• Dean Royer

September 2020 employment law decisions

Case alleging employer’s confidentiality agreement violates employees’ speech may proceed.

September 21, 2020, First District Court of Appeal, John Doe v. Google, Inc.: current and former employees of Google sued the company under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) alleging its confidentiality policies restricted their whistleblower rights and free speech in violation of California law. The trial court dismissed the case (demurrer) on grounds the National Labor Relations Act preempts the employees’ claims. The appellate court concluded that although many of the employee’s claims relate to conduct with the scope of the NLRA, the claims fall within the local interest exception to preemption.

Employees denied pay for rest periods cannot recover damages under more than one law.

September 11, 2020, Third District Court of Appeal, Alfredo Sanchez et al. v. Miguel A. Martinez: Five farm laborers filed suit against their former employer alleging violations of various labor laws. The case went to trial and the trial court awarded $416 in damages and $17,775 in civil penalties based on the employer’s failure to pay the employees for time they spent on authorized rest periods. The appellate court rejected the employees’ argument that they were entitled to damages equal to the minimum wage for time spent on rest periods plus an additional hour of pay for each rest period. Although either recovery is authorized by separate laws, recovery under both would be a double recovery for the same harm.

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