Stokes Wagner Law Firm
Stokes Wagner

In Stragapede v. City of Evanston, Illinois, the Seventh Circuit upheld the nearly $580,000 jury verdict in favor of the former City employee. Stragapede, a 14-year veteran of the City’s Department of Water Services, suffered a traumatic brain injury at home in 2009.

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As we wrote in our June update, the Obama administration raised the minimum salary requirement for major “white collar” exemptions from $455/week to $913/week. In July 2017, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) filed its long-awaited reply brief with the 5th Circuit regarding the new minimum requirements. The DOL did not seek to reinstate the Obama’s minimum salary level. The DOL did, however, ask the Court to find that the DOL has authority to set a salary test.

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For the first time ever, the California Labor Commissioner fined a general contractor nearly $250,000 for wage and hour violations committed by its subcontractor, who had been hired for a hotel construction project in Southern California. This decision is significant for businesses that use subcontractors.

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Ever wonder if you can recover litigation costs in employment cases? On August 15, 2017, in Sviridov v. City of San Diego, the court made it clearer for employers.

Two years ago, in Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire Dist., the Supreme Court explained that prevailing employers in employment cases can generally only recover costs if the employee’s action was objectively without foundation – an extraordinarily high standard. However, Williams was not asked to consider and did not answer the question of whether costs may properly be awarded in a FEHA action pursuant to a Section 998 offer. That issue was before the court in Sviridov.

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Employees who sue for unpaid wages can either file (1) a civil lawsuit or (2) a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement (“DLSE”). An employee who files a wage claim with the DLSE may participate in a settlement conference with his/her employer. If the case does not settle, the DLSE will set the case to an administrative hearing, known as a “Berman Hearing”. Berman Hearings are mini, informal trials with a Labor Commissioner. Berman Hearings, compared to civil lawsuits, are designed to provide a speedy, informal, and affordable method for employees and employers to resolve wage claims.

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Starting January 1, 2018, San Francisco requires employers to ensure that any space offered for lactation also includes a place to sit, a surface on which to place a breast pump and/or other personal items, access to electricity, and a nearby refrigerator in which the employee can store expressed milk. An employee’s lactation break time may be unpaid if it is not taken within or during an already-specified paid break. The Ordinance strictly prohibits retaliation against anyone who requests lactation accommodation or files a complaint with San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (“OLSE”).

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Effective July 19, 2017, San Francisco became the first city in California to ban employers from asking job applicants about their salary history. This is the latest in a nationwide movement to promote gender pay equality. As cited in the San Francisco Ordinance, census data shows that women in San Francisco are paid 84 cents for every dollar a man makes, and women of color are paid even less. The ban seeks to stop the “problematic practice” of relying on past salaries to set new employees’ pay rates, which perpetuates the historic gender pay gap.

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Effective 3/13/2017, San Jose employers must offer additional hours of work to current part-time employees before agreeing to hire additional, outside workers. These current part-time employees must in “good faith and reasonable judgment” have the necessary skills and experience to perform the work. Employers are not required, however, to offer hours to part-time employees if doing so would require overtime pay.

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Local 25 Teamsters (Union) were recently acquitted of charges of conspiracy to extort and attempted extortion. In June 2014, the Teamsters allegedly slashed tires, used sexist and racist slurs, and threatened to “bash” celebrity host Padma Lakshmi’s “pretty little face in.”

Federal prosecutors accused the Union members of trying to shut down the filming if the show did not hire Teamsters to drive production vehicles. The prosecutors specifically had to prove that the Teamsters’ labor objectives, however egregious their actions, were illegitimate.

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Massachusetts recently passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which protects women from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, and expressing milk. Effective April 1, 2018, it is unlawful for an employer to deny reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions upon request unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer.

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