Class and Collective Actions

In our latest episode, listen to partners Arthur Rooney and Mike Brewer discuss the recent decision from the US Supreme Court regarding class action waivers in arbitration agreements.

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But Are They Right for Your Workforce?

The US Supreme Court issued a highly anticipated decision on May 21, 2018 in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, holding that class action waivers in arbitration agreements are fully enforceable, notwithstanding the right to engage in concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act.

Although employers now have a tool to effectively eliminate most employment class actions through the use of arbitration agreements, several other important nuances remain to be considered before rolling out an arbitration program.

Click here to learn more about the decision and what it means for your business.

Welcome news for employers: companies can require their workers go through arbitration to pursue any legal claims against their employers, rather than go to court or join together in class lawsuits or grievances, the US Supreme Court held today in a 5-4 vote.

Writing for the majority in three consolidated cases (Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, NLRB v.  Murphy Oil  USA, Inc., and Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris), Justice Neil Gorsuch said the Federal Arbitration Act sets a strong policy favoring the enforcement of arbitration agreements, and employees of the three companies failed to show they had any right to disregard the arbitration agreements they signed.

The policy may be debatable but the law is clear: Congress has instructed that arbitration agreements like those before us must be enforced as written. While Congress is of course always free to amend this judgment, we see nothing suggesting it did so in the NLRA — much less that it manifested a clear intention to displace the Arbitration Act. Because we can easily read Congress’s statutes to work in harmony, that is where our duty lies.

The ruling means that companies can enforce their class action waiver agreements and their employees will have to pursue their claims in individual arbitration proceedings. Please stay tuned for more to come from us on the actions employers should take now in response to this important decision.

On April 30, the California Supreme Court issued an opinion radically changing the legal landscape for any company engaging independent contractors in California. Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County changes the legal test for determining whether workers should be classified as employees or as independent contractors under California’s wage orders. The Court scrapped the multifactor, flexible test (known as “Borello”) that has been used in California for decades. It adopted the “ABC” test, a standard that has its roots in determination of unemployment tax status in other states and presumes workers are employees instead of independent contractors.

This extraordinary decision will have far-reaching consequences for California companies reliant on independent contractors and likely spur a landslide of litigation for years to come. As such, we are recommending that companies engaging independent contractors in California, in any industry, work with counsel to revisit classification decisions and undertake a cost/benefit analysis of reclassifying workers in the near term.

For more, please read our alert HERE.

The California Supreme Court’s decision in Brinker v. Superior Court unleashed a flood of single-plaintiff and class-action lawsuits involving alleged violations of California’s meal and rest period laws. Under California law, employees are entitled to take at least one 30-minute uninterrupted, off-duty meal break no later than the end of their 5th hour of work. If employees work over 10 hours, they must be provided a second 30-minute meal period. Similarly, employees must also receive 10-minute rest periods for each 4 hour-period worked or major fraction thereof.

Continue Reading Take A Break To Remember Your Meal And Rest Period Obligations Under California Law

We are pleased to report that a California federal judge put to rest claims by a proposed class of Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. workers that they weren’t given adequate meal breaks and rest periods, saying the company was exempted from liability by a valid collective bargaining agreement.

In reconsidering a portion of his November ruling that granted the construction and engineering services provider partial summary judgment over various wage and hour claims brought by lead plaintiff Peter Zayerz under the California Labor Code, Judge Gutierrez acknowledged he had mistakenly failed to consider in his earlier decision whether the company was exempt from liability for the meal and rest period claims by a collective bargaining agreement that was in place between 2012 and 2015, the time period in which Zayerz’s claims arose.

“The court concedes that it failed to consider a material issue of law in its prior order, namely that the governing CBA exempts defendant from liability under the labor code for the meal and rest period claims,” Judge Gutierrez said.

With that, Judge Gutierrez awarded Kiewit summary judgment on all remaining claims and closed the case. Kiewit is represented by our own Arthur J. Rooney, Todd K. Boyer, Benjamin R. Buchwalter, Alexis Hawley and Melissa Logan.

The case is Peter Zayerz v. Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. et al., case number 2:16-cv-06405, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Find the write-up in Law360 HERE.

Michael Brewer has joined Baker McKenzie as a Partner in its North America Employment & Compensation Practice, bringing more than 17 years of experience in a range of employment litigation and counseling matters.

Based in San Francisco, Michael defends employers facing wage and hour class and collective actions, alleged harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination and other employment-related claims. He has litigated more than 500 employment lawsuits to conclusion. Companies frequently call upon Michael to step into difficult cases even when handled by other firms. Michael has served as lead trial counsel on state and federal multi-district class actions as well as single-plaintiff cases throughout California. He has significant trial experience, and routinely counsels clients on the handling of termination and discipline decisions, workplace accommodation issues, litigation avoidance and all aspects of personnel management.

“Employment litigation and counseling is a key area of focus for many of our clients in California and throughout the US,” said George Avraam, Chair of the Firm’s North America Employment & Compensation Practice. “Michael’s extensive trial and appellate experience, covering a range of employment issues, will be a tremendous asset to our clients as they look for pragmatic, business-minded advice.”

Continue Reading Highly Regarded Employment Litigator Michael Brewer Joins Baker McKenzie

In October, we discussed one of the hottest trending class-action claims: the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act (BIPA). In our alert, we noted that it was not clear whether a plaintiff would need to show a concrete injury to be entitled to damages or whether a mere statutory violation would be sufficient to warrant damages.

On November 21, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision on this very issue.

Continue Reading UPDATE Regarding The Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act

Attention employers using biometric identification technology, such as retina scans, fingerprint identification and facial recognition technology:

A number of corporations in Illinois, including internet and video game companies, food product manufacturers, gas stations, and restaurant chains, have been sued in the past few months for alleged BIPA violations.

Here’s what you need to know

Continue Reading How To Avoid Class Action Liability Under Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act