Update on the Happy Birthday Case
Back in October, we discussed some of the implications of the Happy Birthday lawsuit, and now it appears that we have finally reached a coda for the two-year legal battle. On December 9, 2015, a settlement was reached in the lawsuit against Warner/Chappell Music over the copyright of the song Happy Birthday, and, two months later, those terms have finally become public.
The California State Senate recently approved S.B. 358, which amends California’s Fair Pay Act to significantly expand protections against gender inequality in wages beyond what is already imposed by existing California and federal law. Governor Jerry Brown has stated that he plans to sign the bill into law, which would take effect on January 1, 2016. It is being called the toughest equal pay law in the nation.
On July 15, 2015, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued an Administrator’s Interpretation (No. 2015-1) providing guidance on the classification of employees as independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The DOL made clear its position that the FLSA requires an expansive definition of the term “employee”: “In sum, most workers are employees under the FLSA.” The DOL reiterated that the proper test for determining independent contractor status is the economic realities test (as opposed to the common law control test). The economic realities test generally provides that independent contractor status is to be determined based on an analysis of six factors: (1) whether the work performed is an integral part of the employer’s business; (2) whether the worker’s managerial skills affect the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss; (3) how the worker’s relative investment compares to the employer’s investment in the work performed; (4) whether the worker performs a special skill and initiative; (5) whether the relationship between the worker and his or her employer is permanent or indefinite; and (6) the nature and degree of the employer’s control over the worker.
On Tuesday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a new data protection bill, which comes amid revelations of additional high-profile data breaches at Supervalu and Albertson’s grocery stores.
Assembly Bill 1710 now requires businesses in California to provide one year of credit monitoring and identity theft protection services free of charge to customers who are affected by a data breach in which their Social Security numbers, driver's license number or California identification card numbers are breached. The bill also extends current data security obligations for businesses to companies who own or license customer information according to the bill’s co-author, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson.
The California Court of Appeals recently issued a decision that an express waiver of the right to challenge a liquidated damages clause that constituted an unreasonable penalty is unenforceable.
In Purcell v. Schweitzer (4th Cir. March 17, 2014), a lender brought a lawsuit after the borrower defaulted on an $85,000 promissory note. The parties entered into a settlement agreement pursuant to which the borrower agreed to pay the lender $38,000 plus 8.5 percent interest, in installments over 24 months, and agreed that any late payment would entitle the lender to have a judgment entered against the borrower for the original liability of $85,000. The stipulation for entry of judgment attached to the settlement agreement described the $85,000 liability as “neither a penalty nor a forfeiture” and stated that the borrower waived any right to an appeal or to contest the judgment.