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Lyft Amputates a Toe to Save the Foot, Settles Class Action Suit

"It looks like Lyft got off fairly lightly here," according to a market analyst commenting on the recent settlement agreement between Lyft and its drivers. Under the terms of the settlement, the ride-sharing company will pay $12.5 million, give concessions, and give drivers notice if they are to be deactivated.

It's good news for Lyft, but not so great news for its bigger rival Uber, whose head is still inching toward the chopping block.

The California State Legislature passed, and Governor Brown signed, more than 800 new laws in 2015, covering everything from physician-assisted suicide, to minimum wage, to beer-tastings at farmers' markets. As is often the case, most of those new laws went into effect at the stroke of midnight, January 1st, 2016.

Here's a quick overview of some of the most significant new laws and how they might affect your life and your legal practice.

'Sharing Economy' Lawyer Wins Uber Class Expansion

The lawyer behind the class actions suits of Uber, Lyft, Amazon and Google is on a roll. Judge Edward Chen of the U.S. District Court in California recently decided that the entire group of Uber drivers can join as plaintiffs in one of the most contested misclassification suits in history.

Appeals Court Reverses $1M Award to Ex-Firefighter in FEHA Case

A California Court of Appeals reversed a lower court's award of $1 million in damages to Los Angeles ex-firefighter Jubari Jumanne who sued the City of Angels under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act for discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. In reversing the lower court's ruling, the court ruled that Jumanne's claims were brought outside a critical one year statute-of-limitations and that the "continuing violation" doctrine did not apply.

Jumanne's case is reminiscent of situations in which real estate attorneys will (unethically) counsel their clients to disclaim any actual notice of hostile invasion of property.

District Court Dismisses Apple Employee 'Bag Search' Suit

The U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California just dismissed the 2013 class action lawsuit brought by a group of employees who claimed the tech giant owed them money for time spent waiting to have their bags searched for stolen contraband.

The court held that Apple actually "took a milder" approach to the problem of employee shrinkage by allowing employees to bring bags and personal devices (PD) to work rather than banning them outright. As a result, the employees will not be compensated for the bag search time.

However, the ruling's language leaves open gaping holes that lawyers love to see. Will an appeal be coming soon?

Two weeks ago, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen granted class status to a group of drivers suing Uber. The drivers allege that Uber misclassifies them as independent contractors when they are in fact employees and entitled to employee benefits.

While the ruling itself is news worthy (we covered it here), so too was Judge Chen's handling of the lawyers, indicating that neither Uber nor the drivers have an easy road ahead of them.

A federal court in California granted class action status to all eligible Uber drivers in the Golden State. Drivers are currently suing the company, alleging that Uber illegally classifies them as independent contractors when they are in fact employees. In getting class certification, the drivers have overcome the first hurdle in a massive lawsuit that, should they succeed, could see them getting paid for past taxes, wear to their cars, and other expenses.

The lawsuit threatens to upend business as usual in the so-called "sharing" or "on demand" economies -- those tech companies which let users order goods or services instantly and who depend heavily on contractors to make it work.

California cheerleaders have a new reason to cheer today after Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill guaranteeing basic employee rights for cheerleaders. The bill, introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, herself a former cheerleader, comes after a series of lawsuits by professional cheerleaders who alleged they often worked without pay or even simple employment protections.

It's not just cheerleaders who will benefit. In a nod to team spirit, the legislation will also protect professional mascots, from the Giant's Lou Seal to the L.A. Clipper's Frankie Muniz.

Just in time for your hay fever, fireworks injuries, and debilitating sunburns, expanded sick leave rights are coming to California workers. Starting the first of July, the Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act will give California workers access to paid sick leave if they work over 30 days a year. The bill allows employees to earn at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked.

The new law is expected to expand paid sick leave to millions of workers who previously had little access to leave or no paid sick leave at all. The Act should cover about three quarters of California's low-wage workers and applies to full-time, part-time, and temporary workers.

Uber has long tried to play itself off as simply a middleman, just dispatching independent drivers to consumers through its app -- and taking a big cut of their fare. Nothing but logistics, right? Not according to the California Labor Commission, who ruled today that the extensive control Uber has over its drivers makes them employees, not independent contractors.

The ruling is a major blow to the company, which has long resisted classifying its drivers as employees. Treating drivers as employees will require Uber to pay for Social Security, workers compensation, unemployment insurance, work expenses and other costs, all of which have been borne by drivers until now.