The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

The state Office of the Attorney General has filed a lawsuit charging eight Southern California car washes with stiffing workers out of wages, failing to pay the minimum wage, reneging on overtime pay and denying legally mandated breaks.

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Many employers still don’t realize it: If one of your employees is called to active military service that lasts 180 days or more, you can’t summarily terminate that employee once he is back at work. Even if he left as an at-will employee, for one year he can only be discharged for cause.

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Some health conditions become less disabling because of better medicines or other factors. That means that an employee collecting disability payments under a company disability plan may in fact recover enough to warrant cutting off benefits.

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Employers have an obligation: Use their best efforts to create a workplace environment free of sexual and other illegal harassment. That means managers and supervisors should always consider “what if” before they push employees into difficult situations. Consider, for example, what happened when several male firefighters were ordered to ride on a firetruck as part of a gay pride parade.

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Under limited circumstances, employees who aren’t actually eligible for FMLA leave may become eligible if their employers tell them they are. That’s why you should tell employees that you won’t have a definitive answer about whether they can take FMLA leave until you have checked on their eligibility.

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Members of Local 1000 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 95,000 California state employees, have voted to accept a new labor contract that features significant pension reforms sought by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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A former clerical worker is suing a San Francisco Bay Area-based trucking company, claiming he was harassed and subsequently fired for asking about medical benefits for his same-sex partner.

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Employees who think they have been misclassified as exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the California Labor Code may sue on behalf of themselves and all similarly situated current and former employees. Generally, if the case is approved as a class-action lawsuit, those current and former employees will get a chance to opt into the lawsuit for the FLSA claims and opt out of the state case. How employers react can affect how the court handles the opt-out process.

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California employers may incorrectly assume that if they abide by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the California Labor Code, they have met their obligations to workers. That may not be true. Local municipalities can also regulate some aspects of wage-and-hour laws.

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California Labor Code provisions specifying when and where employees should take their meals don’t apply to public employees, only to private-sector employees.

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