Monterey County Proclaims 1st Farmworker Appreciation Day

On March 20, 2018, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution proclaiming March 31, 2018, César Chávez’s birthday, as Monterey County’s 1st ever Farmworker Appreciation Day, the result of a combined effort of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, Teamsters 890, and La Union Es Para Todos – a union within UFW. According to its Facebook page, the UFW has marches scheduled for Sunday, April 8, 2018, in Salinas, CA, Sunnyside, WA, and Livingston, CA, and for Sunday, April 15, 2018, in Madera, CA, and Oxnard, CA. Please refer to our recent report on protests as protected activity here.

Planned Bill Will “Guarantee That Farmworkers Receive Minimum Wage and Overtime Pay”

Last Friday, the Yuma Sun published an article detailing U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva’s plan to introduce a bill that would extend the benefits of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) to the agricultural employees who are currently exempted from portions of the FLSA. According to the article, Rep. Grijalva has said that his intention with this planned law is to “remedy the discrimination of field workers being denied the right to overtime pay and a minimum wage granted under federal labor standards.”

The article also mentions that U.S. Senator Kamala Harris from California will be introducing a similar bill in the Senate. We will keep you updated as the bills proceed through the legislative process.

California Supreme Court Agrees to Hear PAGA Issue

Last Wednesday, March 28, 2018, the California Supreme Court granted a petition for review in the case of Kim v. Reins International California, Inc. (2017) 18 Cal.App.5th 1052 (“Kim v. Reins”) to discuss the issue of whether an employee bringing an action under the Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”) loses the ability to pursue representative claims as an “aggrieved employee” by dismissing his/her/their individual claims against the employer. An “aggrieved employee” is “any person who was employed by the alleged violator and against whom one or more of the alleged violations was committed.”

As a refresher, PAGA allows an “aggrieved employee” to step into the shoes of the Attorney General and recover penalties on behalf of the state for certain wage and hour violations. In Kim v. Reins, Kim sued Reins, his former employer, alleging individual and class claims for wage and hour violations and simultaneously seeking civil penalties under PAGA. While arbitration was pending, Kim accepted an offer to settle his individual claims, dismissing his individual claims with prejudice and the class claims without prejudice. Shortly after, Reins moved for summary adjudication on the PAGA claims, asserting that Kim was no longer an “aggrieved employee” because he had dismissed his individual claims and therefore no longer had standing to assert a claim under PAGA.

The Los Angeles Superior Court agreed with Reins and entered into summary judgment in Reins’ favor. Kim then appealed the ruling, and in December of 2017, the appellate court affirmed the Los Angeles Superior Court’s decision and ruled that employees who settle individual claims alleging violations of California labor law do not have standing to subsequently pursue claims in the same suit under PAGA, noting that this does not affect other class members who wish to bring a claim.

PAGA was created to enable employees to pursue claims that the State lacked the resources to pursue. However, PAGA has become an exploited and abused tool for plaintiffs’ attorneys. If the Supreme Court reverses the lower courts’ decisions in Kim v. Reins, essentially attorneys will be able to continue pursuing PAGA claims even after the “aggrieved” representative has lost his/her/their standing.

Department of Industrial Relations Releases FLC Information Letters

Yesterday, April 5, 2018, the California Department of Industrial Relations circulated letters detailing information on SB 295 that have been mailed to all farm labor contractors (FLC) in both English and Spanish. SB 295, which came into effect on January 1, 2018, includes additional sexual harassment prevention training requirements, establishes additional FLC application information, and enables the Labor Commissioner’s Office to issue citations and assess penalties for violations of the training requirements.

The letters include training resources and continuing education topics, and they can be found in English here and in Spanish here.

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