Governor Jerry Brown signed several laws in 2017 that will impact California employers next year. A summary of some of the key new laws follows, in numerical order by Assembly Bill (AB) and/or Senate Bill (SB). All of the laws outlined below are effective beginning January 1, 2018.
Can employees sue individuals for wage-and-hour violations? That is the question numerous trial courts have been asked since the enactment of California Labor Code section 558.1 (“Section 558.1”) in 2016. Unfortunately, no binding authority on the question exists yet, but several trial courts have concluded that employees can.
Under Section 558.1(a), “[a]ny employer or other person acting on behalf of an employer who violates, or causes to be violated,” several labor code provisions, “may be held liable as the employer for such violation.” The term “other person acting on behalf of an employer” means any person who is an owner, director, officer, or managing agent of the employer. Lab. Code § 558.1(b). Generally speaking, managing agents are corporate employees who exercise substantial independent authority and judgment so that their decisions ultimately determine corporate policy; in other words, “managing agents” aren’t necessarily just company executives.
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.
Mark Terman and Sujata Wiese authored a practice note for Practical Law titled “Confidentiality and Nondisclosure Agreements (CA).” In their note, Mark and Sujata discuss how companies can protect their information, including the use of confidentiality agreements, under California law.
Mark and Sujata address considerations involved in safeguarding a company’s confidential information, and substantive provisions and issues common to many commercial confidentiality agreements. They state that “having effective confidentiality agreements in place with other parties is necessary but not sufficient to protect an organization’s confidential information and data. Comprehensive protection requires the participation and coordination of management and staff at all levels across all functions, from finance and administration to marketing and sales. It often falls to the legal department, working closely with the information technology (IT) function and with the support of senior executives, to lead the company-wide information management and protection program.”
Topics addressed in the note include: company-wide information and data security policies; compliance with contractual obligations governing others’ confidential information; trade secrets; privacy and data security laws and regulations; and form, structure and key provisions of confidentiality agreements.
On August 16, 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order certifying a question regarding an important wage and hour issue to the California Supreme Court: Is time spent on an employer’s premises waiting for and undergoing required exit searches of bags or packages voluntarily brought to work for purely personal convenience by employees compensable as “hours worked” under California law?
The question arose in Frlekin v. Apple, Inc., an appeal in a wage and hour class action brought against Apple, Inc., by current and former nonexempt California retail store employees. In the suit, the plaintiffs sought compensation for time that they spent waiting for and undergoing exit searches whenever they left Apple’s retail store locations, pursuant to the company’s Employee Package and Bag Searches policy. The at-issue policy, which is similar to ones in place at many other large retailers, required that employees undergo unpaid, manager-performed bag/package checks before leaving the stores—at breaks or at the end of their shifts.
In a blow to the defense bar—and, in particular, retail employers—the California Supreme Court, in Williams v. Superior Court (Marshalls of CA, LLC), S227228 (July 13, 2017), held that there is nothing unique about claims filed under the California Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) that would justify restricting the scope of discovery under California law. The Supreme Court reversed a decision of the California Court of Appeal that would have precluded PAGA plaintiffs from obtaining the contact information of other potentially aggrieved employees beyond the discrete location at which they work(ed) without first making a threshold evidentiary showing that (a) they were aggrieved employees and (b) they had knowledge of systemic statewide Labor Code violations. Rather, to justify disclosure of the contact information of all employees in California, the Supreme Court found that it is sufficient for a named plaintiff to allege that the at-issue violations occurred, that plaintiff himself or herself was aggrieved, and that the defendant employer had a systemic, statewide policy that caused injury to other employees across California.
Continue reading “California Supreme Court Ruling on Right to Statewide Discovery in PAGA Actions Is Not as Bad for Employers as It Looks”