This fall, California voters will have the opportunity to decide the fate of the state’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). After receiving more than the 700,000 signatures in support, the “California Employee Civil Action Law and PAGA Repeal Initiative” has qualified for the November 5, 2024 state ballot. If the initiative passes, PAGA will be repealed and replaced with the “Fair Pay and Employer Accountability Act,” which will double the statutory and civil penalties for willful state labor law violations, require 100% of monetary penalties be awarded to employees, and provide resources to employers to ensure compliance with wage and hour laws. The new law will preclude plaintiffs’ attorneys from recovering any fees in actions brought under the statute and impose other requirements to effectively “de-deputize” citizen attorneys general.

What Would the New Law Do?

In response to wide ranging criticism of PAGA, the ballot initiative seeks to repeal and replace PAGA with the Fair Pay and Employer Accountability Act. If passed, the initiative would:

  • Double statutory and civil penalties for willful violations;
  • Award 100% of monetary penalties to employees (instead of the current 25%);
  • Provide resources to employers to ensure labor compliance and allow employers opportunities to cure violations without penalties;
  • Require that the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) be a party to all labor complaints;
  • Prohibit award of attorneys’ fees (which are currently permitted under PAGA); and
  • Require that the state legislature fully fund the DLSE to meet the division’s requirements by law.

Continue Reading Is the End in Sight for PAGA Actions? Californians May Vote “YES” on November 5, 2024.

The new year brought some good news for California employers. On January 1, 2024, U.S. District Court Judge Kimberly Mueller issued a decision permanently enjoining California state officials from enforcing AB 51, the contested law that sought to prohibit employers from “forcing” job applicants or employees to enter into pre-dispute employment arbitration agreements covering certain discrimination and retaliation claims. The permanent injunction reaffirmed the ability of employers to mandate arbitration for most employment disputes.

This decision comes less than a year after the Ninth Circuit found that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempts AB 51 in Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Bonta. As noted in our blog post on the Bonta decision, the Ninth Circuit ultimately upheld a temporary injunction against AB 51, allowing California employers to continue to use employment arbitration agreements while the matter was litigated, and which—given Judge Mueller’s permanent injunction—now can continue indefinitely.

The Lead Up: Recap of the AB 51 Litigation Battle

Here is a quick summary of the AB 51 litigation leading up to the January 1, 2024 permanent injunction:

  • In December 2019, Judge Mueller issued a temporary restraining order, prohibiting California from enforcing AB 51.
  • In September 2021, the Ninth Circuit struck down Judge Mueller’s decision to temporarily restrain California from enforcing AB 51, holding that AB 51 was not largely preempted by the FAA.
  • In August 2022, the Ninth Circuit withdrew its September 2021 decision and voted to take another look at the case through a panel rehearing.
  • In February 2023, the Ninth Circuit, backtracking on their September 2021 decision, held that AB 51 is preempted by the FAA because the deterring penalties that AB 51 imposes on employers is antithetical to the FAA’s policy of favoring arbitration agreements.

Continue Reading End of the AB 51 Saga: California Employers Can and Should Continue Using Arbitration Agreements

California’s latest attempt to restrict employment arbitration was foiled by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last Wednesday. On February 15, 2023, a three-judge panel decided that AB 51 (which prohibits employers from “forcing” job applicants or employees to enter into pre-dispute employment arbitration agreements covering certain discrimination and retaliation claims) is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). In doing so, the Ninth Circuit reversed its prior decision in the same case, issued by the same three-judge panel, which partially upheld AB 51 in 2021. While we expect the California Attorney General to challenge the Ninth Circuit’s February 15 decision, California employers can breathe a sigh of relief for now knowing it’s still lawful for most to continue to require arbitration agreements.Continue Reading California Employers Still Can Require Arbitration. For Now.

The new year always brings new challenges for employers, but California employers in particular face a world of change in 2023.

In our 75-minute “quick hits” format, we help you track what California employers need to keep top-of-mind for 2023 and provide practical takeaways to help you navigate the new landscape.

This webinar helps to

The U.S. Supreme Court just handed employers a huge win in the continuing war over California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), a bounty-hunter statute that deputizes employees to sue on behalf of the state. In yesterday’s Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana, decision, the Supreme Court held that employers may compel employees to arbitrate

On March 3, President Biden signed the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act,” H.R. 4445, into law. The landmark legislation allows a plaintiff to elect not to arbitrate covered disputes of sexual assault or sexual harassment. To understand the implications of the new law, click here.

President Biden is expected to sign into law landmark #MeToo legislation, which allows a plaintiff to elect not to arbitrate covered disputes of sexual assault or sexual harassment. The “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021,” amends the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), by narrowing its scope and applicability. The bill’s passage had bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.

Historically, some employers have implemented arbitration programs that require both the employer and its employees to arbitrate most or all types of employment claims, including claims alleging sexual harassment or sexual assault. Largely in response to the #MeToo movement, which began in late 2017, some states passed laws designed to prohibit or restrict employers from requiring employees to arbitrate sexual harassment or sexual assault claims. For example, in New York, employers are prohibited from requiring the arbitration of sexual harassment claims except where inconsistent with federal law. New York’s prohibition on mandatory arbitration in relation to sexual harassment claims went into effect on July 11, 2018, and it has applied to contracts entered into on or after that date. New Jersey and California have enacted similar laws. New Jersey’s law prohibits any provision of an arbitration agreement that waives a substantive or procedural right or remedy relating to employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims. This law applies to all contracts and agreements entered into, renewed, modified, or amended on or after March 18, 2019. Further, on October 10, 2019, California enacted a law, which prohibits employers from requiring employees to sign new mandatory arbitration agreements concerning disputes arising under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) or California Labor Code.  California’s law applies only to agreements dated January 1, 2020 or after. However, courts have found these statutes to be pre-empted by the FAA.

On February 7, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 4445, 335 to 97. Shortly thereafter, on February 10, 2022, the bill passed the Senate in an unrecorded voice vote.Continue Reading Landmark #MeToo Legislation Allows Employees To Pursue Sexual Harassment & Assault Claims In Court, Rather Than Arbitration

On December 30, 2019, Judge Kimberly Mueller in the Eastern District of California issued a temporary restraining order that enjoined California from enforcing AB 51. AB 51 prohibits employers from requiring, as a condition of employment, employees’ waiver of any right, forum, or procedure for an alleged violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act or the California Labor Code. (For more on AB 51, read here).
Continue Reading Stop! In The Name Of The Federal Arbitration Act

Despite the hubbub, a new California law purportedly banning mandatory employment arbitration agreements does not completely change the game, and federal law still allows employers to use such agreements.

On October 10, 2019, Governor Newsom signed AB 51 (to be codified as Cal. Lab. Code § 432.6(c)). The new law on its face prohibits employers from requiring California employees to arbitrate certain employment disputes, even if the employees are given the option of opting out of arbitration. More ominously, AB 51 criminalizes retaliation against employees who refuse arbitration, among other remedies.Continue Reading Slow Your Roll: Federal Law Preempts California’s Latest Assault On Employment Arbitration Agreements

As previously detailed here, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Epic Systems decision established that requiring employees to waive their right to pursue collective or class actions does not violate the National Labor Relations Act’s “catchall” protection—the right to engage in “concerted activity”—and courts must enforce arbitration agreements as written.

The Supreme Court not only confirmed the legality of class action waivers under the Federal Arbitration Act, but it also narrowly construed the NLRA’s catchall provision as focused on the right to organize unions and bargain collectively in the workplace.

The Court’s holding that the right to engage in such “concerted activities” does not guarantee collective or class action procedures underpins a recent NLRB decision concerning issues of first impression: imposing and requiring as a condition for continued employment a new class action waiver rule in response to collective action.Continue Reading Applying Epic Systems, The NLRB Adopts Employer-Friendly Arbitration Stance