The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

More employees are acting as their own attorneys when they sue employers or prospective employers. The reason may be simple: Word is getting around that some federal courts are making it easy to do.

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Four major Silicon Valley-based tech companies—Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe Systems—announced a settlement in April in a closely watched lawsuit accusing them of conspiring to hold down salaries in the tech industry.

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Oakland-based Lange Trucking and its owners shortchanged their employees’ 401(k) program by nearly $2 million, according to a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation.

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The Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology was schooled in the NLRA after it disciplined five employees who challenged lab policies.

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California employees have additional rights to family and medical leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). Don’t require an employee to provide an FMLA certification form if she is seeking CFRA leave.

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While HR professionals certainly should strive to create a respectful, courteous and pleasant workplace, don’t worry too much if you fall short. The fact is, supervisors sometimes play favorites and exhibit questionable judgment.

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If you happen to use an arbitration agreement in employment contracts for out-of-state telecommuters, be aware that you may have to specify what state law you want to apply to the contract. Otherwise, the court will likely presume the employee’s state of residence applies.

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Employees who sue for retaliation sometimes try to bolster their cases by claiming others who complained also experienced retaliation. Until recently, courts hearing California cases had limited so-called “me too” evidence to very similar cases.

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The Papa John’s pizza chain has come through for employees left in the lurch when a franchisee in Sacra­­mento abruptly closed eight stores.

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Good news for employers: Workers can’t go to state court to re-litigate an employment discrimination case based on the same underlying facts that already failed in federal court.

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