””→
Aurora Le Mere was a Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) teacher for thirteen years. In that time, she filed a number of complaints and claims arising from her employment, including worker’s compensation claims and administrative complaints regarding LAUSD’s violations of provisions of the Education Code. In 2007, she filed a lawsuit against LAUSD and two individuals for discrimination, harassment and civil rights violations. All her claims and cases through 2007 settled. Then, in 2015, Ms. Le Mere filed another complaint against LAUSD and six individuals claiming that she had been unlawfully harassed and retaliated against since filing the 2007 case and worker’s compensation claims.
On February 25, 2019, the United States Supreme Court had to decide whether a federal court could lawfully count the vote of a judge who died before a decision was issued. Yovino v. Rizo, No. 18-272 (February 25, 2019). The Supreme Court held that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit erred when it counted the vote of Judge Reinhardt who died prior to the opinion being filed.
Aileen Rizo brought a case against her employer, the Fresno County Office of Education, on the grounds that the county was violating the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Ms. Rizo claimed she was paid less than her male counterparts for performing the same job. The county justified the pay disparity by factoring in issues such as salary history. When the case was initially brought before the Ninth Circuit, the court held that the employer’s reliance on prior history salary was lawful because this factor had nothing to do with sex. Ms. Rizo then petitioned for an en banc review by the Ninth Circuit, which was granted. After the en banc review, the Ninth Circuit reversed its prior opinion, holding that prior salary history may not be considered to justify pay disparity. Continue reading “U.S. Supreme Court Rules that the Vote of a Deceased Judge in Federal Court does not Count”→
On January 23, 2019, the First Appellate District held that an employer may be liable for whistleblower retaliation when an employee reports concerns about compliance with tax laws. Siri v. Sutter Home Winery, Inc., 1st Appellate Dist. Case No. A141335 (filed Jan. 23, 2019). Plaintiff Says Siri, an accountant for Defendant Sutter Home Winery, Inc. doing business as Trinchero Family Estates (TFE), believed her employer was failing to comply with certain California sales and use tax laws. She consulted with the California State Board of Equalization, who confirmed some of Ms. Siri’s suspicions. Ms. Siri informed her direct supervisor, top management, and the company’s general counsel that TFE was not paying and had not paid use taxes it owed. TFE authorized some payments, but declined to let Ms. Siri pay for others. Continue reading “An Employer May be Held Liable for Whistleblower Retaliation When an Employee Reports Concerns about Compliance with Tax Laws”→
Ray David Moreno was the passenger in a company-owned pickup truck his father was driving when the vehicle veered off the road, hit an embankment, and rolled over. Mr. Moreno sustained serious injuries and sued his father’s employer, Visser Ranch, Inc. and the owner of the vehicle, Graceland Dairy, Inc. Mr. Moreno maintained that Visser Ranch was vicariously liable because the driver of the truck was acting in the scope of employment at the time of the accident. Moreno v. Visser Ranch, Inc., et al., 5th Dist. Case No. F07822 (filed December 20, 2018). Continue reading “An Employer May be Liable in a Car Accident Caused by an On-Call Employee”→