The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

It can be frustrating for supervisors when an employee files a lawsuit they honestly think is bogus. It only gets worse if other employees testify on behalf of the employee. When the case ends up being dismissed, it’s natural for managers to carry at least a slight grudge. They no doubt understand that they can’t retaliate against the employee just because he brought a lawsuit. What they may not understand as clearly is that they can’t retaliate against the supportive co-workers, either.

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Sometimes, employees prefer to work longer than eight hours a day in exchange for more days off. Ordinarily, changing schedules to accommodate such a request would mean paying overtime for the additional hours in excess of eight per day under California law. But now, in a unique case, the 9th Circuit has ruled that, in limited circumstances, changing the hourly rate for those who want the longer shifts doesn’t violate the law …

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Employees won’t win race discrimination disparate-impact lawsuits just by showing that their employer’s workforce isn’t racially balanced. They also have to show that the employer applied a specific or particular employment practice that created the disparate impact.

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The Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa, a Kelseyville resort owned by Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 38, will close. The announcement came two years after Local 38 agreed to sell the resort under a DOL consent decree filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to settle charges that the union diverted $36 million from pension plans to operate and renovate Konocti.

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These days, with employers having to do more with less, lots of companies outsource some functions that take a lot of time. If a vendor handles your payroll, make sure someone on the inside understands exactly how the outside provider calculates tricky things like overtime pay.

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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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