This last Sunday, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law S.B. 1241. This new law regulates an employer’s ability to choose where and under what law an employee can sue for employment-related disputes. In particular, it prohibits California employers from explicitly requiring that disputes be adjudicated in a forum other than California, and also prohibits employers from including any terms in their employment contracts that would “deprive the employee of the substantive protection of California law” with respect to a dispute arising in California.
Before this bill, California employers could freely evade California’s employee-friendly laws by drafting employment contracts that mandated dispute resolution outside of the state. S.B. 1241 now makes such a practice unlawful, and any California employment contracts that require litigation or arbitration to take place outside of the state are inconsistent with California law. An exception applies to employees who retain legal counsel and individually negotiate the terms of a choice-of-law clause in their employment contract, but those situations are few and far between – most employees don’t hire lawyers to negotiate employment contracts with their employers due to the expense.
This new law makes the expansive protection of California’s employment laws more widely available to California employees. California has some of the most protective employment laws in the nation, granting employees’ rights and benefits relating to wages, meal periods, and rest breaks beyond that granted by federal employment laws. Accordingly, Governor Brown’s signing of S.B. 1241 represents a welcome and significant expansion to the rights of California employees.
By signing S.B. 1241, Governor Brown has removed a hurdle that previously prevented California employees from holding employers accountable in California, under California law. If you are an employee or know of other employees who have been deprived of rights or benefits required under California law, such as meal periods, rest breaks, pay for on-call time, overtime pay, or minimum wages, please contact our office.
Governor Brown signed AB 2159 into law today, adding section 351.2 to the California Evidence Code. Under the bill, evidence of immigration status is inadmissible and undiscoverable in personal injury and wrongful death suits.
Up until today, the governing law in personal injury and wrongful death suits was Rodriguez v. Kline. In that case, the California Second District Court of Appeal held as follows: if a plaintiff whose citizenship is in dispute seeks compensation for lost wages in court, the court holds a preliminary hearing to determine whether or not the plaintiff is “subject to deportation” and whether or not they are taking steps to correct their deportable condition. If the plaintiff is found to be “subject to deportation”, the jury may find that the plaintiff will recover only those lost wages that he or she could have earned in his or her country of origin.
This bill ends 30 years of disparate treatment toward non-citizens in California, allowing non-citizens to recover lost wages in personal injury and wrongful death claims to the same degree as citizens. It also frees up judicial resources, allowing the court’s time to be spent answering more pressing legal questions than the immigration status of the parties in personal injury and wrongful death matters. Hundreds and hundreds of published cases cite to Rodriguez v. Kline on the question of a plaintiff’s immigration status, illustrating the magnitude of courthouse time that will be freed by ridding the judicial process of Rodriguez’s preliminary hearing requirement. Governor Brown’s bill is a welcome boon to both plaintiff’s rights and courtroom efficiency in an endeavor where both are invaluable.
If you or a loved one, citizen or otherwise, is seeking legal help for an injury or wrongful death, please contact our office so that we may assist in your recovery.
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