On December 14, 2015, the US Supreme Court issued its opinion in DirectTV v. Imburgia, reversing a California Court of Appeal’s refusal to enforce a consumer arbitration agreement containing a class action waiver. The DirectTV case is yet another favorable Supreme Court case supporting the enforceability of arbitration agreements and class action waivers, despite California courts’ repeated attempts to find ways to invalidate the enforceability of these agreements on their terms.
In Prue v. Brady Company, the California court held that a plaintiff who suffered a work-related injury and subsequently was fired stated a valid legal claim against the employer for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The employer argued that the plaintiff’s claim was invalid because it effectively was a Labor Code section 132a retaliation claim that could only be brought before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, not in court. The court disagreed, reasoning that the plaintiff adequately alleged that he was wrongfully terminated for having a disability, in violation of the public policy of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, and therefore the claim was not barred by the doctrine of workers’ compensation exclusivity. The court also held that a wrongful termination in violation of public policy claim is governed by a two-year statute of limitations and not by the statute of limitations applicable to FEHA claims. This decision confirms that employees who claim they have been fired for reasons relating to a work compensation injury can sue their employer in court and seek punitive damages and are not limited to filing Labor Code 132a claims before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.
If you are in industries with cheerleaders, grocery workers or truck drivers there are additional new laws you should contact us about.
This is also your reminder that your employee handbook should be reviewed and revised for any changes in the law or your company policies this last year. Contact the attorneys at Merhab Robinson, Jackson & Clarkson to revise and update company handbooks and agreements to ensure compliance with these new laws.