Saturday, February 23, 2013

California Supremes Expanding Employment Law Docket

The California Supreme Court is taking up several cases for review that will have significant effects on California employment law.  Once the Supreme Court grants review, the lower court opinion is not precedent and cannot be cited in briefs or relied upon unless the Court says otherwise.

Here are two recent "grants," courtesy of the California bar's employment law section email blast (and thank you, Phyllis Cheng as always):

In this case, the court of appeal expanded appellate review of arbitration decisions beyond what was previously the law.  One of the reasons parties turn to arbitration is finality - no appeals unless there are very specific circumstances.  This case carved a huge loophole.  This case also rejected the employer's argument that it had an "honest belief" that an employee was faking the need for medical leave, justifying discharge.

Richey v. Autonation, Inc. (2012) 149 Cal.Rptr.3d 280 (SC S207536/B234711review granted 2/13/13) CFRA/honest belief defense

Petition for review after the Court of Appeal reversed the judgment in a civil action. This case presents the following issues: (1) Is an employer’s honest belief that an employee was violating company policy or abusing medical leave a complete defense to the employee’s claim that the employer violated the Moore-Brown-Roberti Family Rights Act (Gov. Code, §§ 12945.1, 12945.2)? (2) Was the decision below to vacate the arbitration award in the employer’s favor consistent with the limited judicial review of arbitration awards? Review granted/brief due.

This one is a "grant and hold" that likely will depend on the outcome of the pending Iskanian decision, which addresses overlapping issues.  The Court is going to decide whether class action waivers are lawful in California after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in ATT Mobility v. Concepcion.

Franco v. Arakelian Enterprises, Inc. (2012) 149 Cal.Rptr.3d 530 (SC S207760/B232583 review granted 2/13/13) Class Action Waiver

Petition for review after the Court of Appeal affirmed an order denying a petition to compel arbitration in a civil action. The court ordered briefing deferred pending decision in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC, S204032 (#12-97), which includes the following issue: Did AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion (2011) 563 U.S. __ [131 S.Ct. 1740, 179 L.Ed.2d 742] impliedly overrule Gentry v. Superior Court (2007) 42 Cal.4th 443 with respect to contractual class action waivers in the context of non-waivable labor law rights?  Review granted/briefing deferred.

The High Court of course has a number of other significant employment law cases pending. f you want to review all of the cases the California Supreme Court has on its docket (employment law and otherwise), the Court keeps a list here.