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Police Can Be Disciplined for Racist, Homophobic Texts, Court Rules

A California appeals court cleared the way for disciplinary proceedings against San Francisco police officers for sending homophobic and racist text messages in 2012.

A trial judge had dismissed the case, saying the department filed charges after the statute of limitations period. But the First District Court of Appeal said the department was cooperating with a federal criminal investigation at the time, which extended the deadline.

The decision, holding that the statute of limitations was stayed during a criminal trial, is legally interesting. But the backstory is the stuff of police corruption movies.

California Gig Workers Win More Benefits at State Supreme Court

The gig economy may never be the same after the California Supreme Court expanded the definition of employee to include workers who had been treated as independent contractors.

In Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, the state supreme court resolved an issue that has been at the heart of litigation against companies like Uber and Lyft. Although every case is different, there is a new standard in California.

Independent contractors are workers who perform work that is "outside the usual course of the hiring entity's business," the high court said. That ruling is a gig economy game-changer.

The California Supreme Court has just settled one hotly disputed overtime issue by deciding that a flat sum bonus is calculated as part of the regular rate of pay for overtime purposes.

If you're not a labor and employment attorney (or even if you are), this is probably pretty confusing. But it actually seems to make quite a bit of sense once it is unpacked, and particularly after the facts of the underlying case, Alvarado v. Dart, are understood.

Taxi Drivers Lose Uber Appeal

A recent decision certified for publication out of California's First Appellate District rejected a potential taxi driver class action against Uber. The claims in Goncharov v. Uber were based on allegations of income and passenger appropriation as a result of Uber, essentially, not playing by the rules.

However, as the appellate decision explains, even though Uber didn't play by the rules, the rules didn't quite exist. As a result, Uber reached a settlement with the CPUC to allow them to operate while the final rulemaking for TNCs (Transportation Network Companies) were still underway. As the court reasoned, this left taxi drivers with no viable claims.

Statewide Class of Janitors Certified in Wage Case

A California appeals court re-wrapped its pre-Christmas decision, allowing a class-action to proceed on behalf of janitorial workers for wage violations.

In the ABM Industries Overtime Cases, the First District Court of Appeals certified the class action on Dec. 11, 2017. But the court made a minor modification and published the decision on Jan. 10, 2018.

For some 35,000 janitors, it was all's well that ends well. But for the trial judge, maybe not so much.

Court Revives Obesity Disability Claim Against Club

Ketryn Cornell had a weight problem, and it became an issue at work.

She liked her job, but when a "thin woman" started making more money than she did, things got nasty. A pay dispute quickly turned into a lawsuit.

A trial judge dismissed Cornell's discrimination case, but California's Second District Court of Appeal reversed in part. At trial in Cornell v. Berkeley Tennis Club, it could go from bad to worse.

California wants to protect actors from age discrimination -- a noble goal, certainly. But the state's way of going about it has raised some eyebrows. Under AB 1687, certain "online entertainment employment service providers" would be prohibited from publishing information about entertainers' ages. The law would apply perhaps exclusively to IMDb, the Internet Movie Database, who has sued, alleging that the law violates the First Amendment.

Now, IMDb has won its first battle. A federal judge issued an injunction against the law earlier this week. The ruling didn't exactly come as a surprise, though. Just a few days earlier, that judge, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, had urged the state to drop its defense of the law.

Taxi Company Shuts Down for Failure to Pay Workers' Comp

A workers' compensation case has put a California taxi company out of business.

Faced with more than $500,000 in fines, A-C Transportation Services, Inc. closed the doors on 20 cabbies on Dec. 31, 2016. The Department of Industrial Relations announced that the closure was part of a settlement based on the company's failure to provide workers' compensation for its drivers.

Kevin and Jennifer Kroh, who also did business as Healdsburg Cab Company, agreed in the settlement to pay a fine of $200,000 and to cease doing business. They had argued unsuccessfully that the drivers were independent contractors rather than employees, and not entitled to workers' compensation.

When is a rest period not a rest period? When you're kept working or on call the whole time, the California Supreme Court recently ruled. In a case decided last Thursday, the court ruled that California law prohibits rest periods and breaks where an employee remains on duty or on call, such as when employees are required to respond to calls or perform basic tasks even when on a required break.

For a break or rest period to meet the requirements of California law, the court concluded, employees must be truly free from work duties.

Well, consider this one of the most obviously stupid things you've encountered recently. In 2011, four supervisors at the West Kern Water District decided to stage a mock robbery in their work place. Following a training on responding to robberies, the supervisors snuck out of the office, with one soon returning dressed in a ski mask, demanding the office's money, and claiming to have a gun.

Of course, the "mock" victim hadn't been informed of the scheme beforehand. To her, everything appeared very, very real.