U.S. Ninth Circuit - The FindLaw 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Recently in Employment Law Category

'No Mas' for Taco Bell Workers' Class Action

A federal appeals court ruled that workers had no case against Taco Bell for violating lunch breaks.

In Rodriguez v. Taco Bell Corp., the plaintiffs complained the employer violated wage laws by making them eat onsite if they bought food at employee discounts. The restaurant chain didn't want workers to abuse the discount privilege by taking food outside.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said there is nothing wrong with that. So long as businesses don't make employees work on their lunch breaks, they are not breaking the law.

No Duty to Disclose Child-Slave Labor in Chocolate Case

Otto von Bismarck said something like, "there are two things you don't want to see made: law and sausage."

That's also -- more or less -- what the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said about chocolate in Hodson v. Mars, Inc. The appeals court said the candy-maker defendant had no duty to disclose whether child-slave labor was used to make its products.

"Reprehensible" as the process may be, the appeals court said, that has little to do with chocolate products.

In a peculiar twist of events, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor Uber, Lyft and other rideshare services' challenge to a Seattle law that would allow the drivers to unionize.

In short, the appellate court found merit to the challengers' argument that allowing the unionization could violate the Sherman Antitrust Act. The case made its way up to the Ninth Circuit after the federal district court in Seattle dismissed the challenge.

San Diego Albertsons Sued for Ban on Spanish Language

Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, federal officials filed suit against an Albertons store for banning employees from speaking Spanish.

It is more than a legal problem for the grocery store chain, which employs about 280,000 people in the United States. Only the San Diego store is in trouble for the Spanish-language ban, but it is a practical problem as well.

About 32 percent of the border community there is Hispanic. So how will the Albertsons, a short walk away from Mexico, serve its Spanish-speakers?

Court: NLRA Applies to Tribal Casino

In gambling, sometimes the house doesn't win.

That's what happened in National Labor Relations Board v. Casino Pauma. The tribal casino tried to keep employees from distributing union literature, and the NLRB stepped in.

The board said the casino violated federal laws protecting union activity, but the tribe said not on its land. In a petition to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the casino took a chance and lost.

Court: Prior Salary Can't Justify Lower Pay for Women

A federal appeals court ruled that employers may not pay women less than men based on prior salaries when hiring for the same job.

The decision was a turnaround for the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which last year ruled that employers could consider salary history in hiring. But the full court stepped over that decision by a three-judge panel, and also reversed its own ruling in a related case more than 35 years ago.

It is a significant opinion, in part because it was penned by Judge Stephen Reinhardt before he died last month. The "liberal lion" spared no one in thrashing a history of unequal pay for women.

Ninth Cir. Decides: Are Cosmetology Students Employees?

For the Marinello Schools of Beauty, an adverse court decision would have required a complete make-over of the business plan.

Students had sued the cosmetology school, alleging they were treated like employees and were owed money for cleaning up salons and other menial tasks. The school answered that they were students fulfilling educational requirements.

In Benjamin v. B&H Education, Inc., the courts said the schools were just doing business as usual. For now, students will get the haircut when working for cosmetology licenses.

9th Circuit Will Reexamine Whether Employers Can Pay Women Less

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will take a second look at a decision that said employers can pay women less than men for the same job.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court said in April that women can be paid less based on salary histories. An en banc court will revisit that decision, which said pay disparities between men and women are lawful if the difference is not based on gender.

"If prior salary alone is responsible for the disparity, requiring an employer to consider factors in addition to prior salary cannot resolve the problem that the EEOC and the plaintiff have identified," Judge Lynn S. Adelman wrote in Rizo v. Yovino.

The Ninth Circuit has weighed in on a growing circuit split over Dodd-Frank's whistleblower protections, reading the statute broadly to encompass internal whistleblowers as well as those who work with the SEC.

The case stems from a lawsuit brought by Paul Somers, former VP of Digital Realty Trust, Inc., a data center company. Somers suit alleges that he was fired after reporting potential securities law violations to the company's senior management. He accused the company of violating Section 21F of the Exchange Act, which includes the whistleblower protections established by Dodd-Frank.

A county sheriff accused of creating a sexually hostile work environment by hugging and kissing a coworker isn't entitled to summary judgement, the Ninth Circuit has ruled. Yolo County Sheriff Edward G. Prieto was accused by Victoria Zetwick, a correctional sergeant, of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act based on allegedly over a hundred "unwelcome hugs and/or kisses" over a 12-year period.

The district court had granted Prieto's motion for summary judgment, finding that the accused conduct was not severe or pervasive enough to establish a hostile work environment, but the unanimous three-judge Ninth Circuit panel reversed in an unpublished opinion, ruling that a reasonable jury could find Prieto's conduct to have violated the law.