The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

On Feb. 9, the state of California filed a criminal complaint accusing four Los Angeles car washes, their owners and one manager of wage-and-hour law violations and for creating “a work environment that bordered on indentured servitude.”

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to reconsider whether an enormous sex discrimination lawsuit filed against Wal-Mart will proceed as a class-action case.

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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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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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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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Workers who alleged they had to endure marathon schedules while working on reality television shows such as “Trading Spouses” and “The Bachelor” have agreed to settle their lawsuits …

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A forecast by the U.S. Conference of Mayors says the Los Angeles area will suffer some of the largest job losses in the nation in 2009. It’s expected to lose about 164,000 jobs this year …

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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 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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Tell managers and supervisors not to embellish the reasons for discharging an employee. If they do, they risk the potential for a defamation lawsuit. That may be true even if the former employee is compelled to repeat the allegedly false information.

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