Ninth Circuit Affirms $55 Million Class Action Judgment Against Wal-Mart for Failure to Pay California Minimum Wages

On January 6, 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a published opinion affirmed a $55 million California minimum wage judgment in favor of a class of Wal-Mart, Inc.’s California truck drivers, in Ridgeway v. WalMart, Inc., Ninth Cir. Nos. 17-15983, 17-16142.  Following a 16-day trial in 2016, a jury found that Wal-Mart failed to pay minimum wages required by California law to its California-based truck drivers for time they spent engaged in pre- and post-trip inspections, rest breaks, and during mandatory “layover” periods, during which Wal-Mart exercised control over the drivers by prohibiting them from returning home without management permission.  The 11-year class period covered the time from October 2004 to October 2015. 

After Wal-Mart appealed, Altshuler Berzon LLP was brought in by the class and trial counsel to defend the verdict on appeal.  The Ninth Circuit affirmed the judgment against Wal-Mart in its entirety, rejecting Wal-Mart’s numerous arguments, which challenged the trial court’s jurisdiction, partial summary judgment and class certification decisions, and jury instructions, and raised other arguments under California and federal law.

You can read the Court’s decision here.

Ninth Circuit Rejects Damages Claims Against Union for Collecting Fair-Share Fees in Reliance on Supreme Court Precedent

On December 26, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued its decision in Danielson v. Inslee, 945 F.3d 1096 (9th Cir. 2019).  Affirming the decision below, Danielson held that public employee unions that received fair-share fees from nonmembers before the Supreme Court held such fees unconstitutional in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018), have a good faith defense to claims for fee refunds or other monetary relief under 42 U.S.C. §1983.  Altshuler Berzon LLP represented the union defendant, Washington Federation of State Employees, AFSCME Council 28, in the district court and the Ninth Circuit.  Altshuler Berzon LLP also represents public employee unions in several dozen other lawsuits filed throughout the country that arise from the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus.

You can read the Ninth Circuit’s decision here.

Altshuler Berzon LLP recognized as premier boutique firm working for social and economic justice

The Daily Journal recognized Altshuler Berzon LLP as one of the top boutique firms in California.  The Journal highlighted the firm’s work on ground-breaking cases such as the California Supreme Court’s Dynamex decision protecting workers misclassified as independent contractors, litigation in Florida to protect voting rights, and cases seeking to hold fossil fuel companies responsible for climate change-related harms to public infrastructure.

You can find a PDF of the Daily Journal article here.

Michael Rubin named as one of California’s Top 100 Lawyers

The Daily Journal on September 18, 2019 named Altshuler Berzon LLP partner Michael Rubin one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the State of California, for the fourth year in a row.  Emphasizing Altshuler Berzon’s public policy and public interest work on behalf of consumers, the Daily Journal’s article discussed the firm’s recent victory in Blair v. Rent-a-Center, Inc., 928 F.3d 819 (9th Cir. 2019), which affirmed the right of plaintiffs in state-law consumer class action cases to litigate claims for public injunctions in court, rather than being compelled to litigate such claims in secret arbitration proceedings.  The article noted that the same rule established in Blair could also extend beyond consumer class actions to the employment context.

Court grants preliminary injunction protecting rights of Southwest flight attendants to use sick leave to care for family

On May 17, 2019, the Alameda County Superior Court granted plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction in TWU Local 556, et al. v. Southwest Airlines Co., Case No. RG-18933251, requiring Southwest Airlines Co. to permit its California-based flight attendants to use their accrued sick leave to care for ill family members, in accordance with the “kin care” provisions of California Labor Code §233 and sick leave ordinances in Oakland and Los Angeles.  Altshuler Berzon LLP is representing the plaintiffs in the case and brought the preliminary injunction motion.

In granting the motion, the Court rejected Southwest’s affirmative defenses, which sought to preclude application of California and local labor protections laws to its flight attendants, who often travel outside the state in the course of a work day.  The Court found that Southwest’s California-based flight attendants who start and end all trips in California, and perform more work in California than in any other state, are likely entitled to the protections of California law.

As a result of the preliminary injunction, Southwest can no longer deny its flight attendants their “kin care” rights or discipline them for exercising those rights.  You can read the Court’s order here.

Bloomberg Technology Features Interview With Altshuler Berzon LLP Partner Jim Finberg Regarding Oracle Wage Parity Suit

On June 21, 2019, Bloomberg Technology featured an interview with Altshuler Berzon LLP Partner Jim Finberg regarding Jewett v. Oracle Corp., a class action under the California Equal Pay Act in which Altshuler Berzon LLP, along with co-counsel Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff, and Lowe, are representing Oracle employees alleging that women employed in technology and technology support positions were paid less than men with similar qualifications performing similar work.  You can view that interview here, starting at 17:16 and continuing through 22:27.

Court Issues Additional Preliminary Relief Protecting Voting Rights of Spanish-Speaking Puerto Ricans in Florida

On May 10, 2019, the federal court for the Northern District of Florida issued a preliminary injunction under Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act requiring Florida’s Secretary of State to direct the Supervisors of Elections in 32 Florida counties to provide Spanish-language election assistance—including Spanish-language or bilingual official ballots, a Spanish-language hotline, and Spanish translations of all official, election materials—for elections beginning with Florida’s March 2020 presidential primary.

This order expands on the preliminary relief the Court previously granted in this case.  In granting broader relief, the Court explained:  “This case is about the fundamental right to cast an effective ballot.  Voters educated in Puerto Rico bring this suit to enforce the plain provisions of the Voting Rights Act’s Section 4(e).  This straightforward law has been on the books for 54 years. In this action, this Court is ensuring compliance with Congress’s clear directives.”

The name of the case is Marta Rivera Madera, et al., v. Laurel M. Lee, et al., Case No. 1:18-cv-152-MW/GRJ (N.D. Fla.).  Altshuler Berzon LLP, along with co-counsel from Demos, LatinoJustice, and SEIU, are representing Plaintiffs Marta Rivera Madera, Faith in Florida, Hispanic Federation, Mi Familia Vota, UnidosUS, and Vamos4PR in the case.

You can read the Court’s order here.

You can read more about the case here.

Federal District Court Rejects Business Association’s Challenge to California Supreme Court’s Definition of Employee

On March 29, 2019, Judge Morrison C. England, Jr. of the Eastern District of California rejected a transportation industry association’s challenge to the California Supreme Court’s decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court (2018), which clarified how courts should determine whether a worker is an “independent contractor” or an “employee” under California law for purposes of protections like a guaranteed minimum wage, meal and rest breaks, and reimbursement for certain out-of-pocket expenses.

The trucking association challenged Dynamex under several different legal theories.  The court rejected those challenges in full and dismissed the association’s complaint without leave to amend, holding that Dynamex is not preempted by federal law and does not violate the U.S. Constitution.  This decision thwarted the association’s attempt to exempt employers in the transportation industry from Dynamex and the rules that apply as a result of Dynamex.

Altshuler Berzon LLP represented the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which had intervened to defend Dynamex alongside the State of California.

You can read the decision here.

McDonald’s Workers Come Forward to Allege Sexual Harassment at Work

Altshuler Berzon LLP has filed charges on behalf of workers at McDonald’s who have come forward in the wake of the #MeToo movement to allege they have been sexually harassed at work.  Together with co-counsel, and with the financial support of the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund™, the firm has filed EEOC and state-level charges on behalf of eleven women and is continuing to investigate additional reported incidents of harassment at McDonald’s.  The workers Altshuler Berzon represents are asking the EEOC to investigate not only the individual franchises where they work, but also McDonald’s Corporate, and to do so on a nationwide systemic level.  On September 18, 2018, McDonald’s workers in ten cities – including some of the workers Altshuler Berzon represents – participated in strikes organized by the Fight for $15 that demanded that McDonald’s take steps necessary to end pervasive sexual harassment of its employees, including by providing adequate training and a safe and confidential reporting mechanism and by strengthening and enforcing their existing policies, among other demands.

Ninth Circuit Affirms Nationwide Preliminary Injunction Requiring Trump Administration to Keep Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in Place for Current Recipients

On November 8, 2018, the Ninth Circuit issued a decision affirming a preliminary injunction issued by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California requiring the Trump administration to accept renewal applications from individuals previously granted  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.  The Trump administration had sought to end the DACA program through a September 2017 memorandum rescinding DACA.  The Ninth Circuit majority held that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in arguing that the rescission memorandum violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) because it was based on an erroneous legal premise – that DACA was unlawful.  The Ninth Circuit further held that neither the APA nor the Immigration and Nationality Act barred federal court review of the rescission, and that the federal district court had properly refused to dismiss the plaintiffs’ equal protection challenge to the DACA rescission, based on evidence of racial animus, procedural irregularities, and disproportionate racial impact, and due process challenge to the Trump administration’s apparent backsliding on assurances given to DACA recipients that the information they provided in applying for DACA would not be used for immigration enforcement purposes.

One member of the panel would have upheld the preliminary injunction based on the plaintiffs’ equal protection claim, but concluded that the rescission memorandum could not be challenged under the APA because deferred action was a decision conferred to the federal agency’s discretion.  The panel upheld the district court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ due process and procedural APA challenges to the DACA rescission.

Altshuler Berzon LLP represents the plaintiffs in one of the five cases that were before the Ninth Circuit: the County of Santa Clara, also represented by Santa Clara County Counsel, and Service Employees International Union Local 521.  The Ninth Circuit decision can be found here.