Posts Tagged ‘California’

Liability roundup

Labor roundup

  • Forget about event permits unless you hire union? Feds arrest Boston mayor’s tourism aide on extortion charges [Connor Wolf/Daily Caller, Boston Herald, indictment, WCVB (auto-plays)]
  • Georgia to feds: franchise law is state law, and you’re not free to tear up its terms to favor unions [International Franchise Association, Connor Wolf/Daily Caller]
  • Unique California farm-labor law binds growers to “contracts” they never signed. Is that even constitutional? [Ilya Shapiro, Cato] Upstate farmers furious over Gov. Cuomo’s move to unionize farm labor in New York [City and State]
  • NLRB strikes down innocuous handbook provision expecting employees to maintain “positive” workplace environment [Jon Hyman] “Is it time for a new NLRB rule on handbook policies?” [same]
  • “Funding Ideology, Not Research, at University of California ‘Labor Institutes'” [Steven Greenhut, Reason]
  • NLRB Philadelphia regional director, criticized over role in pro-union fund, suspended for 30 days [Law360, Labor Union Report]

California Senate shelves bill enabling lawsuits against climate “deniers” — for now

The California Senate has shelved, at least for now, a bill that would lay the groundwork for a campaign of lawsuits against so-called climate deniers. The California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016 (Senate Bill 1161), which had passed two committee hurdles, would retrospectively lift what is now a four-year statute of limitations so as to allow unlimited lawsuits under the state’s notoriously pro-plaintiff Unfair Competition Law, or s. 17200, over advocacy related to climate change. While the deadline has now passed for the bill to be enacted on its own under ordinary legislative procedure, it could still pass this year under “gut-and-amend” procedures or a rules waiver. [Valerie Richardson/Washington Times and earlier, Andrew Stuttaford/National Review, Watts Up with That, thanks for quotes in all; earlier]

June 1 roundup

California “climate science truth” bill would revive lapsed statutes of limitation

An extraordinary bill in the California legislature, promoted as making it easier to sue fossil fuel companies over their involvements in public debate, would lift the four-year statute of limitations of the state’s already extremely liberal Unfair Competition Law, otherwise known as s. 17200 — and retrospectively, so as to revive decades’ worth of time-lapsed claims “with respect to scientific evidence regarding the existence, extent, or current or future impacts of anthropogenic induced anthropogenic-induced climate change.” Despite a 2004 round of voter-sponsored reform which curbed some of its worst applications, s. 17200 still enables what a California court called “legal shakedown” operations in which “ridiculously minor” violations serve as the predicate for automatic entitlement to damages, attorneys’ fees, and other relief.

Combined with the plans laid by California Attorney General Kamala Harris — part of the alliance of AGs that has sought to investigate not only oil, gas, and coal companies, but private advocacy groups and university scientists who have played a role in what is characterized as “climate denial” — the bill would begin laying the legal groundwork for an astonishingly broad campaign of inquisition and, potentially, expropriation. The bill was approved by a subcommittee and was further amended May 10 to provide that climate science-related claims of any age would begin a four-year reviver period as of next January. [Northern California Record; the left-leaning Union of Concerned Scientists has a piece supporting the bill]

Section 2(b) of the bill declares it the California legislature’s policy to promote “redress for unfair competition practices committed by entities that have deceived, confused, or misled the public on the risks of climate change or financially supported activities that have deceived, confused, or misled the public on those risks” [emphasis added] — a very clear signal that the target is public issue advocacy, and not merely (say) advertising that is directed at consumers in their capacity as buyers of gasoline at the pump. Last month, a federal court slapped down, as an unconstitutional burden on First Amendment rights, California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s demand for the donor lists of nonprofits that carry on operations in California.

California: “New law seeks to protect small businesses from ADA lawsuits”

California’s unique Unruh Act provides automatic bounty entitlements (often $4,000, plus attorney’s fees) to successful discrimination complainants without having to show any actual injury from their treatment. For many years this has led to a distinctive cottage industry of ADA filing mills that mass-generate accessibility complaints against California businesses to settle for cash, often based on minor instances of noncompliance in facilities open to the public. Correcting the bad incentives created by the Unruh Act appears to be politically out of bounds, but now, at least, following a multi-year push from the business community, Gov. Jerry Brown has signed SB 269, which lays out two escape paths from liability for smaller businesses: by hiring a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) they can get 120 days to fix any violations, and by providing a 15-day grace period before legal penalty for small business to fix the most minor violations, typically involving signage and surface display. [KXTV, NorCal Record, L.A. Daily News] “The number one complaint [in 2015]? Non-compliant loading zones. Number two? Problems with parking lot signage.” [Capital Public Radio]

Meanwhile, in Fresno, some disabled plaintiffs are now suing the lawyers who solicited their involvement in mass ADA filings, saying they broke promises, behaved deceptively, and kept nearly all the proceeds for themselves. [KFSN]:

One of the places the Moores sued is a donut shop in Reedley and one of the problems was with the signage.

The shop had a disabled parking only sign up, but it didn’t have the half that states “Minimum Fine $250” and without that part, this is a violation.

What the Moores may not have known is Doughnuts To Go is managed by Lee Ky, who suffers from cerebral palsy.

“Here I am all my life in a wheelchair and I get around in the community just fine,” Ky explained.

Ky says she never had any accessibility problems at her own store, but she made some updates after she was sued for violations and settled with the Moore Law Firm to make the lawsuit go away.

So when an Action News reporter showed her the video of Ronald Moore, the man who sued her, lifting his wheelchair into his SUV, then walking up to the driver’s seat, she was pretty upset.

“I wish I could be him sometimes,” Ky said. “I wish I could just get up and then walking and all the sudden becoming in the wheelchair. It looks bad.”

Wage and hour roundup

  • Finally, Republicans introduce bill to stop Obama’s overtime edict [SHRM, Connor Wolf, Veronique de Rugy] “Congress realizes new overtime rules stink” at least as applied to themselves [Suzanne Lucas, Evil HR Lady, earlier] Knowing whether you’re in FLSA compliance can be tricky enough to fool HR specialists [Eric Meyer]
  • “German army forced to lay down weapons due to ‘overtime limits'” [Telegraph, U.K.]
  • “Minimum Wage Hike Kills Popular Upstate NY Eatery” [Legal Insurrection] “Please don’t be the reason the future of our farm ends here and now” [WENY, upstate New York]
  • “How raising the minimum wage hurts disabled workers” [Naomi Schaefer Riley, Philanthropy Daily] Maryland moves to end exception that allowed workshop programs for the disabled to pay subminimum wages, and if clients sit at home as a result, at least they’ll have their rights on [Capital News Service]
  • Proposed D.C. ordinance restricting “predictive scheduling” of employee hours would snarl retail and restaurant operations [E. Faye Williams, Huff Post]
  • “Economically, minimum wages may not make sense,” said Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown, and then proceeded to sign the bill [Scott Shackford, Reason] “UC Berkeley Touts $15 Minimum Wage Law, Then Fires Hundreds Of Workers After It Passes” [Investors Business Daily]

Food roundup

  • Almond growing in California is not all that water-intensive compared with other crops. So why does it gets demonized in the name of social justice? [Victor Davis Hanson, Hoover]
  • Had unexpected findings of a study on dietary fat and health 40 years ago been fully aired, nutrition policy might have taken different turn [Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post] “Today’s scientific hypotheses may be wrong. Better, then, not to make them law.” [David Boaz, Cato]
  • Royal Crown Cola was on its way to becoming one of the great soda companies, then came the cyclamate scare compounded by the irrational Delaney Clause [Mental Floss]
  • Jayson Lusk on the economics of food waste;
  • “Menu Mandates and Obesity: A Futile Effort” [Aaron Yelowitz, new Cato Policy Analysis, earlier]
  • “When an industry demands that the government regulate it more strictly, you usually don’t have to look very far to find a barely-hidden agenda.” [Jesse Walker, Reason on catfish makers]

Federal court slaps down Kamala Harris grab for donor lists

“Today a US District Court ruled in favor of Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s lawsuit against California Attorney General Kamala Harris, ruling that her demands for the Foundation to hand over its list of members and supporters is unconstitutional.” [AFP] We’ve repeatedly covered Harris’s unprecedented drive to demand disclosure of donor lists by nonprofits that carry on activities in California, a step likely to lead to private and public retaliation against individuals and groups revealed to have donated to unpopular or controversial causes.

As the WSJ notes in an editorial, U.S. District Judge Manuel Real “declared her disclosure requirement an unconstitutional burden on First Amendment rights,” finding that there was scant evidence the disclosures were necessary to prevent charity fraud, that (contrary to assurances) her office had “systematically failed to maintain the confidentiality” of nonprofits’ donor lists, some 1,400 of which Harris’s office had in fact published online. As for retaliation against donors, “although the Attorney General correctly points out that such abuses are not as violent or pervasive as those encountered in NAACP v. Alabama or other cases from [the civil rights] era,” he wrote, “this Court is not prepared to wait until an AFP opponent carries out one of the numerous death threats made against its members.”

A plaintiff’s lawyer and union ally, Harris recently surfaced as an apparently key player in the alliance of state attorneys general intent on using criminal investigatory powers to probe so-called climate denial at non-profit research and advocacy groups as well as at energy companies like ExxonMobil. That makes at least two episodes in which Harris has signaled interest in unprecedented and aggressive steps to pry open the internal workings of private advocacy organizations that take positions adverse to hers. Harris is a leading contender in the Democratic Senate primary to succeed California Senator Barbara Boxer.

Update: Now expanded and adapted into a longer post at Cato.