Lauren Teukolsky’s commentary was featured in a recent Law360 article on the Ninth Circuit’s recent ruling that California’s A.B. 51 is preempted by federal law. AB 51 prohibited employers from forcing employees to give up their civil rights, such as the right to a jury trial and the right to appeal an adverse decision, as a condition of employment. The ruling, a reversal of the Ninth Circuit’s own prior decision in 2021, is a significant blow to the state’s workers.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed A.B. 51 into law in 2019, making it illegal for employers to force individuals to waive their right to bring civil rights cases in court as a condition of employment. Arbitration agreements typically stipulate that all claims made by workers—regardless of their severity—must be resolved under private arbitration, a process that overwhelmingly favors employers, disproportionately harms historically marginalized communities, and shields corporations from public scrutiny and accountability. A.B. 51 was meant to ensure that employees were not coerced into signing away their rights, and that all waivers of these significant rights were voluntary.
Last year, a three judge Ninth Circuit panel voted to revisit a 2021 decision in which it partially reversed an injunction that stopped California from enforcing A.B. 51. Last month, the panel found that the Federal Arbitration Act preempted A.B. 51, nullifying the law in most situations and allowing California’s corporations to once again force workers to sign arbitration agreements waiving their civil rights.
Law360’s article features analysis and advice from management-side and workers- side attorneys on how corporations and workers’ advocates should respond to the Ninth Circuit’s decision. In the article, Ms. Teukolsky advises plaintiffs’ lawyers to be extremely cautious when advising clients on arbitration agreements:
"’Plaintiff-side employment attorneys need to think very carefully before they advise an employee to refuse to sign one of these arbitration agreements,’ Teukolsky said. ‘I think you need to advise them: you may lose your job over this. Is that a risk you're willing to take?’" Ms. Teukolsky speaks from experience: she filed one of the only cases under A.B. 51 after her client was fired for expressing opposition to signing away her rights.
To read the article in its entirety, click here. For the Court’s opinion holding that A.B. 51 is preempted, click here.
If you have concerns about an arbitration agreement your employer has recently asked you to sign, click here to get in touch with our office.
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.
Last month, Bloomberg Law quoted Lauren Teukolsky in an article about the differing approaches taken by California Superior Courts and federal courts towards representative Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claims in the months since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana.
In Viking River, the majority held that employers could force arbitration of workers’ individual claims under PAGA, a California law that allows workers to sue companies for employment law violations on behalf of the state. However, the decision was written in a way that essentially left the fate of representative PAGA claims in the hands of California’s lower courts.
For the most part, federal courts have strictly adhered to the Supreme Court’s ruling, sending individual claims to arbitration, and dismissing representative PAGA claims in over half of the decisions analyzed by Bloomberg Law. According to research conducted by Ms. Teukolsky, California’s state courts have taken a different tack. The article states:
“In sharp contrast, state 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 PC. Bloomberg Law independently reviewed those decisions […] The trend of state courts not dismissing non-individual PAGA claims is a huge victory for workers in the state of California,” Teukolsky said. The fate of PAGA will likely be decided in Adolph v. Uber, which is currently pending before the California Supreme Court.
Ms. Teukolsky is frequently cited in news publications for her commentary on developments in employment law, including a pair of Bloomberg Law and Daily Journal articles in 2022 that featured her commentary on Viking River. Ms. Teukolsky also discussed the case on several panels organized by the Los Angeles County Bar Association, the California Employment Lawyers Association, and the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, the preeminent peer-selected organization of labor and employment lawyers in the United States. To learn more about Ms. Teukolsky’s experience, click here.
To read the article in its entirety, click here. If you believe you’ve been treated unlawfully in the workplace and want to get in touch with our office, click here.
2022 was a big year for employment law in California, with Governor Gavin Newsom signing a slew of employment bills into law that will improve protections and conditions for the state’s workers. Now that the Governor has finished signing new laws for the year, Teukolsky Law would like to take a moment to review the progress that’s been made for California’s workers.
(All bills take effect on January 1, 2023, unless otherwise noted.)
Assembly Bill 1041
AB 1041 allows employees to take paid sick leave and family leave to care for a “designated individual.” California law previously allowed employees to take family leave only for family members, whereas AB 1041 allows employees to take time off to care for “chosen family,” or anyone they designate at the time they request leave.
Assembly Bill 1949
AB 1949 amends California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to require that employers grant their employees at least 5 days of unpaid bereavement leave, or time off for the death or funeral of a family member. Previously, California law did not guarantee any time off for the death of a family member, which meant that an employee who took time off to attend a funeral could be fired.
Assembly Bill 2188
AB 2188 prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants and employees on the basis of cannabis during their off-work hours. AB 2188 will take effect on January 1, 2024. We covered this bill in a previous post, which is here.
Senate Bill 836
SB 836 reinstates a law that protects a person’s immigration status from disclosure in public court proceedings. This protection stopped employers from using a worker’s immigration status to deter the worker from bringing legal claims against the employer. It ended at the beginning of 2022, and this bill reinstates it. SB 836 is already in effect.
Senate Bill 1162
SB 1162 requires companies of 100 or more employees to submit annual pay data reports broken down by race and gender to California’s Civil Rights Department. This reporting will assist the State in combating pay disparities along race and gender lines. This bill would also require employers with 15 or more employees to provide a salary range on all job postings. You can learn more about this bill in a previous post of ours here.
Congratulations to the Governor, California’s state legislature, and all of the groups that worked to get these bills passed into law, including the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA), which sponsored all of these bills.
If you believe your employer is behaving unlawfully and want to get in touch with Teukolsky Law, click here.
Lauren Teukolsky was quoted in a September 19th article by Bloomberg Law on AB 2188, a recently signed bill in California that prohibits employers from discriminating against workers who use cannabis in their off-work hours. Once the bill goes into effect on January 1, 2024, it will be illegal for California employers to make any employment decisions based on an employee’s use of cannabis “off the job and away from the workplace,” according to the law’s text. This means, for example, that an employer may not fire an employee who used cannabis use when they were off the job and away from work. Hiring decisions will be limited in this manner as well.
The law will not apply to workers in building and construction trades or those holding positions that require a federal background clearance. Also, the bill will not permit employees to possess, to be impaired by, or to use, cannabis on the job.
Governor Newsom’s signing of the bill represents a huge victory for many of California’s workers. Even though recreational cannabis has been legal in the state since 2018, and medicinal cannabis has been legal since 1996, California’s laws and cannabis testing technology are only just beginning to catch up. Standard drug tests still screen for substances in the body that may be present days or even weeks since an individual used cannabis. This means that, before AB 2188 takes effect, a worker or job applicant could still be fired or denied employment for having used cannabis during their own free time, weeks prior to any test being administered.
Some employer-side attorneys have suggested that AB 2188 inappropriately amends California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to afford cannabis users the same protections as minorities or other protected classes. Ms. Teukolsky counters that notion. As stated in the Bloomberg Law article:
“[D]iscipline against those who smoke or ingest marijuana disproportionately affects workers of color, said Lauren Teukolsky, who represents workers in court. It was one of the reasons Amazon.com Inc. stopped drug testing during the hiring process. The new law shielding marijuana consumers ‘is entirely consistent with FEHA’s aim of eliminating discrimination against people of color in the workplace,’ Teukolsky said in an email.”
To read the Bloomberg Law Article in its entirety, click here. If you believe your employer is behaving unlawfully and want to get in touch with Teukolsky Law, click here.
Governor Newsom Signs Groundbreaking Bill to Raise Wages and Improve Working Conditions for Fast Food Workers
On Labor Day, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 257 into law. The bill, also known as the FAST Recovery Act, is aimed at raising wages and improving the working conditions of California’s more than 550,000 fast-food workers by establishing a new state council with the power to set state-wide minimum standards for the fast-food industry.
The 10-member council will consist of political appointees from state health and labor agencies, as well as food industry officials, fast food workers, and union representatives. It will have the authority to raise the minimum wage for industry workers up to $22/hour and issue new safety and anti-discrimination rules. The standards set by the council would apply to any chain in California that has at least 100 stores nationwide that share a common brand.
AB 257 also improves the collective bargaining power of fast-food workers across California. Currently, wages and conditions in the U.S. are typically negotiated between workers and management at individual companies, often location by location. In these settings, workers frequently lack leverage against their employer. However, under AB 257, fast-food workers throughout California will have representatives negotiating on their behalf to set industry-wide standards.
Teukolsky Law would like to congratulate all the fast-food workers, unions, and labor allies that fought and advocated for AB 257. If you are a fast-food worker and believe your employer has violated the law, click here to get in touch with Teukolsky Law.
Last month, the California State Assembly and Senate churned through hundreds of bills in order to meet the “house of origin deadline” – the deadline by which all bills must have passed through their chamber of origin just to have a chance of being signed into law later this year. The bills that passed vary greatly, from bills focused on gun control to bills aimed at enhancing abortion protections. Teukolsky Law would like to take a moment to highlight some of the passed bills that will significantly benefit California’s workers, should they be signed into law later this year.
Senate Bill 1162
SB 1162, the Pay Transparency for Pay Equity Act, aims to improve workplace pay transparency and close the gender and race wage gap by requiring employers with 100 or more employees to publicly report their pay data broken down by race, ethnicity, and sex for both direct employees and employees hired through a third-party staffing agency. The bill would also require employers to provide a salary range on all job postings and promotional opportunities available to all current employees. SB 1162 passed the Senate on a 29-9 vote.
Assembly Bill 1949
AB 1949 would amend the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to require employers to grant their employees at least 5 days of unpaid bereavement leave, or time off for the death or funeral of a family member. AB 1949 passed the Assembly on a 59-9 bipartisan vote.
Senate Bill 836
SB 836 would reinstate a provision that protects a person’s immigration status from disclosure in public court proceedings. This protection ended at the beginning of 2022 and stopped employers from using a worker’s immigration status to deter the worker from bringing legal claims against the employer. SB 836 passed the Senate on a 28-0 vote.
All three of the above bills are sponsored by the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA) a statewide organization that works to protect and expand the legal rights of workers through litigation, education, and advocacy. For a complete list of all bills being tracked by CELA, click here.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.