Court Certifies Class of Thousands of Oracle Women Employees in Equal Pay Act Case: Jewett, et al. v. Oracle America, Inc.

On April 29, 2020, the San Mateo County Superior Court certified a class of over 3,000 women employees of Oracle who contend that they were systematically underpaid by Oracle as compared to men in violation of California’s Equal Pay Act.

The court rejected Oracle’s arguments that the work done by women and men in the same detailed job codes was not similar enough to warrant proceeding as a class, and concluded that a class action was justified by the evidence of Oracle’s common practices and was superior to requiring the affected women to bring their own individual claims.  The court also rejected Oracle’s attempts to exclude the testimony of the experts presented on behalf of the class, including a labor economist who analyzed Oracle’s detailed pay records and concluded that Oracle underpays women as compared to men in the same job codes by an average of $13,000 per year, and who determined that the likelihood of such a disparity occurring by chance is less than one in a billion.  The certified class encompasses women who were employed by Oracle in California in its Information Technology, Product Development, and Support Job Functions since 2013.

The Court’s class certification order entitles the women to join together in pursuing their claims to seek enjoin Oracle’s wrongful pay practices, and to recover the tens of millions of dollars in pay disparities imposed on the class.  Altshuler Berzon LLP is serving as class counsel along with the firm of Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe, LLP. 

Copies of the court’s orders granting class certification, and denying Oracle’s motions to exclude the class’s experts, are attached here, here, and here.

Second Circuit Rejects Post-Janus Attack on Public Sector Unions

On April 15, 2020, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Wholean v. CSEA SEIU Local 2001, et al. affirmed the dismissal of claims against a union representing Connecticut state workers in which the plaintiffs sought to claw back fair-share fees the union had lawfully charged them before the Supreme Court reversed long-standing precedent and held that such fees could no longer be charged in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31.  Altshuler Berzon LLP represented Local 2001, with partner Scott Kronland arguing the case in the Second Circuit.

Joining the unanimous judicial consensus on the issue, the court recognized that the union defendant’s good-faith reliance on state law barred the plaintiffs’ attempts to extract refunds of fair-share fees that they had paid under then-valid state law and binding Supreme Court precedent.  The Second Circuit joined the Seventh Circuit, Ninth Circuit, Sixth Circuit, and numerous district courts across the country that have all rejected materially indistinguishable claims brought against public sector unions in the wake of Janus.  Altshuler Berzon LLP has successfully defended the union defendants in many of those cases.  The Second Circuit’s opinion can be found here.

McDonald’s Workers File Sex Harassment Class Action Lawsuit

On April 10, 2020 Altshuler Berzon LLP, together with co-counsel and with the financial support of the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund™, filed a civil rights and employment discrimination class action lawsuit against McDonald’s Corporation on behalf of women workers who work at corporate owned and operated McDonald’s restaurants in Florida.   The lawsuit accuses McDonald’s of failing to protect its employees from sexual harassment and from retaliation for reporting sexual harassment.  McDonald’s workers have for years been telling their stories of routine, severe sexual harassment and abuse, and this lawsuit alleges that McDonald’s has failed to take adequate action to address this endemic problem and protect its workers.  In the wake of the #MeToo movement, women, including two women workers in Florida, are standing up and demanding that McDonald’s take responsibility and end the toxic and hostile culture of harassment that they assert pervades its restaurants, including by providing adequate training and a safe and confidential reporting mechanism.  This lawsuit builds on Altshuler Berzon LLP’s prior work representing dozens of McDonald’s workers who filed sexual harassment charges with the EEOC, and a prospective class of women who worked at a McDonald’s restaurant in Michigan.

Altshuler Berzon LLP Updates on Covid-19-Related Developments

Altshuler Berzon LLP has been providing regular updates to clients regarding federal legislative responses to the Covid-19 public health crisis, with a focus on how the legislation affects unions and union members.  Recent updates are available here:

  • Information about Families First Coronavirus Act (March 23, 2020)
  • Information about then-proposed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act (March 26, 2020)
  • Updated Guidance and FAQs re Families First Coronavirus Act (March 27, 2020)
  • Options for Unions and Employers to Recover Payroll Costs under Federal Covid-19 Legislation (March 31, 2020)
  • Supplemental FAQs re Federal Covid-19 Legislation (March 31, 2020)

Please contact us with any questions about federal, state, or local legislation or regarding any other issues related to ongoing events.

Any new updates regarding the government’s legislative response to the health crisis will appear on this page.

Altshuler Berzon LLP Continues Its Winning Streak in Litigation Arising from the Supreme Court’s Decision in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31 (2018).

Durst v. Oregon

On March 31, 2020, the District of Oregon granted summary judgment in Durst v. Oregon Education Association, et al. to the Oregon Education Association and its affiliates represented by Altshuler Berzon LLP.  The court rejected the claims of three former union members that their First Amendment rights were violated when their employers deducted union membership dues that the plaintiffs themselves had agreed to pay in exchange for union membership rights and benefits.  The court recognized that its decision was consistent with every other federal court that has addressed similar post-Janus claims challenging voluntary union membership dues deductions, including in many other cases litigated by Altshuler Berzon LLP.  The decision can be found here.

Chambers v. AFSCME, et al.

On March 31, 2020, the District of Oregon granted summary judgment to the defendant unions in Chambers v. AFSCME, et al., rejecting the plaintiffs’ attempts to recover fair-share fees that they had paid to cover the costs of collective bargaining, in accordance with then-valid state law and binding Supreme Court precedent before the Supreme Court overturned that precedent in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31.  The plaintiffs in Chambers brought a putative class action against Oregon affiliates of AFSCME, SEIU, NEA, and other unions, seeking to assert claims on behalf of most public sector employees across the state of Oregon.  Altshuler Berzon LLP successfully defended the unions against plaintiffs’ federal and state tort law claims.  The district court’s order can be found here.  Altshuler Berzon LLP has also successfully defended many similar post-Janus lawsuits filed across the country.

Quirarte v. United Domestic Workers AFSCME Local 3930

On February 10, 2020, in Quirarte v. United Domestic Workers AFSCME Local 3930, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California granted judgment on the pleadings to the defendant government officials and union, ruling that the deduction of union dues from California home care providers’ paychecks did not violate the First Amendment, that no state action was involved in making those deductions, and that the plaintiffs could not assert a cause of action under the Medicaid Act.  The order can be found here.  The case is on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Altshuler Berzon LLP represents United Domestic Workers in the case.

Few v. UTLA et al.

On February 10, 2020, the United States District Court, in Few v. UTLA et al., granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims seeking to enjoin the California state laws governing the deduction of voluntary union dues from public employee union members and to recover damages premised on the plaintiff’s payment of voluntary dues prior to his resignation from his union.  The order can be found here.  Altshuler Berzon LLP represented defendant United Teachers Los Angeles in the district court proceedings.

Grossman v. Hawaii Government Employees Association/AFSCME Local 152

In Grossman v. Hawaii Government Employees Association/AFSCME Local 152, the District of Hawaii rejected multiple attacks on voluntary unionism for public sector workers in Hawaii based on the plaintiff’s radical misinterpretations of Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31.  On May 21, 2019, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s facial challenge to Hawaii’s system of exclusive representation for purposes of collective bargaining for public sector workers, finding that challenge squarely foreclosed by Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit precedent.  On January 31, 2020, the court granted summary judgment against the plaintiff’s remaining claim, in which the plaintiff sought a refund of dues that the plaintiff had voluntarily agreed to pay as a union member in exchange for the rights and privileges of union membership that she received.  The orders can be found here and here.  The union defendants were represented by Altshuler Berzon LLP.

Hendrickson v. AFSCME Council 18 (D.N.M.)

In Hendrickson v. AFSCME Council 18, the District of New Mexico granted the Union’s and State of New Mexico’s motions for summary judgment.  On January 22, 2020, the court ruled that a union membership agreement that required an employee who chose to become a union member to pay dues for a renewable one-year period was enforceable, rejecting the plaintiff’s argument that the agreement violated his First Amendment rights.  The court also rejected the plaintiff’s challenge to exclusive union representation as established by New Mexico’s public employee collective bargaining law.  The order can be found here.  The union defendant was represented by Altshuler Berzon LLP.

Press Release: Preliminary Injunction Mandates Spanish-Language Voter Access in 32 Counties Leading up to Florida Presidential Preference Primary

In the midst of early voting for the Florida Presidential Preference Primary, which takes place on March 17, 2020, legal and community organizations are reminding voters and county representatives that Spanish-language ballots, signage, assistance and related materials are required in 32 Florida counties because of the U.S. District Court’s preliminary injunction order in Rivera Madera v. Lee. The preliminary injunction is a result of the August 2018 lawsuit filed by Altshuler Berzon LLP, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Demos, and SEIU on behalf of civic engagement groups Faith in Florida, Hispanic Federation, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, UnidosUS, and Vamos4PR, and individual voter Marta Rivera Madera, a Puerto Rican, Spanish-speaking voter.

See today’s press release here.  For prior posts about this case protecting Spanish-speaking voters across 32 Florida counties, see here, here, and here.

Altshuler Berzon LLP Moves to Block Harmful Trump Administration Biological Opinions That Threaten West Coast Salmon and Other Fish Populations on the Verge of Extinction

On March 5, 2020, Altshuler Berzon LLP attorneys moved to preliminarily enjoin new water project operations and block environmental rollbacks adopted by the Trump Administration that will threaten the survival of multiple west coast fish species.  Altshuler Berzon serves as lead counsel to a coalition of fishing groups (including the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Golden State Salmon Association) and conservation groups (including NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife, and The Bay Institute).  The new federal rollbacks are authorized by October 2019 Biological Opinions issued under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by the National Marine Fisheries Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service and implement a campaign promise to loosen environmental rules made by Donald Trump in 2016 when he was campaigning for President in the San Joaquin Valley of California.  The case is PCFFA v. Ross, N.D. Cal. Case No. 3:19-cv-07897-LB.

The motion for a preliminary injunction argues that the Biological Opinions are arbitrary, capricious and contrary to the ESA, and that if the US Bureau of Reclamation relies on them to increase its water diversions and water exports in California’s huge federal Central Valley Project, the result will be irreparable harm to winter run Chinook salmon and a number of other fish species that are already in dire shape.  A hearing on the motion is scheduled for this spring.  Numerous major water districts and irrigation interests have moved to intervene in the case on the side of the Trump Administration.

McDonald’s Agrees to Pay $26 Million to Resolve Wage Theft Lawsuit in California

Largest ever wage theft settlement against McDonald’s also includes extensive injunctive relief

On March 4, 2020, the L.A. Superior Court granted preliminary approval to a pathbreaking class action settlement in Maria Sanchez, et al. v. McDonald’s Restaurants of California, Inc., et al., that provides $26 million and comprehensive injunctive relief to approximately 38,000 employees of McDonald’s corporate-owned restaurants throughout California. 

Although the trial court had awarded only $55,000 in back wages after trial plus $770,000 in civil penalties, with no injunctive relief, Altshuler Berzon LLP attorneys were able to turn the case around while the case was pending on appeal, and negotiated a settlement that requires McDonald’s to:

  • Pay $26 million plus all costs of settlement administration and notice;
  • Create a mechanism for paying the one-hour wage premium required by California law to all crew members for each day McDonald’s fails to provide them a legally compliant, timely meal period or rest break;
  • Permit crew members to leave the restaurants during their meal periods, including on overnight shifts, without restriction or threat of discipline;
  • Maintain detailed electronic time records that accurately track the time and duration of each meal period and rest break;
  • Provide additional uniforms to crew members whenever their McDonald’s uniforms become stained, greasy or worn out;
  • No longer make workers take rest breaks at the start or end of their shifts rather than as close as practicable to the middle of those shifts; and
  • Provide extensive training to managers and crew members about the changes required by the settlement agreement.

These provisions resolve each of the legal claims alleged in plaintiffs’ class action complaint, which was filed in 2013. 

Under the settlement-approval schedule ordered by the Superior Court, class notice will be distributed to class members on April 15, 2020, and a final approval hearing is scheduled for August 6, 2020. 

Altshuler Berzon LLP attorneys Michael Rubin, B.J. Chisholm, Matthew Murray, and Amanda Lynch are class counsel, along with co-counsel from Matern Law Group, PC and Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll PLLC. 

Court Grants Class Certification in ERISA Class Action: Shuman v. Microchip et al.

On February 24, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California certified a class of more than 200 former employees of defendant Microchip Technology Inc., who alleged that Microchip violated its fiduciary duties under ERISA by refusing to pay the severance it owed to class members whom Microchip fired without cause after completing its merger with their former employer, and further, by falsely asserting that the severance plan had “expired” six months earlier and by using those false assertions as a basis for inducing class members to release their ERISA benefits claims. 

The district court’s class certification order entitles the class members to join together in pursuing their claims for unpaid severance benefits, to enjoin Microchip’s wrongfully obtained releases, and to recover as an “equitable surcharge” the profits that Microchip earned on the roughly $6 million that it withheld from the class members.  Altshuler Berzon LLP is serving as class counsel along with the firms of McGuinn, Hillsman & Palefsky and the Law Offices of William B. Reilly.

Ninth Circuit Denies Petition for Rehearing in Wal-Mart Truck Driver $55 Million Minimum Wage Case

On February 20, 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Wal-Mart’s petition for rehearing or rehearing en banc in Ridgeway v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., rejecting Wal-Mart’s latest attempt to overturn a $55 million California minimum wage judgment that Altshuler Berzon LLP helped defend on appeal.  The Court’s order denying rehearing is here.  For more information about this case, see here.