$4.1B Arbitration Award For Wrongful Termination?

A $4.1 billion arbitration award in a single plaintiff California wrongful termination case may have employers rethinking their dispute resolution strategies, if not their willingness to even do business here in the Golden State.  After all, mandatory arbitration is supposed to temper the unpredictability of juries, especially in potentially emotional employment disputes.  If an employer can be tagged for $4.1 billion by a single employee in a JAMS arbitration presided over by a respected retired judge, then maybe those juries are looking pretty good after all.

~ Law 360  (pdf)

INTERVIEWED IN: Anatomy of an arbitration disaster

~ by Amanda Bronstad, The National Law Journal

No Noncompetes in Calif. — So What Else Is New?

It is well known in the employment world that California is not the state to try out your new noncompete language. In the state that created the legislative Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem, employee interests have always been paramount to those of the employer; and nowhere is this better reflected than in California’s venerable 136-year-old statutory prohibition on noncompete agreements.

~ Law 360

Courts Compete To Rule On Non-Competes

Can an employer prevent its employee from working for a competitor by inserting a “covenant not to compete” provision into an employment contract?  The answer used to be so easy in California: Of course not!  In California, the right of employees to change jobs has been of near-Constitutional stature.  Or so it seemed.  While it can’t be said that the tide it turning, the recent depublication of two California appellate court opinions, and an unusual Ninth Circuit ruling, has certainly made the law of restrictive covenants in California a little murkier.  And these changes are forcing practitioners not only to stay on their toes, but to dance quickly.

$1.6 Million Sanction Award Sends A Loud Message That Inevitable Disclosure Really Is Dead And Burried In California

You’ve probably heard about the inevitable disclosure doctrine.  It’s a great trick for employers.  It’s like getting all the benefits of a non-compete without actually having to bother with those nettlesome non-compete agreements.  Just don’t try it here in California.  At least not without a sizeable bankroll and a Get Out Of Jail Free card, as Flir Systems, Inc. learned the hard way.  It was sanctioned $1.6 million for seeking to invoke the doctrine in a California trade secret case.

~ Who’s The Boss?

Sly Stallone’s Pudding Clarifies California Trade Secret Law…Sort Of

Tempting as it is, I won’t title this post something stupid like “Rambo Reduced To Low Carb Pudding Theft,” or “Stallone Steals Secret Soufflé Specs” (nice alliteration, though).  Besides, who knows whether the pudding recipe is a secret at all, or whether Stallone even stole it.  That’s for the jury to decide, at least it is now that the California appellate court has sent the dispute back to the trial court in Brescia v. Angelin (2009) 172 Cal.App.4th 133.  But the court opinion is not about Stallone (though I suspect the reason the dispute arose in the first place is all about Stallone).  The Brescia opinion is significant because it is the first time in years that the California appellate courts have tried to provide California trade secret practitioners with a little guidance about a slippery discovery statute that has probably caused more problems (aka “legal expense”) than it has cured: Section 2019.210 of the California Civil Procedure Code.

~ Who’s The Boss?

The Year In Employment Law Review—Part I

While hardly a watershed year when it comes to developments in employment law, 2009 has nonetheless seen its fair share of interesting, and possibly even significant, alterations in the employer/employee landscape.  From unlawful discrimination against white high-achieving fire fighters, to clandestine video surveillance of employees, to chocolate pudding trade secrets, to 750 pages of new tiny-typed mind-numbing FMLA regulations, there was something for everyone this past year.

~ Law360

The Year In Employment Law Review—Part II

Continuing our survey of some of the more interesting 2009 employment law developments at the federal and California state levels, we explore in this final chapter what the legislative and executive branches (U.S. and California) have been up to (hint: It involves a lot of paperwork), and highlight a few of the more interesting California court employment law opinions.

~ Law360

CALIFORNIA CRYIN’ — Employer hit for $1 million in punitive damages for imposing a covenant not to compete on California employees

You have got to love California. Sunny skies. Dolphins frolicking in the surf. Unsullied mountains. Million dollar punitive damage awards against unsuspecting employers engaging in conduct that is perfectly legal in most of the country. Ahhh, California.

While Californians may relish the fact that this State is like no other place on the planet, at least one large employer surely disagrees.  For Aetna U.S. Healthcare, a covenant not to compete imposed on its workforce that is perfectly legal in other parts of the country will cost the employer over $1 million in punitive damages here in California.  And a single former employee who stood up for herself will reap the rewards.

Your First Encounter With a Non-Compete in California

~ Los Angeles County Bar Association, Vol. 1, No. 8

The Weight Of Chavez V. City Of Los Angeles

There are people out there who believe the rules are stacked in favor of employees when it comes to employment lawsuits here in the Generally Sunny State.  Why?  Look no further than the rules on the recovery of attorney’s fees.

~ Law 360


In Roby v. McKesson (S149752), the latest masterpiece from the state’s top court, it looks as if both employees and employers can claim a modicum of victory.

~ Also published in The Daily Journal

Quoted in: Restricting Second Jobs

~ Human Resource Executive

California Employers May Need To Compensate Their Employees For Commuting To Work In Company Vehicles — 9th Circuit Reverses Itself In Rutti V. Lojack

We here at Who’s The Boss? just looove being right.  However, in this case, being right may not be good news for those California businesses that provide their employees with vehicles.  Being right may instead prove to be very costly to these otherwise generous employers.  (Sorry, we don’t make the law, we just try to understand it.)

~ Who’s The Boss?

Can Employers Really Force California Employment Claims To Be Heard In Other States?

Assume you were an Oregon employer who had hired hundreds of California workers; and let’s just say you had to be sued in a class action lawsuit over wage and hour issues.  Where would you prefer the lawsuit to be held, in California or in Oregon?  (Don’t answer that, it’s rhetorical.)  Now answer this question honestly:  What are the odds of being able to force California workers – who have never worked outside the state and who have filed a California wage and hour class action in California Superior Court – to travel up to Oregon in order to litigate their California employment rights?  Personally, I would have put my money on the Clippers winning the NBA title next year over that.  Good thing I’m not a betting man.  Oregon home design and decorating specialists, Custom Decorators, Inc., pulled it off.

~ Who’s The Boss?