California Labor &
Employment Law Blog
May 19, 2006

New Noteworthy Cases for California Employers

Topics: New Laws & Legislation

Topic: employee's personal use of company property.
An employer may be held liable for an employee's use of a company vehicle for personal use. The Court determined that the company's policy and protocol regarding use of company cars implied permission to the employee to use the company car for personal errands. For example, the employee handbook lacked specificity regarding "personal use" of company property. The company also lacked specific protocol when using company vehicles such as failure to have a verification system subsequent to use of company vehicles, such as review of gas, oil, or mileage usage, all of which were indicators that the company's business practice amounted to indifference as to how the vehicles were actually used. Employers should carefully review their employee handbooks to ensure that it expressly prohibits personal use of company property. Employers should also implement consistent protocols to document and monitor use of company property to avoid liability for employees' personal use of company property. Taylor v. Roseville Toyota, Inc., 42 Cal.Rptr.3d 68, 06 C.D.O.S. 3362 (April 4, 2006).

Topic: employment agreements with foreign choice of law and forum selection provisions.
The Court held that an employment agreement containing a New York choice of law provision and New York forum selection provision is enforceable as between a New York employer and California employee. The Court held that the public policy of California in enforcing its anti-discrimination statutes under FEHA and convenience of the party/witnesses in adjudicating the case in California do not invalidate the parties' enforceable agreement where the selected forum affords an adequate remedy to the employee. Out-of-state employers who employ individuals in California may use foreign choice-of-law and forum selection provisions in their employment contracts, so long as the forum selected offers the employee adequate remedies otherwise available to him or her under California law. Olinick v. BMG Entertainment, 42 Cal.Rptr.3d 268, 06 C.D.O.S. 3497 (April 27, 2006).

Topic: discovery of putative class members' names, addresses, and telephone numbers.
This case involves a putative class action lawsuit alleging wage and hour violations, including missed meal and rest breaks and unpaid overtime. The Court ruled that the discovery requested was relevant and did not violate the attorney-client privilege or attorney-work product doctrine. Nevertheless, the Court held that defendant employer's special interrogatories seeking the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all putative class members who contacted plaintiffs' counsel violated the putative class members' privacy rights. Most or all of the class members who contacted plaintiffs' counsel did so in response to a neutral letter sent to a sample of class members, administered by a neutral third party. The Court reasoned that the class members' right to privacy outweighed the employer's need to learn the identities of class members who contacted plaintiffs' counsel, because the employer already knew who the universe of class members were, and presumably knew how it compensated its own employees and administered its meal and rest break policies. The Court evidently found plaintiffs' counsel's declaration persuasive where he states that putative class members were reluctant to reveal their identities unless it remained confidential, and were fearful of retaliation by their employer. Defense counsel should therefore proceed with caution when seeking the identities of putative class members who contacted plaintiffs' counsel, unless there is a compelling reason seeking the disclosure that outweighs the class members' privacy interests. Tien v. Superior Court (Tenet Healthcare Corp.), 06 C.D.O.S. 4006 (May 15, 2006).

About CDF

For over 25 years, CDF has distinguished itself as one of the top employment, labor and immigration firms in California, representing employers in single-plaintiff and class action lawsuits and advising employers on related legal compliance and risk avoidance. We cover the state, with five locations from Sacramento to San Diego.

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About the Editor

Robin Largent has a regular presence in California state and federal courts and has been lead defense counsel and appellate counsel for large and small California employers in litigation (and arbitration) ranging from individual discrimination and harassment claims to complex wage and hour representative and class actions. She also leads the firm’s appellate practice, having substantial experience and success handling appeals, writ petitions, and amicus briefs in both state and federal court on issues such as class certification (particularly in the wage and hour arena), manageability and due process concerns associated with class action trials, exempt/non-exempt misclassification issues, meal and rest break compliance, trade secret/unfair competition matters, and the scope of federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act.
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