Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro

Whether service advisors at car dealerships are exempt under 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(10)(A) from the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime-pay requirements.

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Duran v. U.S. Bank Nat'l. Ass'n.

Duran v. U.S. Bank Nat'l. Ass'n. (CA1/1 A148817 1/17/18) Wage & Hour/Class Certification

In our second encounter with this class action case, plaintiffs Samuel Duran and Matt Fitzsimmons appeal from the trial court’s order denying class certification.  This case is a wage and hour class action challenging whether defendant U.S. Bank National Association (Bank) had properly classified its business banking officers (BBOs) as exempt employees under the outside salesperson exemption.  This exemption applies to employees who spend more than 50 percent of their workday engaged in sales activities outside their employer’s place of business.  The trial court concluded plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the case is manageable as a class action.  We affirm.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

ABM Industries Overtime Cases

In determining a witness' qualifications to serve as an expert, the determinative issue in each case must be whether the witness has sufficient skill or experience in the field so that his testimony would be likely to assist the jury in the search for the truth. Once this threshold has been met, questions regarding the degree of an expert's knowledge go more to the weight of the evidence presented than to its admissibility. In determining whether to grant class certification, a trial court abused its discretion in disregarding the plaintiffs' proffered expert evidence of common practice, rather than accepting it for what it was and weighing it against the existence of any individualized inquiries that might properly have defeated plaintiffs' request for class certification.

ABM Industries Overtime Cases - filed Dec. 11, 2017, publication ordered Jan. 10, 2018, First District, Div. Four
Cite as 2018 S.O.S. 180

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Golden Eagle Land Investment, L.P. v. Rancho Santa Fe Association

A defendant's communications with county land use authorities on the subject of governmental entitlement applications constitutes protected activity for purposes of the anti-SLAPP statute.

Golden Eagle Land Investment, L.P. v. Rancho Santa Fe Association - filed Jan. 12, 2018, Fourth District, Div. One
Cite as 2018 S.O.S. 211

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Central Valley Hospitalists v. Dignity Health

A defendant abused the protections of the anti-SLAPP law by filing a special motion to strike a complaint which alleged no acts arising from a protected activity, based on the defendant's beliefs that the plaintiff's claims were really predicated on a theory of liability which was unstated.

Central Valley Hospitalists v. Dignity Health - filed Jan. 9, 2018, First District, Div. Two
Cite as 2018 S.O.S. 143

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Kramer v. Cullinan

A public official was entitled to qualified immunity for releasing a letter concerning the termination of an employee where the letter did not accuse the terminated employee of any bad faith, willful misconduct, intentional acts, waste or fraud, since the letter was not "stigmatizing." Even if the content were stigmatizing, it was not clearly established law that charges other than fraud, dishonesty, and immorality would trigger the requirements of a name-clearing hearing.

Kramer v. Cullinan - filed Jan. 3, 2017
Cite as 2017 S.O.S. 14-36103

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Stirling v. Brown

Military and Veterans Code Sec. 56 is unambiguous and its plain language does not require the governor to undertake the procedures required of the inspector general in response to a whistleblower allegation. Sec. 56 does not violate California's equal protection clause because in all cases a whistleblower allegation is referred to an impartial decision maker who has discretion whether to undertake a full investigation.

Stirling v. Brown - filed Jan. 4, 2018, Fourth District, Div. Three
Cite as 2018 S.O.S. 59

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Sanchez v. Elizondo

The Federal Arbitration Act does not deprive a court of jurisdiction to review an arbitration decision that vacates an award and remands the case for a new arbitration. An arbitrator did not exceed his power by issuing an award that was grounded in the essence of the parties' agreement, which empowered the arbitrator to conduct an arbitration compliant with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's by-laws, rules, and Code of Arbitration Procedure.

Sanchez v. Elizondo - filed Jan. 5, 2018
Cite as 2018 S.O.S. 16-17345

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Labor and Workforce Development Agency v. Superior Court (Fowler Packing Co.)

A trial court's direction to prepare an index is preliminary to any order directing disclosure by a public official or supporting the decision of the public official refusing disclosure. This act does not trigger the filing period for a party to seek appellate review, but it is subject to interlocutory review, and the writ petition should be filed within 60 days. A trial court erred in directing the preparation of an index of documents that itself would reveal the identities of third parties involved in confidential communications during the deliberative process of drafting legislation. The court also erred in requiring the release of attorney work product produced by the legislative counsel.

Labor and Workforce Development Agency v. Superior Court (Fowler Packing Co.) - filed Jan. 8, 2018, Third District
Cite as 2018 S.O.S. 92

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Simers v. LA Times Communications

In March 2013, plaintiff T.J. Simers was a well-known and sometimes controversial sports columnist for Los Angeles Times Communications, LLC (The Times or defendant).  He had held that position since 2000, receiving uniformly favorable and often exceptional performance reviews from defendant.  On March 16, 2013, plaintiff, then 62 years old, suffered a neurological event with symptoms similar to a “mini-stroke.”  He recovered quickly, for the most part, and soon was again writing his thrice-weekly column.

Two and a half months later, The Times reduced plaintiff’s columns to two per week, to “give [him] more time to write on [his] columns.”  His editors expressed the dissatisfaction of upper management with several recent columns, and stated “they had been having problems with [his] writing for the past 18 months.”  Two weeks later, The Times learned from an article in another publication that a Hollywood producer (who had just filmed a 90-second video that had “gone viral,” in connection with one of plaintiff’s columns) was apparently developing a television show loosely based on plaintiff’s life.  Viewing this as a possible ethical breach, defendant put plaintiff’s columns “on holiday” for 10 days, and then, on June 24, 2013, suspended the column pending an investigation.

On August 8, 2013, after completion of the investigation and several meetings with plaintiff, defendant issued a “final written warning” that removed plaintiff from his position as a columnist and made him a senior reporter, albeit with no reduction in salary “for now.”  Plaintiff’s lawyer informed defendant on August 12 that plaintiff could not work in that environment and considered himself to have been constructively terminated.

On September 4, 2013, The Times asked plaintiff to return to his position as columnist.  But defendant did not answer plaintiff’s questions about how many columns he would write and whether he had to change his interviewing approach, and plaintiff did not trust The Times.  The next day, plaintiff met with editors at the Orange County Register, and by September 9, 2013, had accepted a position as a columnist there.

On October 15, 2013, plaintiff sued The Times.  After a 28-day trial in the fall of 2015, the jury found in favor of plaintiff on his claims of disability and age discrimination, and on his claim of constructive termination.  The jury awarded plaintiff $2,137,391 in economic damages for harm caused by his constructive termination and $5 million in noneconomic damages.  The parties agreed to give the jury a special verdict form that instructed them to fill in the blanks for past and future economic damages only if they found plaintiff was constructively terminated.  The special verdict form allowed the jury to award past and future noneconomic damages without identifying which noneconomic damages were caused by the constructive termination and which were caused by the discrimination.

The trial court granted defendant’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) on plaintiff’s constructive termination claim, and otherwise denied JNOV, finding substantial evidence supported the verdict on plaintiff’s age and disability discrimination claims.  The court also granted defendant’s motion for a new trial on all damages, economic and noneconomic, finding it was not possible to determine what amount of noneconomic damages the jury awarded because of the discrimination but not because of the constructive discharge.  The court denied defendant’s motion for a new trial on plaintiff’s discrimination claims.
Both parties appealed.  We affirm the trial court’s orders.

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Kim v. Reins International California, Inc.

A worker who has dismissed his individual claims for wage and hour violations does not have standing under the Private Attorneys General Act to pursue a class claim for wage and hour violations because he is no longer an "aggrieved employee."

Kim v. Reins International California, Inc. - filed Dec. 29, 2017, Second District, Div. Four
Cite as 2017 S.O.S. 18

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Arave v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, etc

An employee's letter to his former employer was properly treated as an admission against interest instead of an attempt to compromise where the letter does not concede any wrongdoing, but simply sets out his accusations of discrimination and his maximal claim. Even if the letter were an offer to compromise, its admission was not prejudicial since the factual claims in the letter were consistent with the evidence the employee put on at trial, and the proposed resolution was consistent with the expert testimony presented by the employee to establish his damages. A trial judge erred in awarding costs and expert witness fees to an employer who prevailed on a worker's discrimination claims under Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 998(c)(1) where the judge found the claims were not frivolous.

Arave v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, etc. - filed Jan. 2, 2018, Fourth District, Div. Two
Cite as 2017 S.O.S. 28

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