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The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

A recent state appellate court decision offers clarification about how employers can handle an employee’s false or exaggerated sexual harassment complaints.

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A San Francisco jury has awarded $865,000 to a Muslim security guard who says his co-workers and super­visors called him a terrorist and an al-Qaida member.

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California’s Wage Theft Prevention Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, criminalizes willful violations for nonpayment of wages and sets civil penalties for failure to pay minimum wages. It also requires employers to provide employees with wage notices …

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Remind supervisors and managers to stick with verifiable and documented facts when writing up an employee for poor performance, a mistake or other disciplinary matter. That’s because a false write-up could be grounds for a later defamation lawsuit.

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Some employees, forced to confront poor work habits, workplace mistakes or other disciplinary problems, decide to tell their employers that they have a disability. Don’t take the bait.

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Under California law, a supervisor’s affair (and presumed favoritism) with a subordinate may be grounds for a hostile work environment claim by other subordinates.

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When employers choose the youngest candidate for a job, older candidates may suspect age bias played a role. That could mean a lawsuit is looming. If a disappointed applicant sues, it won’t help the employer that the overall candidate pool included many older applicants. What matters is who was selected.

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When you change a disciplinary policy, make sure you document exactly when the change went into effect. That way, an employee who is punished more severely can’t point to the earlier disciplinary actions as evidence he was unfairly singled out.

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When courts find that an employee has been discriminated against, they often order the employer to end the practice or policy that was the basis for the lawsuit. But when the employee voluntarily quits before the case is over, that remedy isn’t available.

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After an employee files an EEOC or internal discrimination complaint, it’s natural for him to worry about retaliation. Every move by a supervisor or HR will be filtered through that lens. You need to be on guard against retaliation, too.

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