The Labor and Employment Department of Payne & Fears specializes in representing local, regional and national employers in all aspects of labor and employment law and related litigation.  We defend employers in employment cases, ranging from single-plaintiff wage and hour actions to complex disparate treatment cases brought on behalf of thousands of employees.  We deliver cost-effective results through early, comprehensive assessment of the facts and case strategy.  While many of our cases are resolved by dispositive motions and early resolution, we are also skilled trial attorneys who successfully take employment cases of every size and type through trial, arbitrations and administrative proceedings.  Our major areas of expertise include:



Statewide PAGA Claim Eliminated

Payne & Fears obtained an order striking the representative PAGA claims from a statewide wage-and-hour action, thus reducing size of the case from over 250,000 members to a mere handful of individual claims.

Five former employees sued Payne & Fears’ client, a large multistate retailer, for meal and rest period violations and related causes of action.  Plaintiffs sought to certify a class of over 250,000 current and former employees, and also sought to maintain claims for PAGA penalties on behalf of the same population.  The court denied class certification on plaintiffs’ direct statutory claim for rest period premiums, but certified a “meal period class” under Business & Professions Code section 17200.  However, the court then granted summary adjudication – on a class basis – against the plaintiffs on the ground that Section 17200 did not provide a remedy under the circumstances alleged.  Payne & Fears then moved to strike the PAGA claims on the grounds that they were unmanageable, unsupported by evidence in the plaintiffs’ trial plan, and barred by the statute of limitations.  The court granted the motion and dismissed the representative claims, leaving the plaintiffs with only their individual causes of action. 

Jim Payne, Jeff Brown and Ray Boggess handled the defense of the case.

Practice areas: Labor and Employment Litigation, Wage and Hour Litigation, Class Action Defense

Attorneys: James L. Payne, Jeffrey K. Brown , Ray E. Boggess


Court Denies De Novo Review in Favor of Request for Abuse of Discretion Standard

In a case brought in federal court under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) against our client, a national retailer, and its group health insurance plan for denial of an expensive surgery as not medically necessary, the court ordered briefing on the appropriate standard of court review. In ERISA cases, the standard of review is very important to determine whether the court will defer to the plan’s determination. Plaintiff filed a motion arguing for de novo review based on a California Insurance Code section he claimed negated the plan’s language requiring abuse of discretion review, citing two Central District court decisions in support. In opposition, Payne & Fears argued that the Insurance Code section was preempted with respect to the self-funded plan, distinguishing the two district court decisions and citing a conflicting decision from another Central District court.

On this issue which is undecided in the Ninth Circuit, the district court rejected plaintiff’s request for de novo review of the plan’s decision to deny coverage for his surgery. Instead, the court adopted the abuse of discretion standard requested by the plan, holding that the Insurance Code section was preempted with respect to the self-funded plan. The court also sided with the one case in the Central District so holding, and distinguished the two other Central District cases that decided otherwise.

Eric C. Sohlgren is defending the case on behalf of the plan and prepared the opposition briefing.

Practice areas: Labor and Employment Litigation, ERISA Litigation

Attorneys: Andrew K. Haeffele, Eric C. Sohlgren