Last week, Bloomberg Law cited research by Lauren Teukolsky in an article about oral arguments in Moriana v. Viking River Cruises, Inc., a pivotal Supreme Court case that was sent back to the California Court of Appeal for further action. The appellate court’s decision could have vast repercussions for lawsuits brought under the Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”).
Since SCOTUS’s Viking River decision, Ms. Teukolsky’s research shows that California courts have consistently rejected employer arguments that representative PAGA claims must be dismissed once the “individual” component of the plaintiff’s PAGA claim has been sent to arbitration. Bloomberg Law’s article states:
“California trial courts dismissed representative claims after moving individual claims into arbitration in just six of 75 decisions collected and analyzed by Lauren Teukolsky of the plaintiff-side firm Teukolsky Law APC. Bloomberg Law independently reviewed those decisions.”
Ms. Teukolsky’s updated numbers show an even greater trend in favor of employees.
Viking River and the fate of PAGA have been on the forefront of labor and employment experts’ minds for the past several years. In addition to her commentary on the issue for news outlets such as Bloomberg Law and the Daily Journal, Ms. Teukolsky has also discussed the implications of Viking River on a panel for CELA, a statewide organization that works to protect and expand the legal rights of workers, as well as for the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, the preeminent peer-selected organization of labor and employment lawyers in the United States.
To read the article on Bloomberg Law, click here. To get in touch with Teukolsky Law, click here.
The California Supreme Court recently announced that oral argument in Adolph v. Uber will be scheduled for some time in the next few months. The high court is expected to decide the fate of California's Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), which allows employees to step into the shoes of the State and bring labor enforcement actions against an employer. In Viking River, SCOTUS held that employers may not force employees to sign arbitration agreements waiving their right to bring PAGA actions. However, once the "individual" component of a PAGA claim is sent to arbitration (assuming that's what the arbitration agreement requires), SCOTUS held that the PAGA claim on behalf of coworkers must be dismissed for lack of standing. In Adolph, the California Supreme Court is expected to decide whether SCOTUS's standing ruling is a correct interpretation of California law.
If trial court orders are any predictor, the California Supreme Court is likely to rule that a PAGA plaintiff does not lose standing to prosecute claims on behalf of coworkers once the "individual" PAGA claim is sent to arbitration. Lauren Teukolsky has analyzed dozens of orders issued by California trial courts on post-Viking motions to compel. As of December 2022, of the 79 orders that Teukolsky analyzed, 12 of them denied the motion to compel outright (because the arbitration agreement explicitly carved out PAGA, because the defendant had unduly delayed in seeking arbitration, and a variety of other reasons). Of the remaining 67 orders, 55 of them sent the "individual" PAGA claims to arbitration, but declined to dismiss the "non-individual" PAGA claims. Trial courts in 20 of those orders explicitly disagreed with SCOTUS on the standing question, while the remainder said they wanted to wait for the outcome of Adolph before ruling. Of the 79 orders, only 11 of them followed SCOTUS to hold that once the individual PAGA claim was sent to arbitration, the PAGA claim on behalf of others must be dismissed (the "Full Alito"). Federal courts are far more likely to follow SCOTUS: Of the 11 federal orders analyzed, 6 of them, or 55%, went Full Alito. By contrast, of the 68 state court orders analyzed, 5 of them, or 7%, went Full Alito.
As of today, March 21, 2023, the numbers are even better for PAGA plaintiffs.
Lauren Teukolsky’s commentary was featured in a recent Law360 article discussing how California plans to handle wage complaints stemming from the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). SVB catered to the tech industry for decades before collapsing and being seized by regulators on March 10, 2023. Its collapse made it the largest lender to fail since the 2008 financial crisis and left many of its depositors scrambling to make payroll.
Following SBV’s collapse, the California agency that enforces the Labor Code sent an email to employment defense firm Littler Mendelson providing them with assurances that any employers affected by the bank collapse who attempted in good faith to make payroll would not be subject to penalties for late wage payments. The agency said that it would divert any claims filed by employees under the Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) related to the bank collapse, effectively preventing private lawsuits against employers from moving forward.
While employers and management-side law firms breathe a sigh of relief, workers’ attorneys have voiced concerns that employees need similar protections because many of them live paycheck to paycheck and may default on their own obligations if they don’t get paid. Employees may not be able to pay rent or make minimum payments on credit card bills, leading to the imposition of monetary penalties. The bank failure raises the question: who should bear the risk of a bank default, the employer who controls where the funds are kept, or the employee? Law360’s article states:
“’Banking crises generally can lead to significant impacts on workers,’ said Lauren Teukolsky of Teukolsky Law. ‘It's all well and good for the LWDA to say that employers will be protected. I would like to see similar kinds of protections for employees.’
Teukolsky added, ‘Bank failures are not novel at this point, and so I would hope that employers have some contingency plan for having some cash on hand to make their next payroll.’”
To read the Law360 article in its entirety, click here. To get in touch with Teukolsky Law, click here.
Lauren Teukolsky “Wage and Hour Case Notes” Published in the March 2023 edition of California Labor and Employment Law Review
Lauren Teukolsky’s “Wage and Hour Case Notes” were published in the March 2023 edition of the California Labor and Employment Law Review, describing six new decisions from California and U.S. appellate courts that affect wage-and-hour law. The column discusses arbitration agreements with wholesale PAGA waivers, California’s “outside salesperson” exemption, and the state’s first published appellate court decision to discuss Viking River’s impact on a motion to compel arbitration in a PAGA case, among other topics.
Wage-and-hour law is a dynamic field, with new appellate decisions that regularly reshape the legal landscape. Ms. Teukolsky is an expert in California wage-and-hour law and federal wage-and-hour law, and speaks frequently on wage-and-hour topics at national and state conferences. Her “Wage and Hour Case Notes” are published on a quarterly basis by the California Lawyers Association’s (CLA) Labor and Employment Law Section.
CLA is a voluntary bar association. Its mission is to “promote excellence, diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and fairness in access to justice and the rule of law.”
To read Ms. Teukolsky’s article in its entirety, click here. If you would like to speak with Ms. Teukolsky about a wage-and-hour matter, click here to get in touch.
Lauren Teukolsky’s commentary was featured this week in a Bloomberg Law article on a pending case before the California Supreme Court, Adoph v. Uber Techs, Inc. The case is being closely monitored by both employee-side and management-side attorneys because of its potential ramifications for PAGA (Private Attorneys General Act) litigation.
In the case, California’s highest court will decide whether aggrieved employees maintain standing to bring “non-individual” PAGA claims against their employers on behalf of similarly aggrieved employees when their individual claims are sent to arbitration, a private, quasi-court forum that is favored by employers.
If the Court rules that such employees maintain their standing, it will clear the way for many employees to continue enforcing the state’s labor laws through PAGA, a 2004 state law that authorizes employees to collect civil penalties for violations against themselves and their coworkers on behalf of California’s Labor Commissioner, which has struggled to manage a backlog of cases for the past several decades.
If the Court rules in Uber’s favor, the outlook for the state’s employees would not be so favorable. The Bloomberg Law article states:
“A ruling in favor of Uber allowing claims to be split into individual and non-individual components could make it more difficult to bring PAGA cases forward, said Lauren Teukolsky, a plaintiff’s lawyer and founder of Teukolsky Law in Pasadena, Calif.
‘It’s going to make PAGA litigation much more cumbersome,’ she said. Teukolsky expects the court to rule this summer or in early fall.”
Ms. Teukolsky also discussed why forcing employees to arbitrate claims is detrimental to them:
“Teukolsky said that arbitration comes at a cost for employees because they waive their civil rights, such as the right to a jury trial and the right to an appeal, when they are asked to sign an arbitration agreement,” the article states.
The case follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana in which a concurring opinion by Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that California courts should have the final say in whether employers can force arbitration for representative claims.
To read the article in its entirety, click here.
Law.com Quotes Lauren Teukolsky on California Appellate Court Decision in Wood v. Kaiser
Law.com quoted Lauren Teukolsky in a recent article discussing a California appellate court’s ruling in Wood v. Kaiser. The case holds that workers can use the state’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) to enforce California’s paid sick leave law, (AB 1522). The law requires employers to provide employees with 24 hours of paid sick leave every year.
Before the Wood case was decided, it was unclear whether employees could enforce their right to paid sick leave by suing their employer, or whether only the State could bring suit to enforce the law. This is because the sick leave law does not contain a private right of action but only permits enforcement by the State. However, PAGA allows employees to stand in the shoes of the State to bring enforcement actions against employers. Despite this, several lower courts had previously ruled that workers may not use PAGA to enforce the paid sick leave law, leaving workers without any recourse. The Court of Appeals decision in Wood v. Kaiser effectively overrules those decisions, and represents a victory for workers.
The article states:
“Lauren Teukolsky, an employee-side plaintiffs attorney with Teukolsky Law, said the decision appears to be the first by a California appellate court that specifically addresses the availability of PAGA penalties under the paid sick-leave law.
‘We are all celebrating this victory,’ Teukolsky said in an interview.”
Ms. Teukolsky has represented workers for over two decades. Her commentary on the latest developments in employment law has been featured in articles by Bloomberg Law, Law360, and the Los Angeles Times.
To read Law.com’s article in its entirety, click here. If you believe your employer may be violating California’s sick-pay laws, click here to get in touch with Teukolsky Law.
Law360 quoted Lauren Teukolsky in a February 28 article on the recent nomination of Julie Su to be the next Secretary of Labor. Su has served as Deputy Labor Secretary since 2021, helping oversee the Department of Labor. Before that, Su was head of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency and was considered a Labor Secretary candidate, though President Biden ultimately nominated Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for the position. Walsh is leaving to head the National Hockey League’s players’ union.
Under Walsh, the Labor Department supported organized labor and workers through a series of regulatory and legislative actions. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Su is expected to continue the Department’s pro-union and pro-worker stance while also stepping up federal enforcement in the areas of worker classification, independent contractor status, and wage and hour issues. Su is President Biden’s first Asian American cabinet secretary.
Worker attorneys and workers’ advocates have voiced near unanimous support for Su’s nomination. Law360’s article reads as follows:
“Lauren Teukolsky of California-based Teukolsky Law said she has known Su since at least 1998, when Teukolsky was a law student and Su was litigation director of the group now known as Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California. At the time, the two of them worked on California's Assembly Bill 633, which implemented wage protections for garment workers.
‘Julie's idea was to extend liability for the wages beyond the contractor, beyond the direct employer, to bigger companies that were higher up the food chain, including garment manufacturers and even, in some instances, garment retailers,’ Teukolsky said.
‘It really demonstrates how she is able to think creatively about a labor enforcement problem in a way that other advocates haven't necessarily thought of before,’ Teukolsky said. ‘She just has this ability to problem-solve and use a mix of legislation, advocacy, court rulings, advocacy in the courtroom, just to use all of these different tools as problem-solver.’”
Teukolsky Law congratulates Julie Su on her historic nomination. To learn more, click here to read the Law360 article in its entirety.
On February 22, the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) ruled that severance agreements preventing laid-off employees from making publicly disparaging statements about their employer are generally illegal. The NLRB also ruled that severance agreements may not include blanket confidentiality provisions that prevent employees from speaking with anyone else about the terms of the agreement. The ruling overturns a 2020 decision by the then Republican-controlled board that found such agreements were not illegal on their face.
The NLRB is a federal agency tasked with safeguarding employees’ rights and preventing unfair labor practices. The Board’s five members are appointed by the President. During President Biden’s administration, the Democratic-controlled Board’s rulings have largely been worker- and union-friendly.
Wednesday’s ruling is important because it reinstates what until 2020 had been a “longstanding precedent” preventing corporations from asking laid-off employees to waive rights under the National Labor Relations Act in order to receive severance. Under the Board’s recent ruling, employers may no longer withhold severance to silence employees and prevent them from publicly discussing abuses at the workplace, including sexual harassment and assault. Severance agreement clauses preventing employees from discussing workplace misconduct are frequently referred to as “gag” clauses.
Lauren Teukolsky has reviewed severance agreements and fought for workers’ rights for over 20 years. If you believe you have received an illegal severance agreement, click here to get in touch with our office.
Lauren Teukolsky Quoted by Bloomberg Law & Law360 on Landmark Class Action Filing
Lauren Teukolsky was quoted by Bloomberg Law and Law360 in a pair of articles discussing the class action lawsuit Teukolsky Law filed Wednesday against Hyatt for violating a law meant to protect hotel cleaning staff from being overworked and underpaid. The lawsuit is believed to be the first in the country brought under a “housekeepers bill of rights” law. Ms. Teukolsky represents the plaintiffs along with Zoe Tucker of UNITE HERE Local 11.
“Housekeeper’s bill of rights” laws broadly refer to laws created specifically to protect hotel cleaning staff from abuses at the workplace, including but not limited to wage theft and sexual harassment. The lawsuit filed by Ms. Teukolsky alleges that Hyatt violated the Long Beach Hotel Working Conditions Ordinance when it failed to pay hotel room attendants the required double wages they were owed for cleaning more than 4,000 square feet in a single day, among other violations.
Laws similar to Long Beach’s have been passed in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Seattle, in what has become a national trend of local municipalities stepping in to protect workers when their states and the federal government fail to.
Bloomberg Law’s article reads:
“’The voters of Long Beach passed a hotel workload ordinance to guarantee hardworking room attendants a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,’ Teukolsky said in a statement. ‘As we say in the lawsuit, Hyatt has been flouting the law since the day it was passed.’”
In the Law360 article, Ms. Teukolsky states the following :
"Hotels are on notice that they can't cheat workers out of their wages with impunity.”
To read the Bloomberg Law article in its entirety, click here. To read the Law360 article in its entirety, click here.
If you believe that you have not been paid proper wages, click here to get in touch with our office.
Teukolsky Law Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Hyatt Under Local WORKLOAD ORDINANCE, The First Of Its Kind in the CountRy
Teukolsky Law filed a class action lawsuit today against the Hyatt Regency Long Beach alleging that Hyatt violated the Long Beach Hotel Working Conditions Initiative (“Initiative”), a measure passed by voters in 2018 to provide protections to hotel workers. A number of cities have passed similar hotel worker ordinances, including Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Seattle, and Oakland, among others. This is the first lawsuit in the country brought under one of these “Housekeepers’ Bill of Rights” laws. Lauren Teukolsky represents the plaintiffs along with Zoe Tucker of UNITE HERE Local 11.
The Initiative protects hotel employees against the risk of sexual assault by requiring hotels to provide them with panic buttons, and to post notices on guestroom doors stating that hotel workers may not be subjected to threatening behavior. It also has a “Humane Workload” provision that guarantees room attendants double pay on days when their workload exceeds proscribed limits.
The lawsuit alleges that Hyatt failed to post the required notices, and seeks injunctive relief requiring Hyatt to comply with the Initiative. The lawsuit further alleges that Hyatt failed to pay room attendants double when they cleaned more square footage than permitted by the Initiative. The lawsuit alleges that managers pressured housekeepers to work through their rest breaks to finish cleaning all of their assigned rooms as quickly as possible in violation of California law.
The lawsuit is part of a larger trend of local governments passing laws that are more protective of workers than states or the federal government. Los Angeles and several other cities have adopted Living Wage Ordinances, minimum wage ordinances, and sick pay ordinances that are far more protective of workers than state or federal legislation. Local ordinances to protect hotel workers from grueling workloads are just the latest example of efforts by cities to improve the working conditions of workers in specific industries. The trend can also be seen in fair scheduling ordinances, with Los Angeles recently passing the first such ordinance for retail workers. Cities such as Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle have also passed various fair scheduling laws of their own.
If you believe that you have not been paid proper wages, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.