UPDATES FOR CALIFORNIA EMPLOYERS – MAY 2014

EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT CANNOT SHORTEN STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS.

In Ellis v. U.S. Security Associates, plaintiff sued her employer for various claims under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.  However, plaintiff had previously agreed in her employment application to bring any claims against her employer within six months of occurrence, notwithstanding any law to the contrary.  The trial court enforced the provision in plaintiff’s employment agreement and dismissed plaintiff’s claims since her lawsuit was filed more than six months after the occurrence of the alleged incidents.  The California Court of Appeal reversed, holding that an agreement shortening the statute of limitations provided in the California Fair Employment and Housing Act is void.

GOT CHIPS?  VIOLATION OF THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT.

In EEOC v. Walgreens, the plaintiff was an employee at a Walgreens store in San Francisco and is diabetic.  While at work, plaintiff's blood sugar dropped, and she began shaking and sweating.  In order to stabilize her blood sugar, plaintiff ate some chips on the shelf at Walgreens.  When she attempted to pay for the chips, nobody was at the counter, so she put the empty bag under the counter.  Her manager found the empty bag and terminated her for violating the Walgreens "anti-grazing" policy.  The EEOC filed a lawsuit against Walgreens on plaintiff's behalf, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  A federal judge in California's Northern District subsequently denied Walgreens' motion for summary judgment and rejected its argument that it was entitled to rely on a neutral, non-discriminatory, and uniformly applied policy when terminating plaintiff.

FORMER STARBUCKS EMPLOYEE'S DE MINIMIS ACTIVITIES.

Troester v. Starbucks Corporation helped to clarify the de minimis doctrine often applied to California wage and hour cases.  In Troester, the plaintiff sued Starbucks for wages he claimed were owed for performing work-related activities after his shift was over.  These “postliminary” activities included setting the alarm, walking to the front door, turning the lock in the front door, and walking other employees to their cars.  Starbucks filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the time to complete the activities in question was de minimis.  The court granted Starbucks’ motion, holding that since the time to complete the activities at issue was less than ten minutes per day, the time was de minimis.  Plaintiff was therefore not entitled to compensation for his performance of de minimis postliminary work.

 

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