California Employment Law Update
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Philippe A. Lebel

Senior Counsel

Philippe (Phil) A. Lebel represents employers in all aspects of employment litigation, including wage and hour, wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, defamation, trade secrets, and breach of contract litigation, in both the single-plaintiff and class- and/or representative-action context, at both the trial and appellate level, and before administrative agencies.

In addition to his litigation work, Phil regularly advises clients regarding compliance with federal, state and local employment laws, and assists a variety of companies and financial firms in evaluating labor and employment issues in connection with corporate transactions. Phil also has experience assisting employers with sensitive employee investigations and trainings.  Phil also represents employers in connection with labor law matters, such as labor arbitrations and proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board.

Phil has assisted clients in a wide array of sectors including in the biotech, education, entertainment, financial services, fitness, healthcare, high-tech, legal services, manufacturing, media, professional services, sports, and staffing industries, among others.

Phil regularly speaks on emerging issues for employers and has been published or quoted in Law360, the Daily JournalThe Hollywood ReporterBusiness Insurance, and SHRM.org regarding a variety of labor and employment law topics.

During college, Phil worked on political campaigns in Atlanta, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama, and was an intern with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. Phil is a former member of the Board of Directors of the AIDS Legal Referral Panel.

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Is the California Supreme Court Going to Throw Employers a Bone on PAGA?

On November 8, 2023, the California Supreme Court heard oral argument in Estrada v. Royalty Carpet Mills, Inc., a case that could have profound implications for the future of Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) litigation.  The Court granted review in order to decide whether courts have the power to strike or limit PAGA claims that … Continue Reading

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

Court of Appeal Clarifies Employers’ Expense Reimbursement Obligations for Pandemic-Related Remote Work

California Labor Code section 2802 (“Section 2802”) requires employers to reimburse employees for “all necessary expenditures or losses” they incur as a “direct consequence of the discharge of … [their] duties, or … [their] obedience to the directions of the employer.”  So, in March 2020, when Governor Newsom issued a broad stay-at-home order requiring all … Continue Reading

The Fate of PAGA Representative Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements will be Decided by August

As we reported (here), on June 15, 2022, a near unanimous U.S. Supreme Court held that the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) preempted the California Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC, 59 Cal. 4th 348 (2014), which held that actions brought under the California Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) … Continue Reading

No Sexual Harassment Claim Between Friends

Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), employers generally are strictly liable for a supervisor’s harassment, even where the employer is unaware of the supervisor’s alleged bad actions.  While this left many employers without much recourse in the event supervisors misbehaved, a recently published Court of Appeal decision offers some hope.  In Atalla v. … Continue Reading

Reminder: Employer Considerations When Contemplating Delaying Payroll

On March 10, 2023, financial markets were rocked by uncertainty over the future of certain significant financial institutions.  Among other concerns, bank failures raise the prospect of temporary or long-term cash flow problems for account holders, as deposits totaling more than $250,000 exceed the amount covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.  Often, companies’ largest … 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

Employees Attack Arbitration Agreement By Claiming “Not To Recall” Signing It – And Lose!

In recent years, employees (and their lawyers) have taken a variety of approaches to challenging the enforceability of workplace arbitration agreements.  One common tactic has been to claim that they “don’t remember signing it” and, therefore, should not be required to arbitrate their claims.  And at least one Court in the Second Appellate District has … Continue Reading

Court Puts New Controversial Fast-Food Worker Law on Hold

On January 13, 2023, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge issued a preliminary injunction to stop the controversial Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act or “FAST Recovery Act” (AB 257) from taking effect, pending a vote by California voters.  Previously, on December 30, 2022, the court had issued a temporary restraining order against the … Continue Reading

California’s Civil Rights Department Adds More Detail to Regulations Regarding Consideration of Applicants’ Criminal History

In the weeks and months since it changed its name from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to the California Civil Rights Department (“CRD”), the agency has been busy.  Most recently, the CRD released proposed modifications to the regulations under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) related to the use and consideration of … 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

Ninth Circuit Clarifies Overtime Calculation Rules for Shift Premiums and Holiday Pay Under California Law

To properly calculate the overtime rate for a non-exempt employee, employers must first calculate the “regular rate of pay.”  Under federal law, and the laws of most states, the regular rate is determined by dividing the employee’s total weekly remuneration (except for a handful of categories that are specifically excluded, such as gifts and payments … Continue Reading

California Court of Appeal Dismantles Rounding Where Accurate Timekeeping Records Exist

A decade ago, a California Court of Appeal held that employers lawfully could round employees’ time punches if the rounding policy was neutral on its face and as applied. See See’s Candy Shops, Inc. v. Super. Ct., 210 Cal. App. 4th 889 (2012). In arriving at this conclusion, the See’s Court relied on regulations under … Continue Reading

California Court of Appeal Holds Online-Only Business Websites Are Not “Public Accommodations”

On August 1, 2022, the California Court of Appeal joined longstanding Ninth Circuit precedent in determining that online-only businesses are not “public accommodations” covered under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) in  Martinez v. Cot’n Wash, Inc., 2022 WL 3025828 (Cal. Ct. App. 2022).  This may signal a change of tides of … Continue Reading

The U.S. Supreme Court Says PAGA Representative Action Waivers Are Enforceable After All

On June 15, 2022, in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana, Case No. 20-1573,_ U.S. _ (2022), by an 8-1 majority, the U.S. States Supreme Court held that the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) preempts the California Supreme Court’s central holding in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC, 59 Cal. 4th 348 (2014), that actions brought … Continue Reading

Several State “Job Killer” Bills Move One Step Closer to Passage

As covered previously here, the California Chamber of Commerce (“Chamber”) once again has identified a handful of “job killer” bills making their way through the legislative process.  This year’s crop of proposed legislation would, among other things, inflate employer data reporting requirements and further expand the scope of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”).  … 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

Spring Showers Bring Job Killer Bills to California

Pablo Neruda once said “you can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.”  Likewise, California businesses’ protests against oppressive employment legislation don’t seem to stem the tide of the Legislature’s latest batch of anti-employer bills. The California Chamber of Commerce has just identified a host of recently introduced “Job Killer” Bills … Continue Reading

Gone Surfing: Could California Be the First State to Adopt a Four-Day Workweek?

In recent years, countries such as Iceland and Belgium and some domestic companies have experimented with the concept of four-day workweeks.  Now, a new bill proposed by California Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) and Evan Low (D-San Jose), Assembly Bill 2932 (“AB 2932”), proposes to make a four-day workweek the new normal in California for … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in Advance of Major Ruling on the Arbitrability of PAGA Claims

Last week, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana, Case No. 20-1573,_ U.S. _ (2022). The case addresses whether the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) requires the enforcement of bilateral arbitration agreements that preclude an employee from bringing claims under the Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) on a … 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

New Bill Seeks to Impose Statewide COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement for All Employees and Contractors

On February 10, 2022, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks introduced Assembly Bill 1993 (“AB 1993”), which would impose COVID-19 vaccination requirements on virtually all employees and independent contractors working in California, regardless of employer/company size. AB 1993 would mandate that all employers require all of their employees and independent contractors to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19. … Continue Reading

Governor Newsom Signs Supplemental COVID-19 Sick Leave Bill

As we reported yesterday, California’s legislature enacted Assembly Bill 84 on Monday; the state’s Senate enacted the law’s counterpart the same day, Senate Bill 114.  The new statute sought to reestablish statewide supplemental COVID-19 sick leave requirements, and imposes significant obligations on employers.  Earlier today, Gov. Newsom signed the bill into law. The new sick … Continue Reading

As Cases Plummet and Mask Mandates Go Away, the Legislature Re-Enacts Supplemental COVID-19 Sick Leave

On February 7, 2022, there were two big COVID-19-related news developments in the Golden State: First, Gov. Newsom announced that California’s mask mandates would expire on February 15th. Second, the legislature voted to enact Assembly Bill 84 (“AB 84”), a law that would re-enact California’s 2020 supplemental COVID-19 leave law, and provide up to 80 … Continue Reading
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