On March 15, 2017, the California Daily Journal awarded its 2017 California Lawyer of the Year (“CLAY”) awards to attorneys throughout the state, including two at Altshuler Berzon LLP.
Partner Michael Rubin and Associate Connie Chan were each awarded a 2017 CLAY award in the category of Worker Health & Safety. Michael and Connie were recognized for their successful efforts in obtaining a unanimous California Supreme Court decision in Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy, a decision that guaranteed workers throughout California the right to “suitable seating” at their workstations when the nature of their work reasonably permits the use of a seat. The “suitable seating” law at issue was initially adopted in 1913 but rarely enforced. Not until the California Legislature created a private right of action for civil penalties in the 2003 Labor Code Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”) could workers sue for violations of their seating law rights under California law. Shortly after the Kilby ruling in April 2016, the Ninth Circuit applied the State’s newly-construed seating law in three pending class actions that Michael and Connie were also handling on appeal, affirming the district court’s class certification order in a case brought by Walmart checkout cashiers, and reversing the denial of class certification in cases brought by JPMorgan Chase bank tellers and CVS checkout cashiers. Shortly after that, Michael and Connie’s efforts resulted in the largest pure PAGA settlement ever, in a seating case brought by Bank of America tellers, which resulted in a $15 million settlement (almost half of which was paid to the State labor agency and earmarked for labor law enforcement and education) plus comprehensive injunctive relief that guaranteed all Bank of America tellers the right to seats at their teller counters. This was Michael’s sixth CLAY award since 2003 and Connie’s first CLAY award.