The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

With Republican Scott Brown’s stunning victory in a January special election, Democrats lost their filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate. That shift has cast doubt on organized labor’s top legislative priority—the so-called Employee Free Choice Act. So is this the end of the EFCA? Probably yes—at least as it’s currently written, but it’s too soon to celebrate.

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California employers are popular targets for lawyers looking for the next big lawsuit hit. They may have found a new one right under their … well … butts.

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Employers, beware if you don’t stay on top of the intricacies of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The fact is, the law is still developing and employers that don’t keep up will be caught. Consider the following case involving the seemingly old question of “donning and doffing” clothing and gear before and after clocking in:

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Some disabilities require the use of medications with side effects. If one of those is sleepiness and fatigue, employers may have to accommodate those. That’s why it’s crucial for you to begin the interactive process as soon as you learn that an employee is having trouble because of the medication he uses. The worst thing you can do is to simply terminate him because he nodded off.

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It can be frustrating for supervisors when an employee files a lawsuit they honestly think is bogus. It only gets worse if other employees testify on behalf of the employee. When the case ends up being dismissed, it’s natural for managers to carry at least a slight grudge. They no doubt understand that they can’t retaliate against the employee just because he brought a lawsuit. What they may not understand as clearly is that they can’t retaliate against the supportive co-workers, either.

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Sometimes, employees prefer to work longer than eight hours a day in exchange for more days off. Ordinarily, changing schedules to accommodate such a request would mean paying overtime for the additional hours in excess of eight per day under California law. But now, in a unique case, the 9th Circuit has ruled that, in limited circumstances, changing the hourly rate for those who want the longer shifts doesn’t violate the law …

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Employees won’t win race discrimination disparate-impact lawsuits just by showing that their employer’s workforce isn’t racially balanced. They also have to show that the employer applied a specific or particular employment practice that created the disparate impact.

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The Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa, a Kelseyville resort owned by Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 38, will close. The announcement came two years after Local 38 agreed to sell the resort under a DOL consent decree filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to settle charges that the union diverted $36 million from pension plans to operate and renovate Konocti.

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These days, with employers having to do more with less, lots of companies outsource some functions that take a lot of time. If a vendor handles your payroll, make sure someone on the inside understands exactly how the outside provider calculates tricky things like overtime pay.

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Pregnant employees are protected from discrimination under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). That means employers have an obligation to reasonably accommodate pregnant employees so they can continue to perform the essential functions of their jobs. But that obligation has limits, as the following case shows.

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