The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

It is now illegal in the state to require employees to sign agreements waiving their rights under the Ralph Civil Rights Act (Civil Code 51.7) and the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act (Civil Code 52.1). Those civil rights laws prohibit hate violence and threats against citizens based on certain protected classes, such as political affiliation, sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability or medical condition, or on account of position in a labor dispute.

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A worker who files a Fair Labor Stand­­ards Act lawsuit claiming unpaid wages must actually set out facts showing that he wasn’t properly paid. Mere allegations aren’t enough.

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A public school teacher who files an internal appeal over her pay or classification has three years after the final decision to file a lawsuit.

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Here’s a warning for employers thinking about turning employees into independent contractors to avoid paying benefits and payroll taxes: If some of the employees challenge the decision, you may be in for years of expensive, time-consuming litigation. That can easily turn a penny-pinching strategy into a money pit.

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In a series of decisions in the past two months, California appellate courts have tried to clarify the ins and outs of arbitration, giving em­­ployers possible guidance on whether to institute, revise or eliminate arbitration agreements as part of their employment practices.

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A state appeals court has just reversed part of a jury award based on a new California Supreme Court requirement that employees prove that discrimination was “a substantial motivating factor” for the firing rather than merely a motivating factor. However, no such rule applies to har­­ass­­ment claims.

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The newly enacted Healthy Work­­places, Healthy Families Act of 2014 requires California employers to provide employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, starting on July 1. This is the first of a two-part series designed to get you up to speed on exactly what the new law requires.

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A plastering company in Ceres, California has agreed to patch things up with 208 current and former employees following a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation. The employees of Ace Commercial Plastering will receive $131,953 in back pay, the amount WHD concluded the company had sanded off their paychecks.

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Sal’s Mexican Restaurant in Fresno, California has agreed to settle a sexual harassment complaint filed by a former hostess. According to the complaint, the hostess was a teenager when a male supervisor continually propositioned her for sexual favors, grabbed her and required her to give him hugs and back rubs as part of her duties.

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You need clear lines of communication so employees can complain about workplace problems. That can protect you if an employee quits because of alleged harassment and then applies for unemployment benefits. He won’t be eligible if he never gives you a chance to fix the problem. Not using the company complaint process pretty much means the em­­ployee didn’t give his employer a chance, blocking benefits.

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