The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

Recently, lawyers representing former employees have been pushing the envelope in thinking of new ways to make employers pay big bucks. Fortunately, courts aren’t accepting some novel arguments, like the one in the following case.

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Do you offer a store credit card to your employees? If so, you likely want any balance due repaid if the employee quits or is fired. You may be able to get the employee’s agreement to repay the balance on termination out of his or her vacation or sick account balance.

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Employers that always have a clear and solid business reason for discharging employees seldom lose discrimination cases. That’s because even if a protected class member is affected, it’s very hard to counter the employer’s claim it terminated the employee for legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons.

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Good news if you’re worried about firing an employee who has filed a sexual harassment complaint. If your investigation concludes the complaining worker was also partly at fault, he won’t be able to win a wrongful discharge case—unless he can prove that his underlying complaint was a “substantial motivating reason” for his termination.

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Fortune magazine has tallied the 100 best companies to work for in 2014 and 17 California firms made the list. Five of the top 10 are based in Cali­­fornia—and one heads the list.

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Sedona Staffing and several associated firms have agreed to settle a flurry of discrimination charges with the EEOC.

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With strong policies, employees (and their lawyers) will find it much harder to mount class-action wage-and-hour lawsuits. That’s because employees have to show that a common policy or practice was responsible for wage-and-hour violations.

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Some employees end up suing their employers without an attorney’s help. That doesn’t mean you should follow suit and treat the case lightly. While it may seem like a slam-dunk case, chances are the court will give the employee several chances to present his best argument.

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Now is a good time to make sure your employees are being properly reimbursed for expenses they incur while performing their jobs. The problem: If they aren’t reimbursed for those expenses, their pay may fall below minimum wage. And if that’s the case, they can quit and sue, alleging constructive discharge.

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Here’s a warning for federal government employers: Just about any internal complaint about agency wrongdoing may be protected activity under the Whistleblower Pro­­tec­­tion Act (WPA).

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