Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court held that an arbitration agreement cannot be read as permitting class arbitration unless the agreement clearly and explicitly so provides; it is not enough that the agreement is susceptible to the interpretation that it permits class arbitration. This holding gives employers another tool to fend off class actions and compel alleged class claims to individual arbitration.
Earlier this week, Wendy Moore, a former partner at Jones Day, filed a representative action against the law firm in San Francisco Superior Court, alleging a single cause of action pursuant to the California Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) for alleged violations of the California Equal Pay Act, as amended by the Fair Pay Act of 2015, and related violations of the California Labor Code. The PAGA permits employees to bring civil suits to recover penalties on behalf of themselves and other aggrieved employees for Labor Code violations. Unlike class actions, PAGA claims can proceed regardless of whether the plaintiff can meet the requirements to certify a class.
This week, three female associates at Morrison & Foerster (“MoFo”) filed a nine-count gender, pregnancy, and maternity (“sex-plus”) discrimination class and collective action against their employer in the Northern District of California. The putative class includes all female attorneys at MoFo and other national and California subclasses of female attorneys who have been or will be employed by MoFo and who have been or will be pregnant, have children, and/or take maternity leave.
Last week, a California state court in San Francisco ruled that a California Equal Pay Act class action against Google Inc. has survived the pleading stage. The California Equal Pay Act currently requires equal pay for employees who perform “substantially similar work” when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility. The 2016 amendment to the Equal Pay Act also prohibits employers from relying on the employee’s prior salary to justify a sex-based difference in salary. Plaintiffs allege in their amended complaint that Google relies on gender stereotypes and has a company-wide policy of relying on former salary history in setting pay and assigning jobs. These allegations were critical to the court’s decision to allow the case to proceed as a class action.
Earlier this year, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) reinstated seventeen George W. Bush Era opinion letters which were issued in January 2009, but later withdrawn by the Obama Administration. Opinion letters are official guidance from the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division that provide employers with detailed responses to fact-specific questions pertaining to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Davis-Bacon Act (DBA).
In 2010, the DOL stopped issuing opinion letters and instead began issuing “administrative interpretations,” which offered a more general interpretation of the law rather than a response to specific questions posed by employers or employees.
California joins Delaware, Massachusetts, Oregon and several municipalities, including New York City and San Francisco, by banning inquiries into salary history. Aimed at combating wage disparity based on gender, the new law (AB 168), to be codified at Labor Code section 432.3, prohibits employers from seeking or relying upon salary history information.
Ban on Seeking Salary History Information
AB 168, which goes into effect on January 1, 2018, prohibits employers from seeking salary history information about applicants for employment. Specifically, employers may not, orally or in writing, seek salary history information, which includes compensation and benefits. The new law also prohibits employers from seeking such information through agents such as headhunters or recruiters.