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The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA) created the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)  It gives employees the right to organize and bargain collectively with their employers.  This is called unionization.  It protects their activities, including speech, from any retaliation.  What first comes to mind are scenes from The Grapes of Wrath–huge corporations surrounded by picketers, signs, and angry mobs.

Not so any more.  The NLRB has adopted a more aggressive enforcement policy with respect to small business, even non-profits.   In the modern age many forms of communication—tweets, emails, the spoken word, Facebook posts, websites—can be protectable speech even if the posts are injurious to the employers’ business.

You Do Not Have To Be A Union Or Union Organizer To Be Protected. 

Any employee who communicates with another employee for the purpose of forming a collective complaint to the employer is engaging in protected conduct.

In a 2003 NLRB decision, the Board ruled that the employer violated the Act when it suspended an employee for (a) violating its rule prohibiting its employees from discussing salaries and wages with each other, (b) interrogating employees concerning their discussion of salaries and wages with each other, and (c) ultimately discharging the employee.

The employee disclosed the salary of another employee without their permission arguably to fashion a protest against unfair wages.  The other employee’s right to privacy never entered into the analysis.  Incidentally, California Labor Code Section 232 prohibits any of the following: (a) Require, as a condition of employment, that an employee refrain from disclosing the amount of his or her wages, (b) Require an employee to sign a waiver or other document that purports to deny the employee the right to disclose the amount of his or her wages, (c) Discharge, formally discipline, or otherwise discriminate against an employee who discloses the amount of his or her wages.  The California code does not yet address the situation where an employee discloses the salary of another without their permission.  However, the Equal Pay Act that goes into effect on January 1, 2016, will include a provision stating that an employer shall not prohibit an employee from discussing the wages of others, inquiring about another employee’s wages, or aiding or encouraging any other employee to exercise his or her rights under this section. 

In a 2014 case, the Board ruled that derogatory comments about the employer posted on the employee’s social media was protected speech under the Act.  Rumors, misrepresentations, gossip and the like are all protected unless the employer can demonstrate a real adverse impact, such as serious morale issues, on the ability of the employer to conduct business.

As we move into the digital age the employment landscape becomes ever more complicated.  And there is no bright line on how to proceed.

The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
95 South Market Street, Suite 520
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel. 408-293-6341
Original article by Phillip J. Griego of the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
 
Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) contracted with Levy Premium Foods to manage the food and beverage services at several entertainment venues located in southern California. Levy, in turn, contracted with Canvas Corporation to provide 1099 contract laborers who sold food and beverages at AEG venues. Neither AEG nor Levy had any direct contract with the laborers. Nevertheless, in 2013, several laborers filed a wage and hour class action against AEG, Levy and Canvas for failure to pay minimum wage and willfully misclassifying them as independent contractors in violation of Labor Code section 226.8. They argued that because AEG and Levy exercised direct control over their work they were “joint employers” along with Canvas and also liable for wage and hour violations as well as civil penalties for up to $25,000 for each of the 4100 potential class members for misclassifying them as independent contractors.

Labor Code Section 226.8, subdivision (a)(1) states: “(a) It is unlawful for any person or employer to engage in any of the following activities: [¶] (1) Willful misclassification of an individual as an independent contractor.” “Willful misclassification” means “avoiding employee status for an individual by voluntarily and knowingly misclassifying that individual as an independent contractor.” (§ 226.8, subd. (i)(4).) It unlawful for an employer to “engage in” the act of “voluntarily and knowingly misclassifying [an] individual as an independent contractor.”

The trial court found that the inclusion of the words “engage in” demonstrated a legislative intent to limit the statute to employers who made the actual decision to misclassify. In effect, the court equated the term “engage in” with the term “commit,” concluding that subdivision (a)(1) was limited to employers who commit the act of willful misclassification. The appellate court noted that the ordinary definitions of “commit” and “engage” are not equivalent. “Commit” is commonly defined to mean “to do, perform.” “Engage” has a broader meaning, commonly defined to mean to “involve oneself; to take part in” or “to participate.” Thus, an individual or entity can “engage” in an act without actually having “committed” that act.

“We presume,” said the court, “the Legislature intended to penalize a broader class of employers that includes those who, through their acts or omissions, have knowingly participated or involved themselves in the willful misclassification decision. As applicable here, a joint employer who knowingly acquiesces in a co-joint employer’s decision to willfully misclassify their joint employees has necessarily “involved” itself in that misclassification decision.”

So, what does this mean for joint employers in this situation? It means a joint employer may not be held liable under section 226.8 based solely on the acts or omissions of a co-employer. To obtain civil penalties under section 226.8 plaintiffs must demonstrate not only that AEG and Levy were joint employers, but also that they each engaged in the act of voluntarily and knowingly misclassifying the plaintiffs. The mere fact that Canvas engaged in such conduct is insufficient. Furthermore, individual employees do not have a private cause of action top collect these penalties other than by way of a Private Attorney General Action (PAGA) on behalf of California.

What about the claims for unpaid wages and overtime? Each joint employer is liable to its employees for unpaid minimum wage and overtime compensation because Labor Code Section 1194 imposes a duty on every employer, whether singular or joint, to ensure its employees receive minimum wage and overtime compensation.

So, once again, here is a lesson learned the hard way for these defendants. True independent contractors hired to perform duties incidental to the business of the employer is a rarity. Be informed.  Call a knowledgeable employment attorney before this issue becomes a problem.

The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
95 South Market Street, Suite 520
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel. 408-293-6341
Original article by Phillip J. Griego of the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
 
Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

In January I posted an article about Augustus v. ABM Securities.  In that case, the appellate court held that employees were provided compliant rest breaks even though the employees were technically “on-call” and had to carry pagers and/or radios during their breaks.  Well, the California Supreme Court granted review in the case.  Therefore, employers are cautioned that relying on ABM Securities as binding authority may be risky until the Supreme Court decides the case.

The Supreme Court’s decision will take several months at the least.  We’ll keep track of the case and post a new article once the Supreme Court issues its decision.  In the meantime, you should review your rest and meal break policies to ensure they comply with the law.

 
The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
95 South Market Street, Suite 520
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel. 408-293-6341
 
Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
 
Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
 
Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

Those of you working or doing business in San Francisco may see an increase in employee wages tomorrow.  Effective May 1, 2015, employees who work 2 or more hours per week in San Francisco are entitled to receive at least $12.25 per hour.

Employers are also required to post the new San Francisco Minimum Wage Poster, which warns:

Under the Ordinance, employees who assert their rights to receive the City’s minimum wage are protected from retaliation. Employees may file a civil lawsuit against their employers for any violation of the Ordinance. The City can investigate possible violations, shall have access to payroll records, and can enforce the minimum wage requirements by ordering reinstatement of employees, payment of back wages unlawfully withheld, and penalties

San Francisco employers are also required to post:

Other locales may have their own county- or city-specific posters, all of which are in addition to any state and/or federally mandated posters.

You can download the posters individually, or contact an organization such as the California Chamber of Commerce to get all the posters from one place.

The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
95 South Market Street, Suite 520
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel. 408-293-6341
 
Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
 

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

Like most people, I occasionally receive unwanted email solicitations from companies that want to sell me this or that.  Some of them slip through my spam-filter, but I’m able to recognize and delete them fairly quickly.  One solicitation aimed specifically for lawyers caught my eye.  The email was promoting an article on being “well-liked.”  With the abundance of lawyer jokes equating attorneys with lower-life forms, the email caught my eye.  In particular, the email pointed out that collaborating and being well-liked are two important factors in advancing one’s career.

The email had the following advice:

1) Do not get actively involved in cliques

2) Never saying anything bad about any co-worker, no matter what

3) Make your superiors feel important

4) Listen, do not talk too much, and ask about others

5) Participate in group solidarity activities

6) Keep your head down and smile

As I thought about the email, I saw that the suggestions were not just applicable to law offices.  They could apply regardless of the size of your company or the industry you work in.  Not all of the suggestions are necessarily going to work every time, and in some instances it could be counter-productive, but they are good principles to consider.

Although the email piqued my interest, it wasn’t saved from my waste basket, but the concept is worth passing along.

The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
95 South Market Street, Suite 520
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel. 408-293-6341
 
Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
 
Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
 
Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

I’m excited to be able to work with the Professional Fiduciary Association of California next week at their 20th annual education conference San Francisco, CA.  PFAC is a wonderful organization that provides continuing education and promotes minimum standards in the administration of conservatorships, guardianships, trusts, estates and durable powers of attorney.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with several of their members and their clients to develop strategies for in-home care and assistance with elderly and disabled clients in conjunction with third-party care agencies.  I’m always impressed by their level of professionalism and commitment.

In the past, I’ve conducted seminars for PFAC regarding the difference between independent contractors and employees, how to employ caregivers correctly, and employment law updates.  This year, I will be co-presenting a 3-hour intensive seminar called: Hiring, Employing, Supervising, and Disciplining Workers.  I will also conduct a breakout session about Workplace Policies and Procedures for Caregivers where I can share some tips regarding caregiver rights and employer responsibilities.  This year’s conference will also include roundtable discussions for a more direct educational experience, where I will discuss how to handle workplace performance and discipline issues.

I’m really looking forward to this year’s conference.  If you are attending the conference, please look for me and say, “Hi.”

The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
95 South Market Street, Suite 520
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel. 408-293-6341
 
Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
 
Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
 
Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

One of the great things about the practice of law is that it is never dull or boring. A new unpublished case confirms this opinion. Plaintiff and appellant Marshel Copple filed a case under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) alleging religious discrimination and harassment, failure to accommodate religious practices, retaliation based on his religion, and constructive discharge for his religious practices. Copple asserted California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s requirement that he work overtime violated a tenet of his religion that he sleep at least eight hours per day.   And what religion was that?—Sun Worshipping Atheism — a religion he created and of which he is the only member. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment against Mr. Copple. The court’s reasoning is instructive.

  1. Sun Worshipping Atheism is Not a Religion as Defined Under FEHA.

The court’s treatment of this issue reminds me of the obscenity case of Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964), wherein Justice Potter Stewart wrote in his short concurrence that “hard-core pornography” was hard to define, but that “I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”[1]  Relying on earlier cases the court identified three “objective guidelines” to “make the sometimes subtle distinction between a religion and a secular belief system” for FEHA purposes.

First, a religion addresses fundamental and ultimate questions having to do with deep and imponderable matters. Well what could be more clear? Ask the court:

Sun Worshipping Atheism does not “address fundamental and ultimate questions having to do with deep and imponderable matters.” Rather, it deals with living a healthy lifestyle. The sun is worshipped because there are health benefits that derive from it. Plaintiff fashioned Sun Worshipping Atheism after reviewing scientific data to determine healthy practices that have a positive effect on the mind, body, and soul, which he claims are all the same thing. Plaintiff’s statement that his beliefs address “[t]he nature of the universe, nature of human beings, what we need to do to be moral,” is a mere conclusion, insufficient to prove this element.

Second, a religion is comprehensive in nature; it consists of a belief-system as opposed to an isolated teaching.

Sun Worshipping Atheism is not comprehensive and does not express a full set of beliefs. As discussed above, its list of practices reveal that it deals with living a healthy lifestyle, “mind-body wellbeing,” based on scientific facts synthesized by plaintiff. These include eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep. This is to “get the most out of your human and social function as your [sic] conscious of it now.”

Third, a religion can often be recognized by the presence of certain formal and external signs.

Sun Worshipping Atheism lacks any outward signs. Although not conclusive, this is a strong indication the belief system is not a religious creed. There are no rituals, services, or religious holy days, nor is there any structure where its beliefs are observed. Moreover, there is no hierarchy or organization, not even an informal one. In fact, plaintiff is the only member.

  1. Because Sun Worshipping Atheism is Not a Protected Religion, None of Plaintiff’s Causes of Action survived.

The court concluded that Sun Worshipping Atheism is a “personal philosophy . . . and a way of life” under FEHA’s definition. Purely moral or ethical beliefs that are held with the strength of religious convictions may not qualify for protection under the FEHA. Rather, the requires that the belief, observance, or practice occupy a place in the employee’s life of importance parallel to that of traditionally recognized religions—something more than a strongly held view of right and wrong.

This case illustrates the “deep and imponderable” question of where to draw the line between freedom of expression and government regulation. It will continue to challenge our courts and legislature now and in the future.  Always check with counsel or other human resource consultants before making decisions.

The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
95 South Market Street, Suite 520
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel. 408-293-6341
Original article by Phillip J. Griego of the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
 
Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

[1] Louis Malle’s The Lovers

More often than not, employees do not have direct evidence of discrimination.  Occasionally an employer will say or write something that clearly indicates an unlawful motive, but in most cases the employee tries to prove the “discriminatory animus” through various other methods.  Oftentimes lawyers refer to this as indirect evidence or proving discrimination through pretext.  As one court put it, “Resort to pretextual explanation is, like flight from the scene of a crime, evidence indicating consciousness of guilt, which is, of course, evidence of illegal conduct.”  Binder v. Long Island Lighting Co. (2nd Cir. 1995) 57 F.3d 193. Proving pretext does not necessarily mean the jury must find the employer violated the law, but it is usually enough to get the matter to a jury, and then it is up to the jury to decide whether the employer violated the law.

Hundreds (if not thousands) of cases throughout the nation discuss various methods for proving pretext.  Kent Spriggs, in his book Representing Plaintiffs in Title VII Actions, identifies (with appropriate case citations) the following 22 ways to prove pretext:  

  1. Statistical proof that a pattern of discrimination existed
  2. Direct evidence of discrimination
  3. Articulated reason is not the true reason
  4. Nonplaintiff selectee is less qualified
  5. Articulated comparison is not actually made
  6. Falsity of articulation stemming from inadequate opportunity to observe
  7. Change of qualifications or rules midstream
  8. If the employer departs from rules of law or its own regular rules or processes
  9. Drastic decline in performance
  10. Unequal discipline
  11. Catch-22: the employer is responsible for creating the problem that is supposedly the basis of the employer’s disqualification of employee
  12. Changing the articulated reason during the litigation
  13. Contamination: Falsity of one articulated reason impeaches other articulated reasons
  14. Excessive subjectivity or lack of factual basis
  15. Secret paper trail
  16. Surveillance as suggestive of pretext
  17. Employer’s treatment of other members of the same group
  18. Reason not reflected in performance evaluations
  19. Hostility toward retention of counsel
  20. Lack of proportionality
  21. Intent inferred from strong views of nondecisionmakers
  22. Absence of evidence supporting reasons

The second edition of Mr. Spriggs’ book came out in 1994, and Mr. Spriggs continued to update the book at least through 2004.  There is a book with the same name written by Robert E. McKnight Jr., which I believe is an updated version of the book, but I haven’t read it yet.

Understanding how to prove discrimination and how to avoid conduct that will lead to a discrimination claim is important for anyone representing individuals or companies in employment law disputes.  Representing Plaintiffs in Title VII Actions is a valuable resource for any employment attorney.

The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
95 South Market Street, Suite 520
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel. 408-293-6341
 
Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
 
Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
 
Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

The Second Appellate District published its decision in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, which overturned a trial court’s award of $90 million in statutory damages, interest, penalties, and attorney fees for a class of security guards who were allegedly denied rest breaks.  There has been much controversy over the extent to which employers must relieve employees of duty while on rest and meal breaks.  The court’s opinion does a fairly thorough analysis and is worth reading.  The following are some highlights from the case.

The trial court certified a class and granted plaintiffs’ motion for summary adjudication, concluding an employer must relieve its employees of all duties during rest breaks, including the obligation to remain on call. The trial court awarded approximately $90 million in statutory damages, interest, penalties, and attorney fees on the premise that California law requires employers to relieve their workers of all duty during rest breaks. The appellate court concluded the premise was false, and therefore reversed the order.

ABM employs thousands of security guards, some sites where only a single guard is stationed, while others dozens could be stationed.  ABM policies required security guards to remain on-call and to carry a radio or pager even when the employee was on his/her rest break.  Labor Code Section 226.7, and the applicable wage orders, require employers to “afford their nonexempt employees meal periods and rest periods during the workday.”  The plaintiffs alleged since they were required to remain on-call,they were not relieved of all duties and therefore they were not afforded required rest periods.

The appellate court compared the wage order’s rest period requirement and the language in Labor Code section 226.7, and concluded that while an employer cannot require an employee to perform work while on a rest period, being on-call (at least in this situation) did not require the employees to perform work.

[A]lthough ABM’s security guards were required to remain on call during their rest breaks, they were otherwise permitted to engage and did engage in various non- work activities, including smoking, reading, making personal telephone calls, attending to personal business, and surfing the Internet. The issue is whether simply being on-call constitutes performing “work.” We conclude it does not.

The guards had a variety of duties they would perform throughout the day, including greeting visitors, allowing egress and ingress to the premises, making rounds of the buildings, responding to emergencies, etc.  Although a guard could be called back to work to perform such tasks, “remaining available to work is not the same as actually working.”

The court also differentiated rest breaks from meal breaks under the wage order.  Subdivision 11(A), pertaining to meal periods requires that an employee be “relieved of all duty” during a meal period. Subdivision 12(A), regarding rest breaks, contains no similar requirement. The court found that if the IWC had wanted to relieve an employee of all duty during a rest period, including the duty to remain on call, it knew how to do so. Additionally, since the IWC’s order allows a paid on-duty meal period in some circumstances, “it would make no sense to permit a 30- minute paid, on duty meal break but not a 10-minute paid rest break.”

In an amended portion of the decision, the court looked at the meaning of the word, “work,” both as a noun and a verb:

The word “work” is used as both a noun and verb in Wage Order No. 4, which defines “Hours worked” as “the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer, and includes all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.” (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11040, subd. 2(K).) In this definition, “work” as a noun means “employment”—time during which an employee is subject to an employer’s control. “Work” as a verb means “exertion”—activities an employer may suffer or permit an employee to perform. (See Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123 (1944) 321 U.S. 590, 598 [work is “physical or mental exertion (whether burdensome or not) controlled or required by the employer and pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the employer and his business”].) Section 226.7, which as noted provides that “[a]n employer shall not require an employee to work during a meal or rest or recovery period,” uses “work” as an infinitive verb contraposed with “rest.” It is evident, therefore, that “work” in that section means exertion on an employer’s behalf.

I’m not a linguist, but I know we will see this language quoted in future cases.

In the end, the court concluded that “on-call status is a state of being, not an action. But section 226.7 prohibits only the action, not the status. In other words, it prohibits only working during a rest break, not remaining available to work.”

Augustus will be useful to occupations other than security guards since all of the wage orders contain identical language regarding rest breaks.  Any industry where the employee is required to remain on-call while on a rest break, and any employee that is required to remain on-call during rest breaks, should review Augustus.

The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
95 South Market Street, Suite 520
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel. 408-293-6341
 
Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
 
Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
 
Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

In an earlier article on New Laws for 2015 and on our website, Associate Robert Nuddleman, mentioned the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014.  Let’s take a closer look at that new law.

On or after July 1, 2015, all employees (including part-time and temporary employees) earn paid time off for:

  1.  The Diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition of, or preventive care for an employee or an employee’s family member or
  2. Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking to obtain restraining, to seek medical attention, to obtain services of a domestic violence shelter, program, or rape crisis center, to obtain psychological counseling, to participate in safety planning or to find temporary or permanent housing.

“Family Member” includes:

  1. A biological child, adopted, or foster child, stepchild, legal ward, or a child to whom the employee stands in loco parentis regardless of age or dependency status.
  2. A biological, adoptive, or foster parent, stepparent, or legal guardian of an employee or the employee’s spouse or registered domestic partner, or a person who stood in loco parentis when the employee was a minor child.
  3. A spouse.
  4. A registered domestic partner.
  5. A grandparent.
  6. A grandchild.
  7. A sibling.

Paid leave is earned according to the following terms and conditions:

  • The employee must work more than 30 days within a year of the commencement of employment or within a year of July 1, 2015, whichever is later.
  • The employee can earn up to 24 hours of paid sick leave in a calendar year.
  • The employee accrues paid sick days at the rate of one hour per every 30 hours worked. If the employee is an exempt employee, he or she accrues sick days based on the their normal weekly work schedule or 40 hours per week, whichever is less.
  • An employee can use accrued paid sick days after 90 days of employment.
  • An employer can limit the use of paid sick days to 24 hours or three days in each year of employment.
  • Accrued paid sick days carry over to the following year of employment. However, the employer can impose a maximum cap of 48 hours or 6 days until sick leave is used.
  • An employer is not required to pay an employee for accrued, unused paid sick days upon termination, resignation, retirement, or other separation from employment. However, if rehired within one year of the date of separation, the employer must reinstate previously accrued and unused paid sick days.
  • The employer can require the employee to use paid sick leave in minimum increments of no more than two hours.
  • The rate of pay is the employee’s hourly wage at the time of the leave. If in the 90 days before taking accrued paid sick leave the employee had different hourly pay rates, was paid by commission or piece rate, or was a nonexempt salaried employee, then the rate of pay will be calculated by dividing total wages, not including overtime premium pay, by the total hours worked in the full pay periods of the prior 90 days of employment.
  • The employee must provide reasonable advance notice if the need for paid sick leave is foreseeable. If the need for paid sick leave is unforeseeable, the employee must provide notice of the need for the leave as soon as practicable.
  • The employee must receive payment for sick leave no later than the payday for the next regular payroll period after the sick leave was taken.
  • An employer cannot require the employee to find a replacement to cover the days during which the employee uses paid sick days.
  • An employer need not provide paid sick leave if it has a PTO policy that meets the minimum conditions and grants the same leave for the same purposes as this paid sick leave law.
  • The employee must receive written notice of accrued paid sick leave (or PTO an employer provides in lieu of paid sick leave) on an itemized wage statement or in a separate written notice provided to the employee with his or her wage statement.
  • The state can sue an employer for violations of the new law, seeking reinstatement, back pay, costs, attorneys’ fees, and penalties of up to $4,000 per employee per day.  Aggrieved employees can also sue the employer under the statute and on behalf of other “aggrieved employees” pursuant to the Labor Code Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”)
  • Penalties include:
    • (1) the dollar amount of paid sick days withheld multiplied by three, or two hundred fifty dollars ($250), whichever amount is greater, not to exceed four thousand dollars ($4,000 and
    • (2) fifty dollars ($50) for each day the violation occurred or continued, not to exceed thousand dollars ($4,000).
  • The Labor Commissioner may file of a civil action to enforce its order and the employer may be ordered to pay to the state fifty dollars ($50) for each day or portion of a day a violation occurs or continues for each aggrieved employee.
  • In an administrative or civil action brought under this article, the Labor Commissioner or court, as the case may be, will award interest on all amounts due and unpaid.

Now is the time to prepare for this new law and to learn these new rights so that employees and employers alike will be informed come July 1st.

The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
95 South Market Street, Suite 520
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel. 408-293-6341
Original article by Phillip J. Griego of the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
 
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Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.