A number of employment cases pending before the California Supreme Court may affect California employers. CalChamber employment law counsel prepared a quick summary of cases that are worth watching.

Alvarado v. Dart Container Corp. of California, Docket No. S232607. The issue before the California Supreme Court is the proper method for calculating the rate of overtime pay when an employee receives both an hourly wage and a flat-sum bonus. The California Supreme Court granted review of this case after a California appellate court followed the federal formula for calculating overtime on flat-sum bonuses and rejected the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement’s method. The case has been fully briefed, but oral argument has not yet been scheduled.

Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., Docket No. S224853. The California Supreme Court will consider two issues in this case: (1) whether California’s Labor Code and Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Orders require that employees be relieved of all duties during rest breaks; and (2) whether security guards who remain on call during rest breaks are performing work during that time. The case was appealed to the California Supreme Court after the appellate court held that an employer may require employees to remain “on call” during rest periods without running afoul of rest period requirements. The court heard oral argument on September 29, 2016, and will issue an opinion within 90 days.

City of San Jose v. Superior Court, Docket No. S218066. The California Supreme Court will consider whether written communications about city business (including email and text messages) that are sent or received by public officials and employees using private accounts on their own electronic devices, are not stored on city servers and are not directly accessible by the city, constitute “public records” within the meaning of the California Public Records Act. Oral argument has been rescheduled to the court’s December 2016 calendar.

Connor v. First Student, Inc., Docket No. S229428. The issue before the court is whether the Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act (ICRAA) is unconstitutionally vague as applied to background checks conducted on a company’s employees because persons and entities which must comply with the ICRAA and the Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act cannot determine which statute applies. The case has been fully briefed, but oral argument has not yet been scheduled.

Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, Docket No. S222732. The issue before the court is whether a wage-and-hour class action involving claims that the plaintiffs were misclassified as independent contractors may be certified based on the IWC definition of employee or whether the class must be certified using the common law right-to-control test. The case was appealed to the California Supreme Court after the appellate court allowed the plaintiffs to rely on the expansive definitions in the IWC wage orders to allege they were misclassified as independent contractors instead of the more stringent right-to-control test. The case has been fully briefed, but oral argument has not yet been scheduled.

Mendoza v. Nordstrom, Docket No. S224611. This case is before the California Supreme Court on a request from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit requested that the California Supreme Court decide the following questions:

  • California Labor Code section 551 provides that “[e]very person employed in any occupation of labor is entitled to one day’s rest therefrom in seven.” Is the required day of rest calculated by the workweek? Or is it calculated on a rolling basis for any consecutive seven-day period?
  • California Labor Code section 556 exempts employers from providing such a day of rest “when the total hours of employment do not exceed 30 hours in any week or six hours in any one day thereof.” Does that exemption apply when an employee works less than six hours in any one day of the applicable week? Or does it apply only when an employee works less than six hours in each day of the week?
  • California Labor Code section 552 provides that an employer may not “cause his employees to work more than six days in seven.” What does it mean for an employer to “cause” an employee to work more than six days in seven: force, coerce, pressure, schedule, encourage, reward, permit or something else?

The case has been fully briefed, but oral argument has not yet been scheduled.

Troester v. Starbucks Corp., Docket No. S234969. This case is also before the California Supreme Court on a request from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The issue to be decided is whether the federal Fair Labor Standard Act’s (FLSA) “de minimis” doctrine applies to claims for unpaid wages under California Labor Code sections 510, 1194 and 1197. This case, which was filed in federal court, alleged claims for unpaid wages and overtime for time an employee said that he spent on closing duties after he clocked out. The federal court dismissed the case, ruling that the time spent was de minimis and needn’t be paid. The case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which then asked the California Supreme Court to decide whether the FLSA’s de minimis doctrine applies to California law claims. The case is in the briefing stage.

Williams v. Superior Court, Docket No. S227228. In this case, the California Supreme Court will consider the following questions: (1) Is the plaintiff in a representative action under California’s Private Attorneys General Act entitled to discovery of the names and contact information of other aggrieved employees at the beginning of the proceeding? Or must the plaintiff first show good cause for that access?; and (2) When ruling on a request for that information, should the court first determine whether the employees have a protectable privacy interest and balance that privacy interest against competing interests? Or is a protectable privacy interest assumed? The case has been fully briefed, but oral argument has not yet been scheduled.

This article courtesy of CalChamber.