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The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

If you must eliminate jobs, make sure you create a clear paper trail explaining why and how you made the decision to terminate a particular individual. That’s especially important if the employee had discrimination charges pending—or a history of filing them.

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The next time you conduct discrimination training, remind supervisors and managers that discriminating against an employee because of a spouse’s protected characteristic is just as illegal as direct discrimination. That’s what one federal agency has learned the hard way.

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The Court of Appeal of California has handed a significant victory to employers that use arbitration agreements as a condition of employment. As long as the underlying terms of the agreement are fair and the arbitration process impartial, the court will send a case to arbitration even if the employee had no choice but to sign the agreement.

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From electronic employment veri­­fication to maternity insurance, Cali­fornia employers have new issues to consider, following recent enactment of these laws:

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A pool supply company recently agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the EEOC accusing it of sexual har­ass­ment, retaliation and constructive discharge. Irvine-based Aqua Tri will pay $462,500 to 18 Hispanic workers.

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Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in October legislation clarifying the definition of “gender” in California. The law, AB 887, makes it clear that discrimination on the basis of gender identity and “gender expression” is prohibited.

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The California Labor Commissioner is suing ZipRealty Inc., claiming the company owes unpaid wages to hundreds of real estate agents. The lawsuit is seeking minimum wages in excess of $7.5 million, overtime compensation in the amount of $1.25 million—plus damages and ­penalties of over $9 million.

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Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed bills enacting several new em­­ployment statutes. Each becomes effective Jan. 1, 2012. Here’s how the new laws affect private employers.

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Before you ignore an employee who complains he has a hard time walking, consider the consequences of denying a reasonable accommodation. If a jury finds that the employee is disabled, you may be liable. Instead, explore the problem and make simple accommodations if at all possible.

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Good news for public colleges and universities: When staff blow the whistle on alleged wrongdoing and the institution has a sound policy for dealing with such allegations, the employee can’t also take the claim to federal court.

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