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The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

For several years, California courts have confused employers whose employees receive tips from customers. The question: What sort of tip pools can employers mandate? Iit wasn’t clear whether bartenders and others who don’t directly approach diners could share in the tips. Now, the answer is in from the Court of Appeal of California.

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If a defendant pleads nolo contendere, the criminal court system treats that as a conviction, even though a nolo contendere plea means the person neither contests the charges nor admits they are true. But then there’s the quirky realm of school employment, in which a wrinkle in the legislation governing who may work at schools means a no-contest plea isn’t necessarily a conviction.

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Sometimes, an employee is so disruptive that it doesn’t matter how well she is performing her job. Constant arguments, tension and other elements of a personality conflict can poison the work environment and drag down other employees’ performance. She’s got to go!

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Here’s an important reminder for small companies and their owners: Don’t think that owners aren’t personally liable for wage-and-hour violations simply because they run their operations through a corporation or limited liability company. As the following case shows, employees can personally sue hands-on owners.

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The California Labor Code prohibits potential employers from asking about marijuana possession convictions more than two years old. But sometimes, federal law overrides state law—and that’s the case for employers that are hiring potential employees to work in pharmacies.

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The Orange County Register recently agreed to pay $22 million to settle a class action brought by its paper carriers, who claimed the newspaper misclassified them as independent contractors rather than employees. The settlement will bring to an end a two-month trial against the newspaper.

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California State University Fresno has settled a suit brought by a female former volleyball coach who accused the school of sex discrimination. The settlement was reached 18 months after a California Superior Court jury returned a $5.85 million verdict in the favor of Lindy Vivas …

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A government employee has won a jury trial against Contra Costa County, and the verdict may cost the county more than $1 million.

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The downturn has hit California hard. Many stable California employers find themselves for the first time contemplating reductions in force in order to survive. If you’re considering a large-scale layoff, be prepared to familiarize yourself with California’s version of the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

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Tell managers and supervisors not to embellish the reasons for discharging an employee. If they do, they risk the potential for a defamation lawsuit. That may be true even if the former employee is compelled to repeat the allegedly false information.

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