The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

If you are a public employer, you know how hard it is to punish an employee. Now the California Court of Appeal has made it a little easier by overturning a Civil Service Commission decision that merely slapped a harasser on the wrist. Now it’s clear that government employers have to take serious measures to end harassment in the workplace.

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A federal judge recently certified two classes of workers in a suit accusing the law firm Thelen, LLP, of firing them without notice. Also certified were three subclasses of workers alleging that the defunct law firm failed to compensate them for vacation time.

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In a case that illustrates why you should review all your employment decisions for potential hidden bias, a California appeals court has ruled that employees can use other employees to testify that they, too, were discriminated against in the same way.

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You probably know that employers can and are sometimes held liable if their employees harm customers. That’s especially true if they knew or should have known that the employee might be dangerous. But your potential liability—if you negligently hired an employee in the first place—doesn’t go on indefinitely.

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Let your supervisors know they should be careful about handling job reference queries involving poorly performing employees. Ideally, they should refer the inquiry to HR. As the following case shows, it’s best to let the potential new employer reach his or her own conclusions about the worker.

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On March 6, the state announced that, with the enactment of the 2009 state budget, mandatory furloughs previously imposed on state employees will change to floating furlough days.

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Many supervisors and managers have yet to learn they shouldn’t make any comments about an employee’s EEOC or other discrimination complaint. Remind supervisors that any comment about employees’ legal claims can be retaliation—and retaliation is much easier to prove than actual discrimination.

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A federal jury has awarded $2.3 million to a Los Angeles police officer who claimed that male officers sexually harassed her. Melissa Borck, who remains an officer, sued the city for violating the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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A California Court of Appeal has reversed a ruling against grocery store workers represented by the United Food and Commercial workers who were locked out during a 4½-month labor dispute in 2003 and 2004. The dispute stemmed from an effort by approximately 8,000 workers at Albertsons and Ralphs grocery stores to obtain unemployment benefits for the time they were locked out.

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The California Media Workers Guild has announced that its members voted to accept concessionary amendments to their collective-bargaining contract with the San Francisco Chronicle.

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