Apple Sued in Class Action Alleging Sex Discrimination

On June 13, 2024, Altshuler Berzon LLP, together with co-counsel, filed a class action lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court challenging sex discrimination at Apple, Inc. The suit alleges that Apple violates the California Equal Pay Act, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, and the California Unfair Competition Law by paying women less than men for substantially similar work and by ​using pay expectations to set starting salary, ​even though that practice has a disparate impact on women.

If you are a woman who was employed by Apple in California in its Engineering, Marketing, or AppleCare divisions any time after June 13, 2020, please call (415) 421-7151 or email nkostman@altber.com if you would like to discuss your rights.

The complaint can be found here.

Wall Street Journal

SF Chronicle

Reuters

Altshuler Berzon Attorney Defends the Biden National Labor Relations Board in Capitol Hill Hearing

As Congressional Republicans continue their attacks on the National Labor Relations Board under the Biden Administration, Altshuler Berzon LLP partner Eileen Goldsmith testified on Capitol Hill on June 12, 2024 in defense of the NLRB’s efforts to protect American workers. The June 12 hearing, entitled “NLRB Overreach: Trampling on Workers’ Rights and Fostering Unfairness,” was part of a series of anti-Union and anti-NLRB hearings called by Republican members of House Education & Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.  Goldsmith testified at the invitation of Democratic members of the subcommittee, defending the NLRB’s work in recent cases and rulemaking to restore long-standing law after the excessively anti-Union stance of the Trump NLRB.  Goldsmith’s written testimony is available here. A full video of the June 12, 2024 hearing is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Tomfp0_NdE.

Federal District Court Blocks Enforcement of Florida’s Discriminatory “Pronoun Ban” on First Amendment Grounds

On April 9, 2024, Chief Judge Mark Walker of the Northern District of Florida issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of a Florida law that prohibits teachers and other school personnel from “provid[ing]” any students with titles and pronouns like “Ms.” and “she/her” if those titles do not “correspond” to Florida’s definition of sex. Under that law, 10th-grade algebra teacher Katie Wood, a transgender woman, had been prevented from going by “Ms. Wood” and from using “she/her” pronouns in her classrooms; another teacher, AV Schwandes, was terminated for using the nonbinary title “Mx.” and “they/them” pronouns in theirs. Altshuler Berzon LLP, together with the Southern Poverty Law Center and Southern Legal Council, filed a lawsuit challenging the law for, among other things, violating the First Amendment, and sought preliminary injunctive relief. Holding that Ms. Wood was substantially likely to prevail on her First Amendment claim because it amounts to a restriction on personal speech with “no meaningful justification,” Judge Walker enjoined Ms. Wood’s school board, the Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education, and various other state officials from enforcing the challenged law against Ms. Wood. For now, Judge Walker has made clear that Ms. Wood is free to “vindicate[] her identity, her dignity, and her humanity” through the use of her preferred pronouns and titles; Florida may not, “by silencing her, force[] her to an inhabit an identity that is not her own.”

P. Casey Pitts Sworn in as United States District Judge for the Northern District of California

Altshuler Berzon LLP congratulates Judge P. Casey Pitts on becoming a judge on the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Casey joined the firm as a lawyer in 2009, becoming a partner in 2017. Prior to that, he worked at the firm as a paralegal (2003-05) and summer associate (2007). Casey was a brilliant, generous, and creative partner. While we will miss him, we are certain he will be a great addition to the federal bench. The firm is very proud that Casey is the fourth former Altshuler Berzon LLP attorney to serve as a federal court of appeals or federal district court judge.

Read the news release from the Office of the Circuit Executive of the United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit here.

Altshuler Berzon LLP files nationwide class action lawsuit against Aetna alleging fertility policies discriminate against LGBTQ people

On April 17, 2023, Altshuler Berzon LLP, together with Liu Peterson-Fisher LLP and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleging that Aetna’s policies discriminate against LGBTQ people who seek to get pregnant using fertility treatments. The lawsuit alleges that Aetna’s discriminatory infertility policy requires LGBTQ people who wish to become pregnant to pay more and wait longer before accessing the fertility benefits covered by their Aetna health plans, compared to those in heterosexual relationships. Aetna makes fertility treatments readily accessible to plan members in heterosexual relationships who seek them but requires LGBTQ plan members who wish to have children with their partners to submit proof that they have undergone six or 12 cycles (depending on age) of arduous and expensive artificial insemination treatments – among the very fertility treatments for which they seek coverage – before they can access the fertility benefits included in their health plans.

The lawsuit alleges that Aetna’s infertility policy violates Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination in health care based on sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Plaintiff Mara Berton brings this class action on behalf of others similarly situated, seeking damages for LGBTQ Californians harmed by Aetna’s discriminatory policy, as well as nationwide injunctive relief enjoining Aetna’s discriminatory policy once and for all.

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

California Court of Appeal Holds Tesla Workers Not Required to Arbitrate Classwide Claims for Race Discrimination and Harassment; California Supreme Court Denies Review

On January 4, 2023, the California Court of Appeal rejected Tesla’s attempts to require a putative class of current and former Black workers employed in its Fremont, California manufacturing plant to arbitrate most of their race discrimination and harassment claims. The workers allege that Tesla is liable for years of severe and pervasive racial discrimination and harassment committed against Black workers and contractors by Tesla supervisors, employees, and others under Tesla’s control and direction.

Affirming the trial court in full, the Court of Appeal held that the plaintiffs and class members who were initially hired by a staffing agency to work at the Tesla plant, before becoming direct employees of Tesla, were not required to arbitrate any portion of their claims that arose before they became directly employed by Tesla. The Court also held that Tesla’s arbitration agreement was invalid and unenforceable to the extent it prohibited the plaintiffs and class members from pursing public injunctive relief in any forum, thereby entitling plaintiffs to pursue their claims for public injunctive relief in court. As the Court concluded, the workers’ request for an injunction preventing further discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act was a request for public injunctive relief because such “invidious discrimination harms the public at large, including individuals lacking any direct connection to the workplace involved.” Vaughn v. Tesla, Inc., 87 Cal.App.5th 208, 232 (2023).

The Court of Appeal also rejected Tesla’s argument that the Federal Arbitration Act, as interpreted in Viking River Cruises v. Moriana, 142 S.Ct. 1906 (2022), preempts the California rule prohibiting contractual waivers of the right to seek a public injunction.

On April 12, 2023, the California Supreme Court denied Tesla’s petition for review of the Court of Appeal’s opinion, setting the stage for the workers’ claims to proceed on their merits in Alameda County Superior Court.

Altshuler Berzon LLP served as lead counsel for the plaintiffs on appeal; the plaintiffs are also represented by the Bryan Schwartz Law Group and California Civil Rights Law Group.