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The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

The general rule in California is that when an employer engages an unlicensed person to perform work that requires a license, that person is considered an employee, not an independent contractor. Essentially, the law puts the burden on those who want work performed to check to make sure the person doing the work has the appropriate license. Otherwise, the employer may be liable for any on-the-job injuries that occur.

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Just one incident of name-calling or behavior that could be interpreted as racist—if sufficiently severe—might be enough to color other incidents in a racist light. And if a complaint leads to court, that may mean the harassed employee could get a chance to show a jury just how unpleasant co-workers made his life.

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Talk about expensive propositions: A simple lawsuit brought by one or two employees with a gripe can blow up big time if they try to sue on behalf of every other employee who may have been harmed by the same alleged wrong. Fortunately, some judges are clamping down on class actions, reserving them for rare cases.

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Some temp employees have tried to argue that they should be paid immediately for their work as soon as they finish a particular assignment—and not have to wait until the next regular payday. They’ve claimed that when each assignment ends, they are in effect being “discharged.” Now a federal trial court has clarified that the end of an assignment isn’t a “discharge.”

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If you use a mandatory arbitration agreement, you may be able to set a relatively short deadline for employees to bring discrimination claims …

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On Aug. 4, a former employee filed a lawsuit against Apple Inc. for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and California law. If the court certifies the case for class-action status, as the employee wants—watch out! This could turn into one of the costliest wage-and-hour suits ever …

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Cadence Design Systems of San Jose recently agreed to settle two lawsuits brought by information technology workers who claimed they were misclassified and denied overtime and meal and rest breaks in violation of federal and California laws …

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California Labor Code covers wage-and-hour issues and includes some exceptions to the basic requirement that employees must be paid for all time worked. One of those exceptions is the professional exception to Wage Order 4-2001, which allows school districts to pay teachers on a salary basis … Until now, it was unclear whether adult-education teachers could be paid the same way.

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There’s no substitute for boots on the ground when it comes to protecting employees from supervisors with hidden discriminatory agendas. If you ignore the warning signs of supervisor bias and leave the “bad boss” in place, it’s probably just a matter of time before you find yourself responding to a lawsuit …

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Employees who claim they were wrongly denied a promotion for some discriminatory reason (for example, based on race, age or some other protected characteristic) have the initial burden of proving they were qualified for the position they sought. The best protection employers have against such claims: clear, concise and accurate minimum job requirements …

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