The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

If your workplace isn’t exactly the picture of diversity, the need to fire your only minority employee may worry you. Isn’t that just courting a lawsuit? Maybe—but that’s no reason to retain a poor performer.

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You have probably read that once a disabled employee has exhausted his FMLA and other sick leave, you should still consider offering a brief leave extension as a reasonable accommodation. That’s true to a point. However, once you have allowed additional leave and the employee still isn’t cleared to return to work, it may be time to terminate him despite his disability.

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It happens all too often: A supervisor hears that a subordinate wants to file a discrimination complaint and warns that following through might harm the worker’s career. It usually takes the form of a caution that complaining will brand the employee as a “troublemaker” and could cost promotion opportunities. The supervisor may genuinely believe that, but expressing it is a bad idea …

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Cloherty Packing Co.—makers of Dod­­ger Stadium’s famed “Dodger Dogs” frankfurters—has agreed to settle federal charges it discriminated against women at its Los Angeles plant.

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It’s never a good idea to “throw the book” at an employee just be­­cause a supervisor wants to get rid of her. Before approving discipline, check to make sure this isn’t an illegal effort to terminate. Ask why the supervisor wants to fire the employee.

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Employees’ attorneys have come up with a unique way to interfere with an employer’s right to fire employees. Workers who fear that they’re on the verge of being fired are seeking temporary restraining orders to stop the discharge. Fortunately, not all judges are going along with the ploy.

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Only disabled individuals have the right to sue their employers for disability discrimination. A spouse or other family member, even if harmed by an employer’s discrimination, can’t bring his or her own claim.

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Many organizations serve customers who speak a language other than English, and require em­ployees to have specific bilingual skills. If that describes your organization, make sure you can defend the language requirement if you’re sued.

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Some employees do well for years, only to have their performance slip. There may come a time when you have to let the employee go. But what about all those glowing evaluations from years past? If you can prove that the employee’s performance has genuinely declined, those earlier evaluations won’t cause any trouble in court.

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A new law for 2013 requires Califor­nia employers that pay regular commissions to provide employees with a written contract detailing the formula for calculating commissions, as well as the method of payment.

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