Altshuler Berzon LLP files class action lawsuit against Caltech and Simplilearn alleging that they misled students about their Caltech Cybersecurity Bootcamp.

On July 20, 2023, Altshuler Berzon LLP, together with the National Student Legal Defense Network (Student Defense), filed a class action lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court alleging that the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Simplilearn Americas, Inc. (Simpilearn) misled students into enrolling in the Caltech Cybsersecurity Bootcamp.  The lawsuit alleges that Caltech and its for-profit-partner Simplilearn represent to prospective students that the Bootcamp is a Caltech program when, in fact, Simplilearn runs the Bootcamp, which is a Caltech program in name only.

The lawsuit alleges violations of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law, Unfair Competition Law, and the common law prohibition of unjust enrichment.  Plaintiff was a student in the Caltech Cybsersecurity Bootcamp and, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, seeks damages, restitution, and injunctive relief to prevent Caltech and Simplilearn from continuing to deceive students, and to make former and current students whole.

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

Altshuler Berzon LLP Wins Two Unanimous California Supreme Court Decisions that Expand Access to the Courts

CMA v. Aetna: Expanded Access to the Courts for Non-Profits, Labor Unions, and Other Organizational Plaintiffs

On July 17, 2023, the California Supreme Court issued two important opinions that expanded access to the California state courts, the first for employees who have suffered violations of the California Labor Code (Adolph v. Uber, see here) and the second for organizations challenging unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business practices by corporate defendants. Altshuler Berzon LLP attorneys successfully argued both cases. 

In California Medical Association v. Aetna Health of California, Inc., which was Justice Kelli Evans’s first majority opinion as a Supreme Court Justice, the Court unanimously held that an organization satisfies the standing requirement of California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”) if “in furtherance of a bona fide, preexisting mission, [the organization] incurs costs to respond to perceived unfair competition that threatens that mission, so long as those expenditures are independent of costs incurred in UCL litigation or preparations for such litigation.”   

Proposition 64, which was enacted by the voters in 2004, limited the scope of UCL standing by requiring plaintiffs to demonstrate, as a condition of bringing a UCL suit, that they “suffered injury in fact and [have] lost money or property as a result of the unfair competition.” In CMA, the Court unanimously held that an organization satisfies that requirement when it has “expended staff time or other resources on responding to a new threat to its mission, diverting those resources from other projects.” As long as the organization devoted staff resources to addressing the challenged practice and did so in a manner that sought to further its underlying mission, the standing requirements of Proposition 64 would be fully satisfied, according to the Court.  

The CMA decision will substantially expand the ability of organizational plaintiffs, including labor unions, non-profits, and civil rights groups, to pursue legal challenges under the UCL to unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent business practices that threaten their missions.  

Whatley Kallas LLP also represented CMA in this case. The decision is available here. 

Altshuler Berzon LLP Wins Two Unanimous California Supreme Court Decisions that Expand Access to the Courts

Adolph v. Uber: Expanded Access to the Courts for Workers Under PAGA 

On July 17, 2023, the California Supreme Court issued two important opinions that expanded access to the California state courts, the first for employees who have suffered violations of the California Labor Code (Adolph) and the second for organizations challenging unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business practices by corporate defendants (CMA v. Aetna, see here). Altshuler Berzon LLP attorneys successfully argued both cases.  

In Adolph v. Uber Technologies, Inc., Justice Goodwin Liu held for a unanimous Supreme Court that a plaintiff seeking civil penalties on behalf of the State labor agency under California’s Labor Code Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”) retains standing to pursue such penalties, calculated on the basis of Labor Code violations committed against herself and all other aggrieved employees, even if her own PAGA claim has been compelled to “individual” arbitration.  

This is a huge victory for the millions of California workers covered by forced arbitration agreements, because it rejects the portion of the June 2022 decision of the U.S Supreme Court in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana, 142 S.Ct. 1906 (2022), that had construed California law as stripping PAGA plaintiffs of standing to sue on behalf of others once their individual PAGA claims were compelled to arbitration. Because that portion of the Viking River Cruises decision rested on state rather than federal law, it was not binding on the California Supreme Court, which held in Adolph – just 13 months after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling – that “[b]ecause ‘[t]he highest court of each State . . . remains “the final arbiter of what is state law,”’ we are not bound by the high court’s interpretation of California law.”  

After carefully reviewing the text and legislative purpose of PAGA, the California Supreme Court in Adolph concluded that the California Legislature had intended to preserve PAGA plaintiffs’ standing to pursue the individual and non-individual components of their claims for civil penalties, even if compelled to split those claims between court and arbitration. While the U.S. Supreme Court’s characterization of California law inViking River Cruises would have gutted PAGA, effectively eliminating the civil penalties that were so crucial to accomplishing the twin statutory goals of deterrence and punishment, the California Supreme Court’s Adolph decision ensures that PAGA will remain a vital tool for workers and their representatives seeking to achieve workplace justice and full compliance with the workers’ Labor Code rights. 

The Desai Law Firm and Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho also represented the plaintiff in Adolph. The decision is available here. 


Federal District Court Dismisses Lawsuit Against Unions for Petitioning Activity Protected by the First Amendment

On July 6, 2023, the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of California granted a motion to dismiss federal antitrust and labor law claims brought by a hotel developer against UNITE HERE! Local 30, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, and those unions’ leaders.  The hotel developer alleged that the unions and union officials had engaged in unlawful conduct designed to coerce the hotel developer to agree to a card check neutrality agreement and project labor agreement, including by opposing and threatening to file environmental challenges to the proposed hotel redevelopment plan.  The court dismissed the hotel developer’s claims with prejudice on the grounds that the supposedly unlawful activity was all petitioning activity protected by the First Amendment under the Noerr-Pennington doctrine.  The court had previously dismissed the hotel developer’s RICO and state law claims. Altshuler Berzon represented defendants San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and Tom Lemmon.  The Coopersmith Law Firm also represented Mr. Lemmon, and the other defendants were represented by McCracken, Stemerman & Holsberry LLP. The order can be found here.

California Supreme Court Grants Review in Case Challenging Constitutionality of Proposition 22

On June 28, 2023, the California Supreme Court granted the petition for review in Castellanos v. State of California. Castellanos involves a constitutional challenge to Proposition 22, the 2020 ballot initiative sponsored by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and other app-based companies that classifies app-based drivers as independent contractors, thereby removing them from the state workers’ compensation system and otherwise stripping employment protections from the drivers.

The petition urged the Court to review the First District Court of Appeal’s 2-1 decision that Proposition 22 does not violate article XIV, section 4 of the California Constitution even though the initiative restrains the Legislature’s authority under that section to create and enforce a complete workers’ compensation system. The Court of Appeal unanimously agreed that Proposition 22’s provision defining what constitutes an amendment of the initiative violates fundamental separation of power principles and struck down that provision as unconstitutional.

Altshuler Berzon LLP represents the Petitioners in Castellanos, along with Olson Remcho, LLP and attorneys from the Service Employees International Union.

The California Supreme Court will likely hear the case in 2024. The petition for review is available here.

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.