The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

The nonprofit California HealthCare Foundation (CHF) has concluded that California’s minimum nurse-to-patient requirement has had little direct effect on the quality of care. The goal of the minimum staffing ratios, implemented in 2004, was the improvement of patient outcomes.

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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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If you’re serious about wiping out sexual and other forms of harassment in your workplace, consider adopting a zero-tolerance policy for failing to report suspected or known harassment. By readily disciplining those who ignore that rule, you can create a new climate in which employees really believe you take harassment seriously.

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Employees who suspect their employers are trying to get them to leave voluntarily instead of firing them outright sometimes do quit. Then they turn around and sue under the theory of “constructive discharge.” Essentially, they argue their employer made their lives so miserable they had no choice but to resign. Fortunately for employers, courts are fairly strict in how they view constructive discharges.

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Former employees and their lawyers are always looking for ways to maximize what they can get from former employers. One way is to add a wrongful discharge claim if an employee is fired after he or she complains about workplace safety. These cases can get quite expensive, as the following case shows.

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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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