Alameda Superior Court Grants Final Approval to Settlement for Programmatic Relief Affecting Hundreds of Thousands of Unemployment Insurance Claimants

On May 26, 2023, the Alameda Superior Court granted final approval to a class action settlement reached between the Center for Workers’ Rights (represented by Altshuler Berzon LLP and in-house counsel Daniela Urban) and the California Employment Development Department.  The parties reached a final settlement agreement after more than two years of negotiations in which the parties took a novel, cooperative approach focused on identifying practicable and immediate solutions to some of the serious—and seemingly unlawful—obstacles to accessing unemployment insurance that claimants faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The settlement has already resulted in conditional payment of more than $769 million to more than 639,000 unemployment insurance claimants.

The two-part class action settlement requires EDD to implement injunctive relief benefiting two classes of unemployment insurance claimants.  The first group, the “Continued Claims Status Class,” includes unemployment insurance claimants who received at least one benefits payment, who certified eligibility for benefits for at least one additional week, and whose eligibility remained unresolved.  Among other measures, EDD agreed to make conditional payments to those Continued Claims Status Class Members while their eligibility for current and future benefits was being investigated, and to notify those class members that the benefits they are receiving are conditioned on EDD’s eligibility review.  Under the terms of the settlement, EDD was required to implement the agreed relief for the Continued Claims Status Class beginning in July 2021 while the parties continued their negotiations, and the relief has already benefited hundreds of thousands of claimants.

The second group, the “Late-Notice-of-Overpayment Class,” consists of EDD claimants not found to have engaged in fraud, misrepresentation, or willful nondisclosure who received benefits from EDD under a qualifying program between October 1, 2019 and May 26, 2023, and to whom EDD issued a notice of overpayment more than one year after the close of the benefit year in which the claimant received the benefits in question.  EDD agreed to cancel existing notices of overpayment issued more than one year after the close of the benefit year in which a Late-Notice-of-Overpayment Class member received the benefits addressed in the overpayment notice, to refund amounts class members have already repaid in response to these overpayment notices, and to stop issuing such overpayment notices going forward.

The case is Center for Workers’ Rights v. California Employment Development Department, et al., Case No. RG21106525. The final approval order summarizing the agreed programmatic relief is here. The July 22, 2021 settlement agreement is here, and the February 16, 2023 settlement agreement is here. Please refer to the settlement agreement for detailed information on its terms.

Alaska Supreme Court Rejects Alaska Executive Branch’s Attempt to Stop Honoring Union Members’ Dues Deduction Agreements

On May 26, 2023, the Alaska Supreme Court issued an opinion affirming a judgment in favor of Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA) in State of Alaska v. ASEA, Supreme Court No. S-18172, ruling that the Alaska executive branch violated the State’s collective bargaining agreement with ASEA and multiple state statutes when in 2019 the State announced it would stop honoring public employees’ voluntary union membership and dues deduction authorization agreements. Altshuler Berzon LLP has represented ASEA throughout this case, in both the superior court and state Supreme Court.

The Anchorage Superior Court had granted a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the State’s plans, and subsequently granted summary judgment to the union, holding that the State and members of the executive branch had breached the State’s contract with ASEA and the accompanying covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and had violated multiple provisions of Alaska’s Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) and Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The superior court also rejected the State’s argument that it was required to violate state law by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. The State then appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court.

In its published opinion, the Alaska Supreme Court rejected all the State’s arguments about Janus and affirmed the superior court’s rulings that the State breached its contract with ASEA, the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and three separate provisions of Alaska’s PERA statues. The Court declined to reach other issues because they were unnecessary to affirm all the relief granted to ASEA, including damages of about $186,000 and a permanent injunction prohibiting the State from implementing former-Attorney General Kevin Clarkson’s “opinion” letter regarding Janus and Governor Mike Dunleavy’s Administrative Order 312, which had directed the State to stop honoring union members’ dues deduction authorization agreements.

The opinion is available here

A prior news post about oral argument in the case is available here.

Altshuler Berzon LLP files motion challenging Riverside County’s 2021 Board of Supervisors Redistricting Plan under California’s landmark FAIR MAPS Act

On May 19, 2023, Altshuler Berzon LLP, together with the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California and Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, filed a motion in the Riverside County Superior Court seeking an order prohibiting Riverside County from using the current Board of Supervisors district map and ordering the County to adopt a new supervisorial district map that complies with the requirements of California’s landmark recent redistricting legislation, the Fair And Inclusive Redistricting for Municipalities And Political Subdivisions Act (“FAIR MAPS Act”), Elec. Code §§ 21500-2150. The case is Inland Empire United, et al. v. Riverside County, et al., Case No. CVRI2202423. Altshuler Berzon LLP represents lead petitioner Inland Empire United and four individual co-petitioners.

The motion argues that Riverside County adopted a supervisorial district map following the 2020 census that unlawfully dilutes the voting strength of Latinos in Riverside County by splitting two majority Latino communities of interest among three districts, in violation of both the California Constitution’s equal protection guarantees and the federal Voting Rights Act, both of which are expressly incorporated into the FAIR MAPS Act. The motion also agues that the County independently violated the FAIR MAPS Act by considering and prioritizing incumbency when adopting the current map, and by improperly failing to prioritize keeping communities of interest whole over keeping cities whole. Petitioners request an order prohibiting the County from using the current map in any future election and compelling the County to comply with the FAIR MAPS Act by adopting a new, lawful supervisorial district map.

The Verified Petition for Writ of Mandate in the case is available here. The Motion for Issuance of a Peremptory Writ of Mandate is available here.

Altshuler Berzon LLP wins cases against Marathon oil refinery, compels refinery to arbitrate grievances with labor unions

On May 9, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted summary judgment to Altshuler Berzon LLP’s clients International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 302, and Operating Engineers Local 3 in a pair of cases against Marathon Petroleum Co. at its refinery in Martinez, California. Marathon refused to arbitrate the Unions’ grievances about whether it violated a project labor agreement by subcontracting construction work to non-union contractors who did not agree to comply with the agreement. The federal court rejected Marathon’s argument that it had no duty to arbitrate the Unions’ grievances and issued orders compelling arbitration. The orders compelling arbitration are available here and here.

Altshuler Berzon LLP files motion for preliminary injunction against The Salvation Army challenging policy prohibiting access to medication for opioid use disorder at Adult Rehabilitation Centers

On May 5, 2023, Altshuler Berzon LLP, together with Justice Catalyst Law, filed motions for a preliminary injunction and provisional class certification in the District of Massachusetts federal court in Tassinari v. The Salvation Army, No. 1:21-cv-10806 (D. Mass.). The motions filed today seek an order prohibiting The Salvation Army from enforcing its current categorical ban on access to prescribed methadone and buprenorphine medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) as to individuals with opioid use disorder who participate in, apply to, or inquire about access to housing or services at any of The Salvation Army’s 29 Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARCs) in the northeastern United States. The lawsuit alleges that The Salvation Army’s categorical policy prohibiting access to these standard-of-care life-saving medications for people with opioid use disorder at its ARCs constitutes unlawful disability discrimination in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Act. The motions seek relief to prevent irreparable harm to people with opioid use disorder in the midst of the current national opioid epidemic, by removing barriers to their access to housing, services, and critical medication.

The operative Second Amended Complaint can be found here. Plaintiffs’ motions for a preliminary injunction and for provisional class certification can be found here and here. Plaintiffs’ proposed combined brief in support of both motions can be found here.

Altshuler Berzon LLP files class action lawsuit against USC alleging that USC misled students about its online Master of Social Work program

On May 4, 2023, Altshuler Berzon LLP, together with The Project on Predatory Student Lending (PPSL), filed a class action lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging that the University of Southern California (USC) deceives students into enrolling in its online Master of Social Work (MSW) program.  The lawsuit alleges that, among other things, USC misrepresents to students that its online MSW program is exactly the same as USC’s long-standing and well-respected on-campus MSW program (apart from format), and it charges students the same high price (until recently, more than $100,000) for the online MSW program and the on-campus program.  But they are not at all the same:  The complaint alleges that online MSW students have different and inferior faculty, course offerings and content, field placements, academic advising, and career services.  It also alleges that USC outsources much of the online program to a for-profit education company, 2U, Inc., and that USC uses aggressive and predatory tactics, including racial targeting, to enroll students in the inferior online MSW program.

The lawsuit alleges violations of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, Consumer Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law, Unfair Competition Law, and the common law prohibition of unjust enrichment.  Plaintiffs were students in the online MSW program and, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, seek damages, restitution, and injunctive relief to prevent USC from continuing to deceive and target students, and to make former and current students whole.

The complaint can be found here, and further information about the case is available here.