Last week, a Florida citrus grower was found to be a joint employer of its hired farm labor contractor’s H-2A employees (“Plaintiffs”) after a federal judge determined the grower extensively controlled the manner and means by which the harvesters accomplished their work.

In Garcia-Celestino v. Ruiz Harvesting, Inc., et al., Consolidated Citrus LP (“Consolidated Citrus”) hired Ruiz Harvesting, Inc. (“RHI”) to recruit and hire H-2A workers from Mexico to harvest oranges. Plaintiffs sued both Consolidated Citrus and RHI for unpaid wages under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Protection Act (“MSPA”), and Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), common law breach of contract and state violations of minimum wage law. RHI was later dismissed after settling their claims separately with Plaintiffs.

The U.C. Davis Extension is offering a course called “Winery Accounting and Finance for Executives” in St. Helena on June 22. The course, presented by Robert Morris and Ryan Vas Dias, is designed for winery principals, executives, and accounting staff and covers winery financial reporting, accounting, inventory costing, business valuation, and taxation.

The Standoff Continues: Congress Prohibits DOJ from using Funds to Prevent States from Implementing Their Own Laws Legalizing Medical Marijuana

 By: Kevin Cleveland and Rebecca Hause-Schultz

Congress has reached a deal to avoid government shut down on Friday due to lack of funding. This spending bill will fund the government until September 30, 2017. As part of the deal, Congress extended the Rohrbacher-Farr Amendment provisions, which prohibit the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) from spending money to prevent certain states, including California, from implementing their own laws that “authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” (SEC. 537.) Congress has renewed the medical marijuana Rohrbacher-Farr Amendment every year since it was first passed in 2014.

Last week, in Santillan v. USA Waste of California, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s dismissal of this age discrimination case, finding that the employer had not offered a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for terminating the Plaintiff, a 53 year old garbage truck driver with 32 years of service with the Defendant employer.  In the last couple years of his employment, Plaintiff – and a few other more experienced drivers – had been written up for various infractions and terminated by a new supervisor. Homeowners in his service area “came out in droves” to support the Plaintiff, who they believed was a first class garbage truck driver and a credit to their community. Plaintiff retained counsel and filed a grievance against the Defendant.

Defendant settled the grievance by offering to reinstate Plaintiff on the condition that he pass a Department of Transportation (DOT) drug test, a physical exam, a criminal background check, and E-Verify. Plaintiff successfully completed the first three, and Defendant’s Human Resources (HR) representative informed Plaintiff he could return to work and then complete his I-9 for E-Verify.

Last week, the Department of Industrial Relations (“DIR”) released an update to their Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) concerning Paid Sick Leave (“PSL”). The full FAQs can be found here.

One interesting FAQ addresses PSL and attendance policies that employers should be aware of. In general, an employer may not discipline an employee for using accrued and/or available PSL. That means if an employee has PSL available to them to use, an employer may not deny the employee the right to use accrued and/or available PSL or discipline an employee for doing so. This right includes the right to use PSL for a partial day (e.g., to attend a doctor’s appointment).
 But, wait, there’s more! And it is employer friendly! If an employee does not have any accrued or available PSL (e.g., the employee has used all of their available PSL) and has an unscheduled absence that would otherwise violate the employer’s attendance policy, the employer can discipline the employee for being absent, regardless of whether the employee was actually sick. The PSL law only protects an employee’s accrued and available paid sick leave as provided by law.

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