The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

Pregnant employees are protected from discrimination under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). That means employers have an obligation to reasonably accommodate pregnant employees so they can continue to perform the essential functions of their jobs. But that obligation has limits, as the following case shows.

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An Orange County attorney has agreed to plead guilty to two felony charges after frittering away millions of dollars of his clients’ settlement awards—by placing losing bets on the stock market. Sandeep Baweja, sole proprietor of Baweja Law Group, was representing 800 real estate agents who sued their employer for denying commissions and other payments.

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Employers that don’t enforce reasonable e-mail and computer-access policies—consider yourselves warned. Without such policies and practices, you won’t be able to use the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to punish employees who send information through your system to other persons or computers.

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These days, class-action claims for unpaid work time are becoming common—and can get very expensive. That’s one reason to make absolutely sure you properly pay employees for the work they do. Take a careful look at your hourly employees’ workdays—when they start and when they’re done for the day.

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When co-workers involved in a romantic relationship break up, tensions can boil over in the workplace. And when an ugly situation creates a need for discipline, things get sticky for employers. Be wary of any discipline that targets just one of the former lovebirds. As the following case shows, doing so can lead to a sex discrimination lawsuit.

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Employees who complain about discrimination can win retaliation cases even if it turns out their underlying complaint didn’t amount to discrimination. That’s why it’s so important to review all post-complaint discipline—to make sure it’s fair, justified and not potential retaliation.

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The Sarbanes-Oxley Act makes it illegal to retaliate against an employee who blows the whistle on potential shareholder fraud.

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The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review a Court of Appeal of California decision upholding a reduction of the punitive damages awarded to a former supermarket employee in a sexual harassment case.

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The Court of Appeal of California has limited the situations in which an employer will be liable for assaults committed by its employees.

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Employees who claim that supervisors harassed them to the point that they became emotionally distraught cannot sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress if the alleged harassment is job related. Instead, they must file a workers’ compensation claim.

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