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Wed Jan. 7th, 2015 PTWWW Legal Alert

Recent Changes to Minimum Wage Laws

On July 1, 2014, the California minimum wage was increased to $9.00 per hour.  Next year, on January 1, 2016, the California minimum wage will again be increased to $10.00 per hour.  Employers should be aware of changes to California’s minimum wage laws because, in order to classify employees as “exempt,” the employee must generally earn a monthly salary of no less than two times the state’s minimum wage for full-time work.  Additionally, California employers should be updated as to changes to minimum wage laws because, in 2014, AB 442 authorized the Labor Commissioner to recover liquidated damages, in addition to existing penalties, based on a citation for failure to pay minimum wages.  AB 442 expanded the power of the Labor Commissioner to recover liquidated damages without a civil action having been filed.  Previously, the ability to obtain liquidated damages was limited to a civil action in Superior Court.

Employees Not Entitled to Compensation for Security Screening Time

In Busk v. Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc., the United States Supreme Court overruled an earlier decision in the case by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, and held that the time that warehouse employees spent waiting to go through security checks and undergoing security checks at the end of their shifts was not compensable.  The employees in Busk were hourly employees who were required to undergo an anti-theft security check at the end of their shifts.  The employees were not compensated for time spent waiting in line for these checks, which they alleged took up to 25 minutes each day.  The employees filed a class action lawsuit against their employer for wage and hour violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  On appeal from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, the United States Supreme Court held that the security checks were not an “integral and indispensable” part of the employees’ work.  Therefore, under the Portal to Portal Act, which defines compensable and non-compensable work under the FLSA, the employees’ time spent undergoing security checks was not compensable.

Employers Must Accommodate Disabled Employees

In Swanson v. Morongo Unified, the plaintiff was an elementary school teacher who had recently been treated for breast cancer.  She asked her employer to be assigned to teach 2nd grade, which was the grade she had most recently worked with.  Plaintiff told her employer that, due to her health issues, it would be too difficult to take on a new grade level.  However, Plaintiff’s request was not granted, and she was assigned to teach kindergarten.  Plaintiff complained to her school district, explaining that she had not taught kindergarten in 30 years, and furthermore, due to her health issues, it would be dangerous to work with kindergartners because of the various illnesses they carried.  Plaintiff’s school district refused to change her assignment.  Plaintiff sued her school district for failure to accommodate her disability.  In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeal agreed with Plaintiff that the school district had violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act by failing to accommodate her request to teach 2nd grade.  Plaintiff was qualified to teach 2nd grade, and due to her disability, should have been granted her preference to teach 2nd grade.