The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

California courts are hard on employers that force employees to sign arbitration agreements. Judges often find these agreements unconscionable. And one of the quickest ways to end up with an unconscionable and invalid agreement is to cut the time an employee has to file a claim.

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Current and former drivers of Bimbo Bakeries USA who sued the company for allegedly breaking California’s meal and rest break laws are now offering to settle for $3.75 million. In the original action, drivers also charged Bimbo Bakeries with violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay them overtime.

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Staffing Services, a temp agency, must pay $20 million in restitution to resolve a workers’ compensation insurance fraud case recently heard in a Los Angeles court. The $20 million was a bargain. The defendants originally faced up to 24 years in state prison, in addition to another $40 million in fines.

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Staffing Services, a temp agency, must pay $20 million in restitution to resolve a workers’ compensation insurance fraud case recently heard in a Los Angeles court. The $20 million was a bargain. The defendants originally faced up to 24 years in state prison, in addition to another $40 million in fines.

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State Sen. Mark Wyland, a Republican who represents San Diego County, recently introduced a bill that would exempt armored car companies from having to comply with California’s laws requiring rest and meal breaks for some employees.

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State Sen. Mark Wyland, a Republican who represents San Diego County, recently introduced a bill that would exempt armored car companies from having to comply with California’s laws requiring rest and meal breaks for some employees.

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The Superior Super Warehouse chain of grocery stores must pay $79,200 in penalties for allowing teenage employees to operate dangerous equipment. The U.S. Department of Labor cited the chain for violations of the Fair Labor Standard Act’s child labor provisions at 33 stores in Southern California.

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Teen employees are sometimes clueless about what’s appropriate at work. From time to time, their behavior may seem … well … juvenile. Feel free to counsel youthful employees when things need to be brought back into control. And don’t worry. Kids acting their age doesn’t automatically mean you’re liable for sexual harassment.

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One of the biggest shocks employers get when an employee or former employee wins a lawsuit against them is the attorneys’ fee award. Employers typically have to pay the employee’s legal fees and expenses when the employee wins even a modest victory. Those fees can be far greater than the actual lost wages and other damages. Fortunately, the California Supreme Court has stepped in, recently concluding that trial judges have wide discretion to reduce jury awards when the employee’s damages are small but the legal expenses are large in comparison.

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Disabled employees are entitled to reasonable accommodations of their disabilities under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). That includes the obligation to engage in an interactive process to determine what, if any, accommodation is possible. If the process breaks down, employers that acted in good faith won’t be held responsible.

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