“Dark Patterns” Making Online Subscriptions Harder to Cancel Draws Lawsuits, Settlements and Government Scrutiny

A “dark pattern” is a user experience design (UX) that makes it harder to cancel an ongoing paid service with an online service provider, or fail to recognize you are signing up for auto renewals or other expenses.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has launched lawsuits and settled with some defendants, while plaintiffs in California and other states are suing to recover alleged money lost after subscriptions continued despite attempts to cancel a service.

Heat Stroke, Heat Syncope, and the Death of New Workers

Workers, especially new workers not accustomed to their environment, can be injured or killed by heat exposure. Older workers, obesity, pregnancy and other factors can combine to increase risk, and by occupation the most common industry for a reported heat death was in construction, followed by agriculture and mining. 

Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, syncope, kidney failure or injury and rhabdomyolysis are all possible when a worker is exposed to excessive heat and not given sufficient water, breaks and if working outside shade or in a hot interior.

Official government trackers show a problem but a small one, only 40 or so deaths per year, and several thousand injuries, but due to failure to report and self-reporting mechanisms, it is acknowledged the problem is much larger. When researchers used larger more complete data sets, including workers compensation claims across California, they discovered a likely 20,000 additional injuries occurred during high heat than would have occurred in lower temperatures. These 20,000 additional injuries are just for California. For all of the United States, injuries at this rate could exceed 150,000 per year. 

WARN Act Notices – Q1 2023

The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers in the United States with 100 or more full time employees to provide 60-day notice in advance of mass layoffs or plant closings.  The WARN Act applies to full time workers and provides workers with time to prepare for the transition between the jobs they currently hold and new jobs. States such as California, New York and others maintain their own state level WARN Acts, requiring additional employer obligations.

We have reviewed the WARN notices available for the first quarter of 2023.

California Labor Department – Wage Theft Claims and Judgments – 1st Quarter 2023

The California Department of Industrial Relations maintains a database of wage theft claims presented to the office by employees, and Wage Claim Judgments against individuals and corporations. We have reviewed this database for judgments from January 1st to March 31st, the first quarter of 2023.

Schneider Wallace Files Antitrust Case Against Walmart and Energizer for Battery Price Manipulation

On April 28th, 2023, Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky LLP filed lawsuits in the Northern District of California against Energizer Holdings Inc. and Wal-Mart Inc. The complaints alleges that Walmart and Energizer violated federal and California antirust and consumer protection laws by entering into anticompetitive agreements to inflate wholesale and retail prices for disposable batteries.

SEC Issues Largest Award Ever at $278 Million, Federal False Claims Exceed $2.2 Billion for Fiscal Year 2022

The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) released a press release on May 5th, 2023 to announce their largest ever award, over $278 million, regarding an unnamed case. The award is more than twice the size of the previous largest award, $114 million awarded in October 2020.

Amazon Alleged to Have Sold “Suicide Kits” to Teenagers In New Lawsuits

Amazon, the largest online retailer, has been accused in multiple lawsuits of selling “suicide kits” to vulnerable teens and young adults. The lawsuits accuse Amazon of selling and continuing to sell highly concentrated sodium nitrite, an industrial chemical that is lethal to ingest. The complaint alleges despite Amazon receiving notifications of children dying after purchasing sodium nitrite, they continued to offer it for sale. 

The complaints further alleges shoppers on who typed “sodium nitrite” in the Amazon search bar received “sodium nitrite suicide” as an autocomplete prompt, and Amazon recommended additional products including a book on suicide and medication to assist in keeping sodium nitrite down during a suicide attempt.

Partner Amy Eskin Appointed to Social Media JCCP 5255 Plaintiff Steering Committee

Amy Eskin, a partner at Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky LLP, was appointed by the Honorable Carolyn Kuhl of the Los Angeles Superior Court to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in the California Judicial Council Coordination Proceeding (JCCP) 5255, Social Media Cases which involves cases of children and young adults harmed or driven to suicide by social media algorithms.

Garment Workers Get $892,784 Back After 2022 Garment Industry Investigation by Department of Labor, Hourly Wages as Low as $1.58 Per Hour

The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the United States Department of Labor performed 50 randomized investigations in 2022 of apparel contractors throughout Southern California, to evaluate the frequency of wage theft and worker safety violations. The Department of Labor had previously done this in 2016. 

Violations were discovered in 80% of 2022 investigations, leading to $892,000 in back pay and liquidated damages for 296 employees. The average return of unpaid wages to each worker was over $3,000. 

California Labor Department – Wage Theft Claims and Judgments – 4th Quarter 2022

The California Department of Industrial Relations reported 400 judgments in the 4th quarter of 2022, after excluding duplicates. The total value of all judgments was $9,124,809.

Security Guards and Patrol Services had the largest number of judgments as an industry category (28).  Home Health Care Services had the largest total value of judgments at $1,209.284. Food service can be categorized under multiple different industries, and in total is a large source of wage claims and wage judgments.  Adding together “Full-Service Restaurants”, “Restaurants and Other Eating Places”, “Limited—Service Restaurants” found 44 judgments totaling $931,577 in judgment totals. The largest individual wage judgment listed was for $326,800, in the Home Health Care Services industry.