Skip to main content

Employment Law Summer Recap 2014: Part 4 of 11 - Chris Pratt and Unexpected Surprises in Hollywood and the World of California Employment Law

Written by Michael Arnold

This summer, those (31?) of us who watched Chris Pratt steal scene after scene in Parks & Recreation saw him ripen into the star we always hoped he’d become. First he charmed audiences as the voice of Emmett in the Lego Movie (you know, the one that easily broke the record for most references that went over your kid’s head in a G-rated movie). Then he dazzled audiences as Peter Quill, the fun-loving action hero, in the top-grossing movie of the summer Guardians of the Galaxy. Overall, an unexpected, but welcomed surprise.

Also unexpected, but a welcomed surprise: the California Supreme Court siding with an employer in a wage and hour class action case.

In Duran v. U.S. Bank National Association, the California Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal’s overturning of a $15 million judgment against a Bank that allegedly misclassified certain banking officers as exempt outside salespersons. As we wrote about earlier, the Court found that the “trial plan,” which involved the use of a 21-class member representative sampling of testimony to determine class-wide liability and restitution for the entire 260 member class, was significantly flawed and violated the Bank’s due process rights. The Court also found that the class should have been decertified because the individual issues could not be properly managed at trial – even if common issues existed.

At the same time, let’s be honest here, despite this employer-friendly decision, California continues to be California, and it remains difficult and expensive for employers to operate in the Golden State. And for every rare win like Duran, employers must contend with multiple adverse decisions. The same California Supreme Court in Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc., recently raised the bar for California employers seeking to defeat class certification. And the 9th Circuit recently did the same in Jimenez v. Allstate Insurance Co., when it permitted a class action to move forward despite the existence of individualized issues of damages. Then there is the 9th Circuit’s FedEx independent misclassification decision, which we discussed in Part 1 of this series, and which could spell doom for FedEx’s driver business model. And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a California Appellate Court’s decision in Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Service, where it found that employers must now reimburse employees “some reasonable percentage” of their personal cell phone use when the employer has a Bring Your Own Device policy.

And then there is the California state legislature, which never met an employee-friendly employment bill it didn’t like. Most recently, a paid sick leave bill, which moved its way through the legislature this summer, was just signed into law making California the second state to provide paid sick leave. California also raised its minimum wage to $9 and expanded its Paid Family Leave law in July. And now it will require large employers to include “bullying” as one of the topics they must include in their sexual harassment training seminars.

The changes to the law remain ongoing.  Employers operating in California are well-advised to have someone take a look at their employment policies and procedures to make sure they are up to date.

Meanwhile, despite this continued judicial and legislative onslaught, hopefully we’ll get some additional unexpected, but welcomed employment law news out of California this fall. And hopefully Chris Pratt will continue his meteoric rise, including by nailing his most recent gig as the host of SNL’s season premiere on September 27.


Tomorrow: Part 5 of 11: Old School’s Frank Ricard and Contractual Statute of Limitations Provisions: I Don’t Know If We’ll Have Enough Time. For previous parts, click here.

Subscribe To Viewpoints