The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

The California Court of Appeal has yet again ruled against employers in an arbitration rights case. This time, the issue was whether employers can use arbitration agreements to limit so-called class- or collective-action claims. The apparent answer is “no.”

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Here’s some good news. One single isolated comment about an employee’s advancing age or his country of origin isn’t enough to sustain a lawsuit claiming age discrimination.

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Do you sometimes require em­­ployees to use their personal cars during the workday for job-related tasks like going on appointments, making banking runs or other errands? You’re risking liability if the em­­ployee is in an accident and a jury decides he was negligent.

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The federal court hearing a sexual harassment and hostile work environment case has agreed to settle the case with a modest payment and extensive EEOC monitoring to prevent further harassment. While the payment was relatively small, the company will now endure regular EEOC visits to check on its progress.

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Has an employee been arrested for threatening behavior involving a co-worker? You don’t have to wait for the criminal trial and conviction to discipline the employee. You don’t even have to reconsider if the police drop the charges. What matters is that you have an honest belief that the em­­ployee broke company conduct rules—even if you end up being wrong.

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For a Southern California cook, getting paid was like pulling teeth. For five months he was a private chef for a dentist, but was never paid.

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Employees who quit in California must receive their last checks within 72 hours if the employee provides no advance notice. If the worker does provide at least 72 hours’ notice, the payment must be immediate. But what about employees who announce their retirement—presumably at least 72 hours before their last workday?

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Public employees are protected from retaliation for reporting wrongdoing at work, either within their chain of command or to appropriate authorities. But what if several employees report the same alleged wrongdoing?

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A new year is coming and with it, a slew of changes courtesy the California Legislature. December is a good time to review your policies so they comply with the law. We’ve broken it down by general subject matter to make it easier.

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Here’s a warning for employers with overly complicated compensation systems: If someone believes the pay plan is discriminatory, you’ll probably have to spend considerable time explaining the system in court. Simpler may be better.

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