E-Blasts

Califia Farms Pays $5402 to Settle FFCRA Lawsuit

 By: The Saqui Law Group and Christina Anton

Califia Farms (“Califia”) agreed to pay $5,402 in back wages to settle an investigation accusing the non-dairy product manufacture of violating the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (“EPSLA”) provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) by requiring an employee to use his own accrued sick leave. You may read more about the settlement here.

The employee contended that Califia made him use his accrued sick leave when he requested leave to stay at home to care for his children, whose school had closed due to the coronavirus. Califia’s conduct made the employee fearful of possibly being terminated. As a result, the employee contacted the Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division to report Califia’s actions.

After conducting an investigation, the Department of Labor determined that the Califia’s conduct violated the FFCRA. The FFCRA helps the U.S. combat and defeat the workplace effects of the coronavirus by giving tax credits to all American businesses with fewer than 500 employees either to provide employees with paid leave for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members. Under the FFCRA, employees receive paid leave for the both personal health needs as well as to care for family members.

COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:

If you have questions about how to comply with the FFCRA, or about COVID-19 and your business or any labor or employment matter, please contact the experts at the Saqui Law Group, a division of Dowling Aaron Incorporated.

Red Robin Inks Deal To Settle Rest Break Class Action In California

By: Nathan J. Kingery

Red Robin has agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit accusing the restaurant chain of violating California law by failing to provide meal and rest breaks and failing to pay thousands of workers for time spent laundering uniforms.

Plaintiffs’ contended that Red Robin's "Just Say Yes" policy, by which managers are supposed to agree to provide a rest break whenever an employee asks for one, violated the California labor code because it creates situations when they do not ask for a rest break they are supposed to receive because they feel uncomfortable requesting one. Additionally, Red Robin’s policies and practices denied class members’ meal and rest periods of 30 minutes after five hours of work, and a 10-minute break for every four-hour shift.

Plaintiffs’ alleged that employees should have been compensated for the “off-the-clock” time they spent laundering their uniforms and for meal breaks that they were pressured to waive, even when they were entitled to one, as well as be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses for items such as pens and paper. Further, Red Robin lacked a reimbursement policy and employees didn’t know how to request reimbursement.

In defense, Red Robin submitted declarations from more than 200 workers stating their experiences at the company met corporate policies, and that when missed meal breaks did happen, they freely waived meal time. Red Robin argued that it did not require Plaintiffs to wear a uniform or purchase any distinct clothing items for work. The only clothing items that Plaintiffs’ purchased were generic, monochromatic, black collared shirts and dark blue denim jeans or shorts that could be worn in the restaurant industry, or for any other job, or even in everyday life. Red Robin also argued that reimbursement practices varied by location.

The Court found that Plaintiffs’ had demonstrated that Red Robin had mostly uniform policies and procedures applying to meal and rest times as well as business reimbursements, which would rule out inquiries into individual restaurant policies. This means that, if the case proceeded to trial (instead of settling), the court would have certificated the case as a class action.

Regarding reimbursement for pens and paper, the Court found that Red Robin did not maintain any written policy that required Plaintiffs to provide his or her own pens and paper and that, in fact, there were pens and paper available at the restaurants for employees to use.

Both sides believed they had strong arguments about whether Red Robin met its obligation to provide meal and rest breaks, but they agreed to settle to avoid the expense and uncertainty of further litigation.

If the settlement is approved, employees who worked in an hourly position at any of Red Robin’s roughly 70 California restaurants during the class period will be eligible for a payout. The class includes all hourly employees who have worked at a Red Robin restaurant in California since July 2013.

COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:

This case highlights how critical it is for employees to be relieved of all duties and not be “on call” during meal and rest breaks. It is important for employers to make sure that employees don’t feel pressured to waive meal breaks or skip rest breaks, when they are entitled to one. Employers should ensure that employees receive a total of no less than ten net minutes of duty-free time for each rest break. Employers must have clearly written policies that comply with California’s meal and rest break and reimbursement laws that leave no room for employees to claim that they believed they were not entitled to required meal or rest breaks or the right to be reimbursed for business expenses. If you have questions about your company’s meal and rest break policies and whether they are lawful, please contact the experts at the Saqui Law Group, a division of Dowling Aaron Incorporated.

Law Firm Settles Age Bias Suit

By: The Saqui Law Group and Jorge Lopez Espindola

A New York law firm recently settled an age bias lawsuit brought by a former secretary of the firm. In Canada v. Perkins Coie LLP, the former secretary sued the Perkins Coie LLP alleging that she was fired because she was “too old” to use the firm’s computer software. The former secretary presented evidence to the court showing that she received outstanding performance reviews while employed by Perkins Coie LLP, but was let go for not knowing how to use Microsoft PowerPoint, and was replaced with a much younger secretary.  Perkins Coie LLP moved to dismiss the lawsuit but the court ruled in favor of the former secretary finding she had stated enough facts to survive the motion to dismiss. Thereafter, the firm settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount.

COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:

This serves as a friendly reminder to employers that they are prohibited from engaging in age discrimination. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act protects employees over the age of 40 from receiving less favorable treatment because of their age. If you have any questions about you company’s policies and practices, or how this case impacts your business, contact the experts at the Saqui Law Group, a division of Dowling Aaron Incorporated.

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