The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

Supervisors who stand up for subordinates when they claim they have been discriminated against may be engaging in “protected activity.” That could make punishing those supervisors retaliation.

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It’s a fact of life: Employees get into arguments at work. Obviously, you can’t let a situation get out of hand. But be careful how you discipline the individuals. That’s especially important if there’s no clear evidence about who said what to whom. If you decide to suspend one employee, suspend the other one, too.

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Wouldn’t it be great if you could just turn your employees into independent contractors? That way, you wouldn’t have to pay unemployment compensation taxes, provide workers’ compensation insurance and so on. But California courts are quick to zap employers that wrongly convert employees into contractors.

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Federal employees have special rules they have to follow in order to sue their employers for discrimination. One of these requirements is to contact an Equal Employment Opportunity “counselor” within 45 days of the alleged discriminatory act. The 9th Circuit has concluded that employees don’t have to contact the individual their employer has designated as the EEO counselor …

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Guess what: You can’t press forward with a wage-and-hour class-action suit after you’ve already settled with the organization you’re suing. So said the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals when it tossed a class-action bid brought by two former T-Mobile sales reps.

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Here’s a bit of good news from the Supreme Court of California: The court has ruled that labor unions can’t intercede for union members to sue employers for missed meal and rest breaks under the state’s unfair competition law or the private attorney general statute.

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If you have to fire an employee, don’t worry that a court is just waiting to second-guess why you did so. The fact is, courts are reluctant to question your reasons as long as you can convince them the reasons were honest, even if in retrospect they may seem baseless or even foolish. They don’t want to become a national HR department.

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The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires employers to follow the terms of their collective bargaining agreements when they contribute to employee benefit plans. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to extend the concept of “joint employer” to ERISA’s collective bargaining agreement provision when the second entity has not signed that agreement.

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It probably comes as no surprise to Southern Californians that the Los Angeles and Orange County region ranks as one of the nation’s worst examples of urban sprawl, according to a recent report by the Brookings Institution. Only Detroit, Chicago and Dallas have more spread-out employment bases.

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Deputy probation officer Timothy Bentley is suing the Los Angeles County Probation Department, claiming that the county had a “pattern and practice of refusing to pay overtime” to deputy officers in the Suitable Placement Division.

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