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The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court considered a class action against Wal­­mart that included over a million employees who claimed sex discrimination. The court said the ­­employees didn’t have enough in common to band together in one lawsuit (Wal­­mart v. Dukes). Now federal courts are doing the same with much smaller class-action lawsuits—good news for employers.

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Let’s say someone requests a series of leave extensions for medical reasons. You approve them over several months until she’s used up all available accumulated leave—and then approve unpaid extensions in the hope she’ll return soon. At that point, you are free to ask if her doctor can provide a definite return date. If the answer is no, you can safely terminate her.

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A worker who drank himself silly at work, fell and hit his head has lost his workers’ compensation claim.

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Some employees will never be happy and seem to do everything possible to interfere with a normal, well-functioning workplace. When that’s the case, don’t hesi­­tate to terminate the disruptive worker. Just make sure you document her shortcomings.

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The California Court of Appeal has held that employees need to be compensated for “on-call” hours if the employer substantially restricts their ability to engage in nonwork activities. However, employers may exclude eight hours of sleep time from 24-hour shifts, if an agreement between the employer and employee calls for it.

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Employees who lose their jobs may not understand that if filing for bankruptcy, they must list any potential litigation claim as an asset. Federal courts have dismissed even obviously valid employment discrimination lawsuits when employees failed to disclose such claims in their bankruptcy paperwork. That may no longer continue, if this recent case is any indi­­cation.

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The DOJ is suing the California Depart­­ment of Corrections and Reha­­bili­­ta­­tion (CDCR) on behalf of an employee who alleges he suffered sex discrimination and harassment. The lawsuit alleges that for more than a year, a female co-worker sexu­­ally harassed the man.

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Rep. George Miller, the ranking Demo­­crat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, has introduced H.R. 2721, the Pathways Back to Work Act. The bill would help low-income, unemployed workers find jobs or train for new ones.

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Here’s a warning for your super­­visors and managers: If an em­­ployee complains that other em­­ployees are making fun of his wardrobe choices or other manner of dressing, act fast to stop the teasing.

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Track each request for ADA reasonable accommodations, along with your response. An employee’s right to sue over the denial begins as soon as it becomes obvious that her employer refused to accommodate her, and won’t be extended just because she keeps asking for an accommodation.

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