California's Supreme Court is set to clarify the state's rules for determining when employers must provide workers with a place to sit.
The court's opinion, expected Monday, stems from lawsuits brought by cashiers at the CVS drugstore chain and tellers at Chase Bank who said they were wrongly not provided with seats while working. The companies face millions of dollars in potential penalties depending on the California Supreme Court's interpretation of the rules. The court's opinion would affect other similar cases in the state.
Employers in California must provide employees with "suitable seats" when the nature of the employees' work reasonably permits the use of seats.
The CVS and Chase Bank lawsuits are now before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court asked the California Supreme Court to determine whether each task employees perform must be evaluated to determine whether it qualifies for a seat. The 9th Circuit also asked whether the employer's judgment about whether the employee should stand and the physical layout of the workplace must be taken into consideration.
CVS and Chase Bank say the seat rules require a holistic approach that determines the nature of employees' work by considering the entire range of tasks they perform, according to the 9th Circuit.
In CVS' case, cashiers also stock shelves and perform other tasks that require them to stand. The companies also say the employees' job descriptions, the layout of the workplace and the business' judgment about whether employees should stand must be considered, according to the 9th Circuit.
The Supreme Court appears ready to deliver a major setback to American unions as it considers scrapping a four-decade precedent that lets public-sector labor organizations collect fees from workers who decline to join.
During more than an hour of oral arguments Monday, the high court's conservative justices seemed likely to side with a group of California teachers who say those mandatory fees violate the free-speech rights of workers who disagree with a union's positions.
Labor officials fear unions' very existence could be threatened if workers are allowed to get all the benefits of representation without at least paying fees to cover the costs of collective bargaining. The case affects more than 5 million workers in 23 states and Washington, D.C.
But Justice Anthony Kennedy rejected arguments by lawyers for the state of California and the California Teachers Association that the current fee system is needed to prevent non-members from becoming "free riders" — workers who reap the rewards of union bargaining and grievance procedures without paying for it.
"The union basically is making these teachers compelled riders for issues on which they strongly disagree," Kennedy said, noting the political nature of bargaining issues like teacher salaries, merit promotions and class size.
A federal appeals court has reinstated Obama administration regulations that guarantee overtime and minimum wage protections to nearly 2 million home health care workers.
The court in Washington ruled that the Labor Department had authority to change the wage rules covering domestic workers who help the elderly and disabled with everyday tasks such as bathing or taking medicine.
Workers hired through third-party staffing agencies haven't been eligible for minimum wage and overtime pay since 1974.
A federal judge had scrapped the rules earlier this year after finding that the agency had overstepped its authority, but the appeals court reversed that ruling.
A California appeals court sided with one of the largest fruit farms in the nation, ruling that a law allowing the state to order unions and farming companies to reach binding contracts was unconstitutional.
Labor activists say the mandatory mediation and conciliation law is a key to helping farm workers improve working conditions.
However, the 5th District Court of Appeal said Thursday it does not clearly state the standards that the contracts are supposed to achieve.
The ruling came in a fight between Gerawan Farming and the United Farm Workers, the union launched by Cesar Chavez. The union won the right to represent Gerawan workers in 1992, but the two sides did not agree to a contract.
At the union’s request, the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board in 2013 ordered Gerawan and the UFW to enter into binding mediation. The two sides couldn’t come to an agreement so a deal was crafted by the mediator and adopted by the labor relations board, the appeals court said. Gerawan objected to the terms.
In a legal decision with wide implications for strip clubs in Sin City, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled Thursday that dancers at one Las Vegas club are employees, not independent contractors, and are entitled to be paid minimum wage.
The unanimous ruling Thursday in a 2009 class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of six dancers at Sapphire Gentlemen's Club could change the landscape statewide in a business where dancers have for decades depended on tips and even paid "house fees" to establishments that allowed them to work.
"Given that Sapphire bills itself as the 'World's Largest Strip Club,' and not, say, a sports bar or nightclub," the high court said, "we are confident that the women strip-dancing there are useful and indeed necessary to its operation."
Mick Rusing, the Tucson, Arizona, attorney who represented plaintiff Zuri-Kinshasa Maria Terry and five other dancers in the initial case, said the ruling might directly effect more than 6,500 current and former members of the affected class, dating to about 2006.
Rusing said they could be entitled to a combined $40 million in back wages, plus the return of house fees.
"And it keeps going up every month," Rusing said. "As employees, you get a lot of rights. The girls are entitled to be paid. At very least, minimum wage."
Sapphire officials and the attorneys who represented the company before the Supreme Court didn't immediately respond to messages.
The Supreme Court ruling, written by Justice Kristina Pickering, declared clubs are not exempt from provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
That includes worker compensation and sexual harassment rules, Rusing said.
A federal court has ruled that FedEx Corp. improperly classified about 2,300 drivers in California as independent contractors instead of employees.
The decision by a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday covered drivers who worked for FedEx between 2000 and 2007. Similar lawsuits were filed in about 40 states before 2009.
A lawyer for the drivers estimated that they could receive at least $250 million in back pay and damages if the ruling stands up.
The judges said that under California law, the drivers were employees because FedEx controlled how they did their work. They had to wear company uniforms, drive approved trucks, and follow other company procedures.
FedEx said it will appeal to the full appeals court in San Francisco. FedEx general counsel Cary Blancett said that other courts had upheld contract language with "thousands" of independent contractors.
The Memphis, Tennessee-based company said that since 2011, it has only contracted with incorporated businesses that treat drivers as their employees. It also said it will shift to new service agreements in California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada.
In their lawsuit, the drivers sought back pay for overtime, expenses, punitive damages and attorney costs. That would total more than $75,000 for each of the drivers in the original lawsuit, according to filings.
Washington's Supreme Court says a Spanish teacher who tried to do his school district a favor by quitting early -- instead of in the middle of the school year -- was not entitled to unemployment pay.
Robert Campbell taught in University Place for six years before his wife learned she had won a Fulbright grant to study in Finland in 2011. Campbell asked for a leave of absence so he and the couple's 3-year-old daughter could go along, but the district denied it.
So Campbell had two options: He could quit in June 2010, giving the district time to hire someone else before the next school year, or he could quit in the middle of the school year. He chose the former.
The state denied him unemployment benefits, saying that to be eligible in such circumstances, people must stay in their job as long as reasonably possible before following their spouses. The court unanimously upheld the decision.