The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review the California Supreme Court Decision in which the state’s highest court ruled that the Federal Arbitration Act preempted California’s policy against enforcement of class-action waivers on the grounds that they were contrary to public policy or unconscionable.

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Among the flurry of new California labor laws passed in 2014 is an amendment to the labor code that allows the state Labor Commissioner to issue a civil penalty for failure to pay less than the minimum wage.

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An employee doesn’t become an independent contractor just by signing an agreement that says so. Courts use several tests to make that determination.

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Employers must pay for the time em­­ployees spend sitting at their desks if they aren’t allowed to leave—even if they aren’t doing any work.

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Attention to detail is essential when using arbitration agreements. They are contracts and the ordinary legal requirements for contract formation must be followed.

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Don’t let a disabled employee get away with behavior you wouldn’t tolerate in other employees. There’s no reason to put up with threats and intimidation.

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Generally, employers have the right to choose which accommo­­dation they want to offer a disabled employee. That is, the employer—not the employee—gets to choose. But that right has limits.

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has found two California nursing homes failed to pay their employees the federal minimum wage.

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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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Two California Court of Appeal districts have significantly ex­­panded employee protection for whistle-blowers. The cases highlight that employees don’t actually have to “blow the whistle” to be protected from retaliation.

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