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 was quoted in a Bloomberg Law article last week unpacking a wave of ongoing litigation prompted by Elon Musk’s mass layoffs at Twitter.
The layoffs began in early November, following Elon Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of the social media giant. After taking over, Musk proceeded to fire half of Twitter’s workforce, asked some essential employees to return, rolled back its expansive work-from-home policy, and called on the remaining employees to sign a pledge to remain at an “extremely hardcore” Twitter or quit.
Musk’s actions have prompted many of Twitter’s recently laid-off employees to pursue class action lawsuits against the company alleging violations of the Worker Readjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, a federal law, and its California equivalent, among other allegations. This, in turn, has led Twitter to require some employees to sign a release of legal claims against the company at the risk of not receiving severance pay, according to an amended complaint recently filed by ex-Twitter workers. Ex-Twitter workers have responded to Twitter’s move by requesting a protective order blocking the company from soliciting such releases and nullifying any it has already obtained.
The article states:
“The workers’ Nov. 9 request is based on a well-developed body of federal law analogous to the state law standards developed after a California appellate court’s 2009 ruling in Chindarah v. Pick Up Stix, Inc., said Lauren Teukolsky, a plaintiffs’ attorney with Teukolsky Law PC.
‘Many cases since Pick Up Stix have found releases to be invalid where the employer engaged in coercive or misleading tactics,’ Teukolsky said.”
To read the article in its entirety, click here.
If you have been affected by recent developments at Twitter, click here to get in touch with Teukolsky Law.
America’s largest tech companies are some of the most profitable and powerful corporations in the world, with values in the hundreds of billions of dollars and in some cases, trillions. Given such size, America’s tech companies, and more specifically, their stances on labor and employment policies, have significant influence over a broad swath of American workers’ lives and wellbeing at the workplace. With 2022 halfway through, Teukolsky Law would like to take a moment to recap some of the most notable labor and employment developments across some of our country’s largest tech companies.
Amazon: 2022 has been a historic year for Amazon workers. In April, employees at a massive Amazon warehouse in Staten Island voted by a wide margin to form a union, the first successful unionization attempt by Amazon workers in the company’s history. Some commentators viewed the vote as milestone event that might signal a turning point in workers’ organizing efforts against Amazon, a company many union leaders consider a massive threat to labor standards.
Google: In June, Google agreed to pay $118 million to resolve a California state class action brough on behalf of over 15,000 former employees who accused the company of underpaying women. The lawsuit, which was filed in 2017, accused Google of paying women less than men for equal or similar work. The former employees alleged that Google slotted female employees into lower “salary bands” than men, put them in lower-paying positions, and failed to promote them- practices which, according to the former employees, violated California’s equal pay act, Unfair Competition Law, and Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
After the settlement was reached, the women involved and their attorneys expressed optimism that the settlement’s provisions will ensure more equity for women at Google.
Microsoft: In January, Microsoft’s board announced that the company had selected a law firm to review its sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies. The announcement came after shareholders expressed concern over how Microsoft and one of its founders, Bill Gates, had treated women employees. The review will produce a report with results of any sexual harassment investigations in recent years against the company’s directors and senior executives.
On the labor front, a group of workers at Activision Blizzard, a large video game company currently being acquired by Microsoft, voted in May to unionize, a first for a major North American video game company. Weeks after the deal, in June, Microsoft reached an agreement with the Communications Workers of America Union to make it easier for Activision Blizzard’s employees to unionize.
Legislation: The first half of 2022 has seen the passage of landmark federal employment legislation. In March, President Biden signed H.R. 4445 into law, preventing employers from using forced arbitration clauses to protect themselves from lawsuits alleging sexual assault and harassment. The law does so by invalidating forced arbitration clauses in “any dispute or claim that arises or accrues” after the date it was signed into law. H.R. 4445 figures to be a significant development for the tech industry, in light of the male-dominant and sexist culture that pervades Silicon Valley.
Powerful state employment legislation was also passed during the first half of 2022. In Washington, Governor Inslee signed the “Silenced No More” act into law in March. The law bars employers from making nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) a condition of employment or settlements and affects some of the largest tech companies in the world, including Amazon and Microsoft. Washington’s law mirrors California’s own Silenced No More act, which already has prompted Salesforce and its subsidiary, Slack, to extend Silenced No More protections to all of their employees across the country.
If the first half of the year is any indication, 2022 will represent a significant victory for both the labor movement and workers in the tech sector.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.