California Employment Law Update
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Morgan Peterson

Associate

Morgan Peterson is an associate in the Labor & Employment Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration Group. She is a member of the Wage and Hour and the Class and Collective Action practice groups.

Morgan assists clients across a variety of industries with litigations and arbitrations relating to wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wage and hour, and whistleblower matters in both the single plaintiff and class and collective action contexts. She also counsels employers on a diverse range of workplace issues and their policy and handbook development. Morgan maintains an active pro bono practice representing individuals in immigration matters and providing employment counseling to non-profit organizations.

Morgan earned her J.D. from U.C. Irvine School of Law, where she was an Executive Editor of the UC Irvine Law Review and spent four semesters working in UCI’s Civil Rights Litigation Clinic. Morgan also served as a judicial extern for the Honorable John D. Early in the Central District of California. Morgan received her B.A., cum laude, from Tufts University.

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Just in Time for Flu Season, California Expands Sick Leave Requirements

Last week, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 616 (“SB 616”), an amendment to California’s statewide paid sick leave law that significantly increases the amount of leave that employers need to provide and permit employees to carry over from year-to-year.  The bill was sent to Governor Newsom on Wednesday, and he is expected to sign it … Continue Reading

West Hollywood Wins The Gold Medal For Highest Minimum Wage In The Nation — $19.08!

The so-called “Fight for 15” – those widespread protests for a $15 minimum wage – are so passé now! As of July 1, 2023, West Hollywood takes the crown for the highest mandated minimum wage in the United States at $19.08.  Why they didn’t just top it off at $20 is anyone’s guess.  (Not to … Continue Reading

Crisis Averted: California Employers Are Not Liable for “Take-Home” COVID Cases.

Last week, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled that employers are not liable to nonemployees who contract COVID-19 from employee household members that bring the virus home from their workplace, because “[a]n employer does not owe a duty of care under California law to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to employees’ household members.”  Kuciemba v. … Continue Reading

California Concludes It’s Been Too Hard On Employers, Offers Apology (Nah, Just Kidding!)—A New Raft Of “Job-Killer” Bills Is Heading This Way!

Spring in California can only mean one thing, and no, it’s not Coachella, Dodgers games or even the return of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano—it’s the annual release of the California Chamber of Commerce’s list of “Job Killer Bills.” Once again, this list proves that former California Governor Jerry Brown had it right when … Continue Reading

$137 Million Racial Harassment Verdict Against Tesla Slashed by New Jury!

An astronomical $137 million jury verdict against Tesla has again been reduced, for a second (and potentially final) time. Last Monday, following a five-day trial on damages, a federal court jury awarded Owen Diaz, a former Tesla elevator operator, $175,000 in emotional distress damages and $3 million in punitive damages, totaling nearly $3.2 million—almost $134 … Continue Reading

Court Obliterates California’s Anti-Arbitration Law

Yesterday, a three-judge Ninth Circuit panel revisited its own 2021 order and finally struck down California’s anti-mandatory employment arbitration law, Assembly Bill 51 (“AB 51”).  In an opinion drafted by the former dissenting judge, Judge Sandra Ikuta, the new majority declared AB 51 was preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”). The statute in question, … Continue Reading

Stick to the Schedule: Los Angeles Imposes Significant New Requirements on Retail Employers

On November 22, 2022, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed the Fair Work Week Ordinance (“FWWO”).  Set to take effect in April 2023, the new law imposes significant requirements on retail employers in the City of Los Angeles with respect to both scheduling and hiring.  It follows in the footsteps of similar predictive scheduling … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court to Determine Scope of Employer Liability for At-Home Spread of COVID-19

Last week, the California Supreme Court agreed to decide two unique questions with far-reaching implications for employer liability: (1) may an employer be held liable to an employee’s spouse when an employee contracts COVID-19 in the workplace and then infects their spouse at home, and (2) does an employer have a duty of care to … Continue Reading

L.A. Jury Delivers Mother of All Verdicts – $464 Million to Two Employees!

As we have previously reported, jury verdicts in employment cases have continued to skyrocket in recent months, and there is no sign they are leveling off. Late last week, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury awarded a total of over $464 million ($440 million of which was in punitive damages) in a two-plaintiff retaliation case. … Continue Reading

Nothing Escapes Inflation, Including California’s Minimum Wage

California’s minimum wage currently is double its federal counterpart.  And, it’s going to keep climbing.  Late last week, Gov. Newsom announced that the Golden State’s minimum wage will increase to $15.50 for all employers (regardless of size), effective January 1, 2023.  Employers have inflation to thank for this latest hike. California currently mandates a minimum wage … Continue Reading

California May Relax Background Check Process

Many employers undertake routine background checks as part of their hiring process.  To be effective, of course, the process has to be completed in a timely manner.  Yet, a recent court decision, All of Us or None v. Hamrick, 64 Cal. App. 5th 751 (2021), made that process appreciably more difficult by prohibiting searches of … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Relaxes Standard Needed to Prove Whistleblower Retaliation

The California Supreme Court has resolved an inconsistency that has divided the courts as to the proper evidentiary standard necessary to prove a whistleblower retaliation claim.  Lawson v. PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc., No. S266001, 2022 WL 244731 (Cal. Jan. 27, 2022). Background Plaintiff Wallen Lawson, who was discharged by his employer PPG Architectural Finishes for … Continue Reading

Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards Survives its First Challenge

  As we reported here, Cal/OSHA’s revised COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”) took effect on January 14, 2022. The controversial emergency regulations, which have caused employers countless headaches, survived their first major challenge when the Court of Appeal, in Western Growers Association v. Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board affirmed the trial court’s order blocking … Continue Reading

California Voters May Deal a Fatal Blow to PAGA

Things aren’t looking so good for the long-term health of the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”). On top of the U.S. Supreme Court’s granting review of a case challenging PAGA’s anti-arbitration rule (as we reported here) and a separate challenge brought by an association of California business owners currently pending before the California … Continue Reading

New Variants, New Regulations: Updates to the Emergency COVID Standards Take Effect January 14th

Last month, California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (“OSHSB”) readopted and revised the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”).  By and large, OSHSB’s revised ETS retain most of the key requirements of the prior version, which had last been updated last June (as we reported here).  However, the revised ETS, which will take … Continue Reading

Los Angeles Jury Hands $155 Million Holiday Gift to Fired Insurance Executive

As we recently reported, California juries continue to award massive verdicts to employees with alarming regularity.  And, just in time for the holidays, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury upped the ante on Thursday, handing a fired insurance company executive a verdict totaling $155.4 million – including $150 million in punitive damages. Plaintiff Andrew Rudnicki worked … Continue Reading

California Reclaims Top Spot in Annual “Judicial Hellhole” Awards!

After temporarily falling to third place in 2020, California once again claims the top spot on the American Tort Reform Foundation’s (ATRF) annual list of “Judicial Hellholes.” While California has not taken home the gold in two years, this year’s award does not come as much of a surprise after the state was deemed an … Continue Reading

House of Cards: What Employers Can Learn From Kevin Spacey’s Alleged Missteps

Kevin Spacey’s legal troubles have taken a costly turn as the production companies behind Netflix’s House of Cards recently asked a California court to confirm an arbitration award of almost $31 million against Spacey for breach of contract. In 2017, eight House of Cards crew members came forward to accuse Spacey of sexual harassment and … Continue Reading
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