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Cooper Prevails in California Supreme Court in Major Employment Case

August 29, 2019

Robert Cooper (Of Counsel-Los Angeles) recently obtained a legal victory in a long-running, high-profile appeal that shaped the law for millions of employers and employees in California. The California Supreme Court adopted Robert's view that employers are not subject to liability under a conversion theory based on non-payment of employees' wages. While employees often pursue this theory to obtain punitive damages, emotional distress damages and other tort damages, the majority opinion by the Court rejected this theory for the first time over a strong dissent. While employees have historically prevailed in employment cases argued in the state Supreme Court, the 48-page decision in this case was one of the few pro-employer decisions issued by the most respected state Supreme Court.

Consistent with Robert's argument, the majority held that given the plethora of statutory remedies available in employment cases, the tortification of contract-based wage claims was not legally justified. The majority reasoned that allowing tort remedies in this context would engender significant practical problems in adjudicating the ubiquitous employment lawsuits filed in California.

After discretionary review was granted by the court, Robert was retained to brief and argue the case in the Supreme Court. Based on the significant stakes involved in this case, amicus briefs were filed by half a dozen organizations supporting both sides in this case. After preparing multiple briefs on the merits, Robert presented oral argument in June 2019. The decision terminates plaintiff's conversion claims for non-payment of wages that were initially filed and litigated more than 10 years ago, resulting in multiple court of appeal decisions in the prior appeals issued since 2009.

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