The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

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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While politically incorrect statements may be distasteful and offensive, they aren’t necessarily grounds for a lawsuit. That’s especially true if the statement can’t be tied directly to a protected characteristic such as national origin, religion or race.

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The EEOC is suing Dialysis Clinic Inc. in Sacramento, alleging that a nurse who had worked there for 14 years experienced discrimination after developing breast cancer.

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Generally, employees have to file EEOC discrimination complaints if they want to go to federal court with their claims. The EEOC eventually will issue a right-to-sue letter, giving the employee 90 days to commence litigation. But that can take years. If the employee waits to file a re­­lated FMLA lawsuit, she may be out of luck, since FMLA claims must be filed within two years of the alleged wrongful conduct.

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The idea behind arbitration agreements is that handling workplace disputes in arbitration instead of court is easier, less expensive and less time consuming. But don’t think that having arbitration agreements in place will automatically block lawsuits in federal court.

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Some employees behave in ways that create an unpleasant environment for their co-workers, subordinates or supervisors. There’s no reason to put up with bullies and other ill-behaved employees.

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