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  • An Interesting Way to Resolve a Case: mediation/binding baseball arbitration

    I previously discussed some of my concerns regarding binding arbitration agreements.  Arbitration has its place, and it can be a very useful tool in resolving cases.  As much of my practice involves employment disputes, drafting an enforceable arbitration agreement can be difficult, and I believe arbitration oftentimes does not meet the objectives that it is intended to achieve (i.e., lower costs, quicker resolution, lower awards, etc.).  There are many variants to the typical arbitration or mediation options, and a recent case caught my eye because it presented one of the more unique variants.

    In Bowers v. Raymond J. Lucia Companies, Inc. (No. D059333), the parties were in the middle of binding arbitration, when they decided to dismiss the arbitration and the accompanying state court action, and participate in “mediation/binding baseball arbitration.”  According to the record, the plan was to:

    participate in a full day mediation. If, at the end of that mediation, the Parties have failed to reach an agreement, the Plaintiffs (Bowers, Seward, and LaBerge) shall provide to the mediator their last and final demand, which demand shall be some amount between $100,000 and $5,000,000, and the Defendants (Companies, Wealth Management, and Enterprises) shall provide to the mediator their last and final offer which offer shall be some amount between $100,000 and $5,000,000. The mediator shall then be empowered to set the amount of the judgment in favor of Plaintiffs against Raymond J. Lucia Companies, Inc. by choosing either Plaintiffs’ demand or Defendants’ offer, such binding mediator judgment to then be entered as a legally enforceable judgment

    At the end of the mediation, the mediator decided to award the plaintiffs the full $5,000,000.00.  That’s right, the “mediator” awarded the money.  This is unusual because typically mediators do not have the power or authority to “award” anything.  The mediator typically helps the parties reach a resolution, but if the parties are unable to reach an amicable (or unamicable?) resolution, the mediator’s job is done.  Because the parties in Bowers agreed the mediator could make a binding award if the mediation failed, the trial court and the appellate court upheld the award. Parties can agree to allow a third party to decide what the parties will pay, even if the evidence is not presented in a typical trial or arbitration setting.

    It’s easy to armchair quarterback this one and second-guess the thinking behind agreeing to such an unusual form of dispute resolution.  Going into the process the parties had to know that the plaintiff’s “last and final demand” was going to be $500,000.00, just like the defendant’s “last and final offer” was going to be $100,000.00.  The case does not provide a lot of facts regarding the underlying claims or liabilities (we only know that it was some kind of defamation claim), but I presume liability was not much of a question, and that the real issue was the amount of damages.  The big risk for each side is that, knowing the other side’s “last and final” number is likely going to be the highest or lowest allowed by the parties’ agreement, the resulting mediator’s “award” was essentially going to be an all or nothing deal.  I suppose there was the possibility that had the parties stuck with the original arbitration the arbitrators could have awarded significantly more than the $5,000,000.00 ceiling to which the parties agreed, but it seems like a pretty high risk given the fact that the mediator receives information differently than an arbitrator, a judge or a jury.

    I am a big proponent of mediation.  Given the costs and risks involved in litigation, mediation offers the parties the opportunity to have a say in the outcome of the resolution.  I’m not so sure I would be willing to hand that control over to the mediator.  The process of presenting my case in mediation differs significantly to how I present my case to the trier of fact.  I’m not sure how my presentation would have to change if I knew that at the end of the day the mediator was going to “decide” the case.

    If you want to read the case, you can find it here.

    The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
    95 South Market Street, Suite 520
    San Jose, CA 95113
    Tel. 408-293-6341
     
    Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
     
    Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
     
    Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

  • For Whom No Bell Tolls

    OK, maybe this case is only interesting to those of us Wage and Hour nerds, but Harris v. Superior Court could be hailed as the final nail in the Bell case trilogy.  Although this post may include more information about how sausage is made than you ever wanted to know, the Court’s decision could curtail a fairly significant number of overtime lawsuits.

    The Bell cases are  three  decisions that the Supreme Court issued regarding whether claims adjusters working for Farmers Insurance Exchange were exempt from California’s overtime requirements.  The cases were important because the court used the production/administration dichotomy to find the adjusters did not meet the administrative exemption test.

    The production/administration dichotomy distinguishes between administrative employees primarily engaged in “administering the business affairs of the enterprise” and production employees primarily engaged in “producing the commodity or commodities, whether goods or services,” that were the focus of the enterprise.  Despite the fact that Bell specifically held that the production/administration dichotomy is not useful in every case, a lot of attorneys try to rely on the distinction as a simple way of determining whether an employee is exempt.

    In Harris, claims adjusters employed by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and Golden Eagle Insurance Corporation filed a class action seeking unpaid overtime.  The employer alleged the employees were exempt under the administrative exemption, and the plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a determination that “as a matter of law,” the claims adjusters could not be exempt.  The appellate court used the production/administration dichotomy and held the employees could not be exempt from California’s overtime laws.  The California Supreme Court disagreed and put a huge damper on further attempts to use the production/administration dichotomy as the sole basis for defeating a claimed exemption.

    Harris pointed out that Bell was decided based on pre-2000 regulations which did not clearly define the administrative exemption.  In 2000, the IWC amended the wage orders providing more details as to what activities qualify as exempt duties and specifically incorporated specific federal regulations.  Bell did not have the advantage of those regulations and therefore relied on the production/administration dichotomy absence clear direction from the legislature or the IWC.  Now that we have specific regulatory guidance, the production/administration dichotomy is even less useful.

    Perhaps the biggest death toll for Bell is the Supreme Court’s focus on the fact that Bell is really only applicable to pre-2000 cases.  While there may be a few pre-2000 cases still winding their way through the court system, I suspect there aren’t many of them left.

    It is also important to note that the Supreme Court did not say the claims adjusters were or were not exempt from overtime.  The court merely pointed out that the appellate court used the wrong test in determining whether the employees are entitled to overtime.  Correctly classifying employees is not easy, and you should seek the assistance of competent professionals before making a costly mistake.

    The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
    95 South Market Street, Suite 520
    San Jose, CA 95113
    Tel. 408-293-6341
     
    Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
     
    Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
     
    Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

  • 3 Things That Can’t Wait Until Next Year

    Well, the California legislature is at it again. Governor Brown signed several laws that change how employers do business in California. Most of the new laws are effective January 1st and require immediate action, so don’t put this off!

    1. Update Your Handbook

    You must now add “gender expression” and “genetic information” to the list of protected characteristics in your EEO and Anti-Harassment policies.

    You must now maintain an employee’s health insurance benefits at the same level of benefit during an employee’s Pregnancy Disability Leave.  Handbooks must be modified to reflect the new requirement.

    2. Revise or Create Offer Letters & Commission Agreements

    All employers must now provide the terms of employment in writing prior to commencing work.  In addition to standard information regarding pay rates, the offer letter must specify overtime rates, the regular paydays, and the contact information for the company’s Workers’ Compensation Carrier.  You will also need to provide written notice when any of the designated items changes.

    12/29/11 UPDATE

    The Labor Commissioner has drafted a template employers should use to comply with new Labor Code Section 2810.5(a).  You can download the template here.

    Beginning January 1, 2013, all employees paid on a commission basis must receive written copies of the commission plan specifying “the method by which commissions shall be computed and paid.” Given the complexity of many commission plans, do not wait until the end of 2012 to contact your employment counsel to review the plan and ensure your bases are covered.

    3. Rethink Your Hiring Practices

    The penalties for willfully misclassifying employees as independent contractors just went up.  This is an extremely high-risk area; so consult with knowledgeable counsel about your workforce status.

    Stop conducting financial background checks on applicants or employees until you speak with knowledgeable counsel regarding revisions to California’s privacy laws.  A new law limits which employers can conduct financial background checks and which employees can be the subject of such background checks.

    There are many more laws coming into effect in 2012. If you would like to receive a more detailed review of the changes, please send us an email at update@griegolaw.com with the subject line: “Send me the update.”

    The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
    95 South Market Street, Suite 520
    San Jose, CA 95113
    Tel. 408-293-6341
     
    Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
     
    Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
     
    Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

  • New Laws for Employers and Employees in 2012

    12/29/11 UPDATE

    The Labor Commissioner has drafted a template employers should use to comply with AB 469.  You can download the template here.

    The California legislature has been busy, and Governor Brown has penned his signature on several new laws impacting businesses and employees in California.  AB 469, the Wage Theft Prevention Act of 2011, is just one example.  Effective January 1, 2012, employers must provide new hires with the following information:

    • The employee’s rate or rates of pay;

    • Any applicable overtime rates;

    • Meal, lodging or other lawful allowances to be used against minimum wage;

    • The regular paydays;

    • The employer’s name and/or DBA’s used by the employer;

    • The employer’s main office or principal place of business address, and a mailing address, if different;

    • The employer’s telephone number;

    • The name, address and telephone number of the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier;

    • Any other information the labor commissioner deems material and necessary.

    With the exception of the workers’ compensation insurance carrier, most of this information is typically included in a standard offer letter (something that I think is always a good idea).  Employers could be required to provide the same notice to existing employees if there is a change to any of the required policies.  The Labor Commissioner is devising a template employers can use, but that is not expected until mid-December at the earliest.

    The Wage Theft Prevention Act also increases a number of penalties, allows recovery of liquidated damages for minimum wage violations before the Labor Commissioner, increases several statutes of limitations and the length of time employers must retain wage records.

    If you employ any workers in California, contact your employment attorney to see how AB 469 will impact your business.

    The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
    95 South Market Street, Suite 520
    San Jose, CA 95113
    Tel. 408-293-6341
     
    Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
     
    Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
     
    Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

  • New Laws Regarding California Employers and Employees

    There are several new laws and amendments currently under consideration by the Governor of California, as well as the legislature.

    The Recorder reports that three bills, AB 267, AB 325, and AB 559, are currently sitting before the Governor Brown.

    • AB 267 prohibits “choice of law” or “forum selection” clauses in employment contracts if those clauses require the use of non-California law or litigation outside of California.
    • AB 325 would allow up to 3 days bereavement leave and would prohibit discrimination against employees who take time off for the death of a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or domestic partner.  A successful plaintiff could recover back wages and attorneys’ fees.
    • AB 559 would modify a rule denounced by the California Supreme Court (Chavez v. City of Los Angeles, 47 Cal.4th 970) granting courts the authority to limit attorneys’ fees awards when the case could have been brought in limited jurisdiction as opposed to unlimited jurisdiction.

    The California Chamber of Commerce and other pro-employer entities oppose these bills, and in the past have successfully defeated similar bills while Schwarzenegger was in office.

    Governor Brown has already signed into law the following bills affecting employers and employees in California:

    • AB 240 Compensation recovery actions: liquidated damages.
    • AB 587 Public works: volunteers.
    • SB 117 Public contracts: prohibitions: discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.
    • SB 374 Gambling control: key employee licenses.
    • SB 559  Discrimination: genetic information.
    • SB 609 Public Employment Relations Board: final orders.

    Of course we can’t forget about AB 889 regarding domestic workers, which I’ve discussed before.

    If you work or do business in California, especially if you do business on any public works projects, you should familiarize yourself with any new requirements applicable to your industry.

    The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
    95 South Market Street, Suite 520
    San Jose, CA 95113
    Tel. 408-293-6341
     
    Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
     
    Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
     
    Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

  • Senate Defeats Fair Pay Restoration Act: Ledbetter Reigns

    In 2007, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a female employee who was paid less than her male counterparts failed to timely file her discrimination suit because the disparate pay was instigated years before she actually found out about the pay differential. The court, in Ledbetter v. Goodyear, rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the statute of limitations begins to run each time the employer issues a new paycheck with the disparate pay. Instead, the court decided that the discrimination occurred when the employer initially decided to pay the female employee less
    than the male employees, even though the female employee had no idea she was being paid less.

    The House immediately passed a bill to change the law, but the Senate version languished significantly longer. The Senate bill was defeated yesterday in a 56-42 vote (the bill required 60 votes to pass). According to the Wall Street Journal, “The outcome wasn’t a surprise, as Democrats acknowledged ahead of time that it was unlikely they would overcome Republican opposition.” As a result, the Ledbetter case continues to be the law. As it currently stands, employees who believe they are the victim of discrimination must file an administrative claim with the EEOC within 180 days (300 days in California) of the initial discriminatory decision, not within 180 days of the effect of the discriminatory act.

    The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
    95 South Market Street, Suite 520
    San Jose, CA 95113
    Tel. 408-293-6341
     
    Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
     

    Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

    Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

    Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.