The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

California employers don’t have many options for preventing employees from competing once they move on to another employer. For example, noncompete agreements are illegal here. The courts also look askance at other attempts to restrain competition and prevent former employees from practicing their professions even if such restrictions are temporary.

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has long been seen as the most liberal federal appeals court—and very employee-friendly. Could that slowly be changing? The court sided with employers in this recent Employee Retirement Income Security Act case.

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Failing to comply with a new law could wind up costing some employers lots of money—if they’re self-insured or pay deductibles on Employment Practices Liability Insurance coverage. As of Jan. 1, entities that pay Medicare-eligible individuals to resolve claims involving medical expenses must report those payments to Medicare. The penalty for noncompliance: $1,000 per day.

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The Oakland City Council has tentatively approved a proposed settlement of a wage-and-hour lawsuit claiming city police officers were not correctly paid overtime and were not paid for off-the-clock work.

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A teacher employed by the government has a First Amendment right to speak as she wishes during instructional time, and her employer must have a sound educational reason for punishing such speech.

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Here’s an important lesson for employers: Judges don’t want to hear any excuses from employers that fail to pay back wages when ordered to do so. In fact, they’re perfectly willing to throw you in the slammer if you do. Example: Recently, the owners of a cleaning service were jailed when they didn’t make court-ordered payments of back wages owed to 385 workers.

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It’s a business imperative that’s especially important for HR: Make sure your computer systems allow you to retrieve critical information immediately on demand. That’s essential if you are ever sued, because long delays in providing documentary evidence can lead to needless litigation costs—and could even mean you’ll lose the case.

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The Judicial Council of the 3rd Circuit recently released its opinion dismissing a porn-related misconduct case against 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. The complaint, brought by a court administrator, accused Kozinski and two other judges of disabling the court’s Internet filters to download illegal pornography and pirated music without being detected.

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The Supreme Court of California has ruled that employers are free to develop incentive payment plans that reward loyalty by requiring employees to stay for a period of time before earning the full benefit.

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, with jurisdiction over California employers, has ruled that the federal Rehabilitation Act covers discrimination claims brought by an independent contractor. The Rehabilitation Act applies to federal agencies, government contractors and organizations that receive federal funding.

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