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The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

Not every little lost privilege or benefit translates into a winning lawsuit for employees. Minor changes such as temporarily losing the use of a company car aren’t serious enough to constitute an “adverse employment action.”

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When it comes to reducing the time and expense of litigation, be careful what you wish for. Attorneys often advise employers to consider adopting arbitration clauses to settle employment disputes. With arbitration, no jury is involved; the case stays out of court; there’s no bad publicity; and it may be cheaper—or maybe not.

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Remind all hiring managers and supervisors that absolutely no racial slurs are allowed during an interview—not even in passing or in jest. Applicants who aren’t hired will get a jury trial if they can show that someone with hiring authority uttered a racial slur.

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that cruise lines and the unions who negotiate labor contracts on behalf of the “seamen” who work on cruise ships can agree that all disputes go to arbitration, and that employment contracts that include arbitration clauses are enforceable.

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Claims adjusters may be exempt from overtime under the California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order No. 4. Reason: They’re administrative employees.

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Faced with California’s ongoing budget crisis, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger announced that all state workers must take two unpaid days off every month beginning in February. The austerity measure didn’t sit very well with two labor unions …

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If you thought that one advantage of using independent contractors was that those contractors couldn’t sue you for injuries suffered at work, think again.

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Some employers include a privacy clause in their applications and handbooks that tells employees they can opt out of having their names and addresses released to third parties. However, if a worker who is suing for wage-and-hour violations wants to get his hands on employee names and contact information for the purpose of building a class-action case, those privacy clauses can’t stop it.

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California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) requires employers whose disabled employees ask for accommodations to “engage in a timely, good faith, interactive process with the employee … to determine effective reasonable accommodations.” The key is to act promptly.

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If, like many employers, you rely on a bonus plan to help retain valued employees and motivate them to work hard, don’t get caught in this common trap: Employees who worked overtime during the bonus-earning period will be entitled to additional overtime pay after they get their bonuses.

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