Legal Update

It’s back to school but you have to stay home with your kid because of COVID: What you can and cannot do

As if parenting and holding down a job weren’t already hard enough, the coronavirus pandemic has forced working parents to juggle competing demands from their employers and their children, many of whom were in ‘virtual’ school or had to stay home because their child-care was closed due to health and safety concerns.  

A federal law was passed to address this problem, but most of that has expired.  However, California law still provides some protection for parents.

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Masks on or masks off???

Governor Newsom ended California’s stay-at-home order effective June 15, bringing an end to capacity limits and physical distancing requirements for businesses and allowing fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks in most places. 

As of June 15, if you are fully vaccinated (both doses of the vaccine and at least 14 days after the final dose), you have no obligation to wear face masks except,

(1) on public transit and in public transit stations;

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Biden administration ushers in change at the NLRB

One of the first things the Biden Administration did after January 20 was to make sweeping changes to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the agency that oversees the conduct of work between unions and employers. On Day One, President Biden demanded the resignation and eventually terminated, the Trump NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, whose term otherwise would not have ended until November. Robb was responsible for pushing an agenda that would do more damage to unions than any of his Republican-appointed predecessors.

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UPS lifts ban on black hairstyles and facial hair

In early November, loosening its longstanding appearance restrictions, UPS will allow employees to wear beards and “natural black hairstyles.”  Most observers attribute this change to the company’s belated recognition that the previous policy was discriminatory, as alleged in numerous grievances filed by Teamsters locals over the past decades.

The new policy expressly permits traditional black hairstyles, such as “Afros, braids, curls, locks, twists, and knots.” The policy also makes clear that beards and mustaches “are definitely acceptable as long as they are worn in a businesslike manner and don’t create a safety concern.”

As further evidence of its acknowledgment that we are living in the 21st Century,

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Trump NLRB destroys historic protections for workers engaged in union activities

It can be discouraging to keep track of the Trump NLRB’s rollback of worker rights, but it’s important for unions and their members to stay abreast of the shifting legal landscape. One recent setback alters the decades-old rules for employees voicing support for organizing, for shop steward conduct in the workplace, and for union member conduct on picket lines.

In recognition of the fact that employee discussions with their fellow workers and with management about union-related issues can become heated,

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COVID-19 in the workplace: How can you and your union respond to ‘Abnormally Dangerous’ Conditions

So much is still unknown about COVID-19 (such as, how exactly it spreads, why the symptoms can range from mild to extreme, and whether you can develop immunity.) It may be impossible to say with absolute legal certainty what is so “unsafe” as to justify a refusal to work. However, the stakes are quite high: refusal to follow a direct order to ‘get to work’ or ‘keep working’ is insubordination and the penalty for insubordination is often termination.

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Supreme Court: Employees must be paid for time spent undergoing exit searches

In February, the California Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling for workers, holding that employees must be paid for time spent waiting for and undergoing mandatory exit searches after the end of a work shift. The case, Frleiken v. Apple, Inc., involved a class of retail employees subject to these searches at Apple’s 52 California stores.

Apple’s exit search policy required supervisors to search retail employees’ bags, packages, backpacks, purses, and even to verify the serial number of personal Apple products.

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New laws taking effect in 2020 and their impact on workers

As the new year starts, it is time for a look back to some of the significant bills passed by the California Legislature this year, as well as a look ahead to drivers’ license changes taking effect in the New Year.

AB-5: Ending worker misclassification

The biggest news out of Sacramento is the passage of AB-5. This bill codifies the Supreme Court’s decision last year in the Dynamex case that drew the line between workers who are employees and those who are legitimately treated as independent contractors.

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Changes to Hours of Service Rules

Bowing to complaints from the trucking industry, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed revisions to its hours-of-service regulations. Heralded as an opportunity to give drivers “relief from rigid mandates,” the proposed revisions are actually a thinly-veiled attempt to allow companies to limit the quality of driver resting time and extend the overall hours a driver can drive.

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa condemned the proposed revisions stating: “Trucking is already one of the nation’s most dangerous jobs. 

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Independent Contractor Laws: California Sides With Workers While NLRB Backs Big Tech

It has been over a year since California’s highest court sent shock waves through Silicon Valley, declaring what many considered the end of the “gig economy” in California. In Dynamex Operations West v. Lee, the Court dealt a crucial blow to Uber and Lyft and their business model based on classifying workers as “independent contractors.”

But since the Dynamex decision came down, both companies have gone public making wealthy stockholders even wealthier.

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