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Acrylamide is a chemical that results, inter alia, when foods are browned in cooking, such as when foods are baked, fried, or roasted. The State of California has determined that consuming acrylamide increases the risk of cancer. That finding has resulted in the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) requiring warnings, pursuant to Proposition 65, of that hazard (although the amounts that trigger the warnings are somewhat in flux).

Court of Appeal holds that courts may strike PAGA claims they determine to be unmanageable

2021 case review: Fred Wesson v. Staples The Office Superstore, LLC [**]

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A recent California Court of Appeals decision confirmed that courts have discretion to strike claims for penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”). The only requirement for such damages to be taken away from an action is that the trial Court hold that the claims will be “unmanageable at trial.”

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Plaintiff Morales, in 2016, accepted a full-time position at a flooring store. He had numerous duties related to the warehouse, including cleaning, accepting deliveries, making deliveries, and assisting customers. His hours were 8 AM to 6 PM on weekdays, and 9 AM to 5 PM on Saturdays. When Plaintiff requested compensation for overtime hours, he was fired.

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The Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA, Lab. Code 2698) provides a means whereby counsel seeking compensation for a given Plaintiff who has not received overtime or meal breaks or similar benefits can bring suit on behalf of all similarly situated employees of the defendant company. If suits are brought under this statutory framework, notice must be provided to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) (the relevant regulatory Agency).

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In 2018, in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, 4 Cal.5th 903 (2018),the Supreme Court held that in determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor for purposes of California’s wage laws, the “ABC test” applies. The ABC test holds that a worker is an independent contractor only if the hirer can establish “…A) that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact; (B) that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and (C) that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.”

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Plaintiffs brought a class action on behalf of employees of the defendant, claiming a violation of wage and hour laws and, specifically, failure to provide proper meal breaks. The trial court granted, and the Appellate Court upheld, a motion for summary judgment brought by the defendant.

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The Supreme Court made a decision that objectively benefits Plaintiffs who bring actions under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal. Gov. Code 12940, subd. (j), 12960, when alleging, as in this case, harassment.

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The Court in this case clarified the law regarding when a judge must recuse themselves in light of a conflict. Plaintiff Chaganti had brought a lawsuit and gone to trial against Cricket and New Cingular, which are wholly owned subsidiaries of AT&T. The lawsuit was brought regarding a commercial lease in which the named lessee was “AT&T Wireless PCS” and where rent was paid by “AT&T.”

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This case involves an anti-SLAPP motion. The Anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation, Code Civ. Proc., 425.16) statute provides that a defendant can bring a motion to strike causes of action alleged by a plaintiff in any case “arising from any act of [the defendant] in furtherance of the [defendant’s] right of petition or free speech under the United States Constitution or the California Constitution in connection with a public issue…” Code Civ. Proc.§ 425.16, subd. (b).

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