The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

Here’s something to keep in mind when you are tempted to give an employee a choice between termination and early retirement: He may allege that the retirement option was really a constructive discharge.

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A federal judge recently approved an $8 million settlement between UPS and approximately 38,000 current and former California employees. The workers alleged the company failed to provide meal and rest breaks and did not pay terminated employees their wages on a timely basis.

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California finished better than just three states in the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council’s (SBEC) Business Tax Index for 2009. The only ones ranking lower than California: Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey and the District of Columbia.

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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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Employees who blow the whistle on their employers’ alleged illegal actions are protected from retaliation. But that protection has important limits. One of those is that the retaliation must take place while the employee is still working for the employer.

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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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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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Judge Charles Hayes of the California Superior Court for the County of San Diego recently denied class certification to a group of taxi drivers who claimed they were improperly classified as independent contractors rather than employees.

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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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Employers sometimes can’t get arbitration agreements to stick in California. Now an appellate court has finally upheld such an agreement.

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