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The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

Do you have employees who live and work in another state, but whose jobs sometimes bring them to California? Then you may be making a big overtime mistake if you pay them as if they were working in their home states.

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San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom recently signed an ordinance that will require employers to offer workers at least one of three commuter-benefit options: a pretax election to offset commuting costs, an employer-paid benefit or employer-provided transit.

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A cash-balance pension plan is one in which the employer contributes a set amount each month on behalf of an employee. The employee eventually collects pension benefits based on the cash balance in his or her account. Some employees have claimed that such plans favor younger employees and therefore are illegal …

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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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