The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

Sunset Car Wash had no idea it was about to be cleaned out when it took over the lease from Auto Spa Express. A court has ruled Sunset must pay back wages and penalties owed to Auto Spa’s former em­­ployees.

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If you’re ready to fire an employee because of a co-worker’s or customer’s complaint, think twice if the complaint is recanted. Otherwise, the fired employee may sue, claiming that your stated discharge reason was false and merely an excuse to terminate.

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Never skip a payday. That’s just asking to be sued, as the following case shows.

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Fired employees have nothing to lose by suing a former employer. And employers have no way of know-ing what frivolous claim a former employee may file. That’s one good reason to make sure you document poor performance.

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Employees don’t qualify for un­­employment benefits if they’re fired for misconduct. After all, it’s their own fault they were fired. Mis­­conduct generally includes actions that violate a so-called “reasonable employer” rule. However, employees who violate an employer’s reasonable rule because of a good-faith error in judgment can still collect benefits.

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Some employers favor arbitration agreements as a way to cut down on expensive and time-consuming litigation and avoid rogue juries that often sympathize more with workers than big, bad employers. But the reality is that arbitration agreements often cause more litigation, not less.

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Simply comparing the average age of workers before and after a RIF can make it look like age bias played a part in deciding who kept or lost their jobs. Laid-off employees’ attorneys routinely do that math. But employers can beat such statistical arguments by showing that their decision-making processes weren’t based on age, but on other legitimate business reasons.

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Think twice before shutting down one of several related businesses just to stop the spread of pro-union sentiment. It’s likely to prompt a lawsuit, and a court may well take organized labor’s side.

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Ordinarily, civil servants have qualified immunity for actions arising from their official duties as government workers. But punishing a subordinate for testifying in a civil rights lawsuit clearly destroys that immunity.

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A federal court has refused to open up yet another avenue for employees who want to directly sue their em­­ployers.

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