Inland Empire United and Latino Voters Challenge Riverside County’s Discriminatory Redistricting under the California FAIR MAPS Act and California Constitution

On June 14, 2022, community advocacy organization Inland Empire United and six Latino Riverside County voters filed suit against Riverside County, its Board of Supervisors, and its Registrar of Voters challenging the County’s 2021 Board of Supervisors redistricting plan under the California FAIR MAPS Act and California Constitution.  Latinos make up nearly half of all residents of Riverside County and roughly two-fifths of the voting population.  Despite considerable growth in the Latino population in the last few decades, there has only been one Latino supervisor on the County’s Board in its 129-year history.  The lawsuit alleges that the County’s 2021 redistricting plan, which includes only a single district with a majority Latino citizen voting age population, unlawfully dilutes the votes of Latino residents, “cracking” Latino communities of interest and denying them equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice in supervisor elections.

Altshuler Berzon LLP represents plaintiffs Inland Empire United and four individual Riverside County voters in the lawsuit.  The ACLU of Southern California and law firm Sheppard Mullin together represent two other individual Riverside County voter plaintiffs.

The complaint is available here.  A press release issued by Inland Empire United and the ACLU of Southern California is available here.

Plaintiffs and Google Agree to $118 Million Settlement of Pay Equity Class Action

Plaintiffs’ law firms Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP and Altshuler Berzon LLP announce today that Plaintiffs have reached an agreement with Defendant Google LLC ( “Google”), in which Google will pay $118 million to settle a class action gender discrimination lawsuit, Ellis v. Google LLC, No. CGC-17-561299, pending since 2017. The settlement covers approximately 15,500 female employees in 236 job titles (“covered positions”) in California since September 14, 2013.

In addition to monetary relief, the Settlement provides that an independent third party expert will analyze Google’s leveling-at-hire practices and that an independent labor economist will review Google’s pay equity studies.  The post-settlement work will be supervised by an external Settlement Monitor over the next three years.  The lawsuit challenged Google’s pay and leveling processes, and Plaintiffs believe these programs will help ensure that women are not paid less than their male counterparts who perform substantially similar work, and that Google’s challenged leveling practices are equitable.

Plaintiffs:  The Named Plaintiffs are Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease, Kelli Wisuri, and Heidi Lamar.  All of the Plaintiffs are women who worked for Google in California in a covered position since September 14, 2013.  Their backgrounds:

Plaintiff Kelly Ellis worked as a Software Engineer at Google’s Mountain View office for approximately four years, departing the company with the title of Senior Manager.

Plaintiff Holly Pease worked for Google for approximately 10.5 years, in both Mountain View and Sunnyvale, holding numerous technical leadership roles, including: Manager, Corporate Network Engineering; Manager, Business Systems Integration; Manager, Corporate Data Warehouse/Reporting Team; and Senior Manager, Business Systems Integration.

Plaintiff Kelli Wisuri worked for Google for approximately 2.5 years in its Mountain View office, as an Enterprise Operations Coordinator, Enterprise Sales Operations Associate, and Google Brand Evangelist, Executive Communications Program (aka Sales Solutions Senior Associate).

Plaintiff Heidi Lamar worked as a Preschool Teacher and Infant/Toddler Teacher at Google’s Children Center in Palo Alto for approximately four years.

Next Steps:  The court will set a hearing date for preliminary settlement approval, which if approved will result in the third-party administrator issuing notice to the class members.  If the court later grants final settlement approval, the third-party administrator will allocate settlement amounts based on an objective formula to each qualifying class member. More information is available at the website: https://googlegendercase.com/

Statements on the Settlement:

“As a woman who’s spent her entire career in the tech industry, I’m optimistic that the actions Google has agreed to take as part of this settlement will ensure more equity for women,” said Plaintiff Holly Pease.  “Google, since its founding, has led the tech industry.  They also have an opportunity to lead the charge to ensure inclusion and equity for women in tech.”

Plaintiffs’ co-counsel Kelly Dermody stated, “Plaintiffs believe this settlement advances gender equity at Google and will be precedent-setting for the industry.”

“Google has long been a technology leader. We are delighted that in this Settlement Agreement and Order Google is also affirming its commitment to be a leader in ensuring pay equity and equal employment opportunity for all of their employees,” said Plaintiffs’ co-counsel Jim Finberg.”

Information about Plaintiffs’ Counsel:

Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP:  Lieff Cabraser is one of the country’s largest and most successful firms exclusively representing plaintiffs in civil litigation, having secured verdicts or settlements worth over $127 billion for clients nationwide. With 120 attorneys, the firm has led some of the most significant litigation of the last decade, including the VW clean diesel emissions case, which resulted in over $15 billion for VW owners (In re: Volkswagen ‘Clean Diesel’ Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2672 (Northern District of California federal court)); and the high-tech cold-calling wage conspiracy case alleging an agreement among prominent technology companies to not poach each other’s employees, which resulted in settlements totaling $435 million (In re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-cv-2509-LJK (Northern District of California federal court)).  Partner Kelly Dermody, co-lead counsel here, led High-Tech for her firm. She is currently Chair of the Section of Labor and Employment Law of the American Bar Association, and Managing Partner of the San Francisco Office of Lieff Cabraser.

Altshuler Berzon LLP:  Altshuler Berzon LLP is a San Francisco law firm that specializes in labor and employment, constitutional, environmental, civil rights, campaign and election, and impact litigation. Altshuler Berzon, LLP has been co-lead counsel in a number of civil rights class actions, including Ries v. McDonalds, 1:20 CV 0002 HYJ RSK ( W.D. Mich. 2022) (sex harassment class action); and Satchell v. Federal Express, C03-2878 SI ( ND Cal.) (race discrimination class action). Altshuler Berzon is currently serving as co-lead counsel in the Jewett v. Oracle Equal Pay Act class action in San Mateo Superior Court, 17 Civ 02669 (San Mateo Sup.) set for trial on January 23, 2023.

For more information, visit GoogleGenderCase.com.

Ninth Circuit Rejects Challenge to Home Care Provider Union Dues Deductions

On June 8, 2022, the Ninth Circuit issued a published opinion dismissing claims that deducting voluntary union dues from the paychecks of home care providers violates the First Amendment and the Medicaid Act.  The plaintiffs in the two related cases, who were represented by anti-union advocacy groups, argued that the deduction of voluntarily authorized union dues violates the First Amendment, as well as the Medicaid Act’s “anti-reassignment provision,” which prohibits Medicaid providers from assigning their right to payment from the federal government to other entities.  If the plaintiffs had prevailed, home care workers would have been prevented from paying their union dues using the method that is most convenient and economical for them, which is the method routinely used by workers in thousands of industries across the country.

The Medicaid Act’s anti-reassignment provision was adopted decades ago in order to prevent fraud and abuse in the Medicaid program that had occurred when claims were sold and then falsely inflated by the purchasers.  It was not intended to cover routine payroll deductions like these.  But the courts did not have to reach the merits of the issue because in the two cases below, Polk v. SEIU 2015 et al. and Quirarte v. United Domestic Workers of America, AFSCME et al., the federal district courts dismissed the Medicaid Act claims as a threshold matter, holding that Congress did not intend to give providers a right of action under the anti-reassignment provision.  The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district courts’ rulings.

Altshuler Berzon LLP represented the unions that were the defendants in each of the cases, SEIU Local 2015 and United Domestic Workers of America, AFSCME.

You can read the Ninth Circuit’s decision here.

Federal District Court Denies Preliminary Injunction, Allowing Continued Enforcement of San Jose Unified School District’s Non-Discrimination Policy

On June 1, 2022, Judge Haywood Gilliam of the Northern District of California denied a preliminary injunction requested by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), which sought to enjoin the San Jose Unified School District’s application of its non-discrimination policy to an FCA-affiliated student group.  The District requires high school clubs that seek Associated Student Body (“ASB”) recognition to agree that all students are eligible for membership and leadership regardless of their status or beliefs.  Clubs that don’t obtain ASB recognition may still meet on campus but do not receive the benefits of recognition such as a faculty advisor and ASB account.

The FCA at one District high school had its recognition revoked when the District learned that students seeking leadership positions were required to sign a pledge that, among other things, affirms that they oppose same sex relationships and will conduct themselves in accordance with that belief.  The FCA sued and later sought a preliminary injunction, asserting that the District’s action violated the group’s constitutional rights to the free exercise of religion, speech, and expressive association, as well as parallel statutory rights.

Judge Gilliam denied the preliminary injunction, holding that the FCA plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed in either their facial challenge to the District’s policy or on a theory of selective enforcement.  A motion to dismiss some of the plaintiffs and claims remains pending.  Along with Dannis Woliver Kelley and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Altshuler Berzon LLP represents defendant school district officials, a high school principal, and a high school teacher in the case.

The federal district court’s opinion can be found here.