The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

Privacy laws are confusing. If you are unsure about whether you can release any employee information, check with your attorney. That may help you avoid the kind of drawn-out litigation one employer recently endured.

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Final rules are now in place for enforcing Executive Order 13496, the White House decree requiring all federal contractors and subcontractors to notify employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The following questions and answers cover some of the issues you may have to deal with.

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The California State Senate and State Assembly have approved a bill that would restrict the use of credit reports by employers that conduct background checks on job applicants and employees. But enactment isn’t a sure thing, based on the recent history of similar legislation.

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Employees who claim they were terminated or otherwise punished for whistle-blowing often have several potential claims. Fortunately for employers, employees can’t file both a federal administrative claim (and then not appeal the agency decision) and file a state court claim later.

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The California Supreme Court has ruled that employees don’t have a private right to sue their employers for alleged tip violations.

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The Court of Appeal of California has refused to expand the time a former employee has to file a claim under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

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It’s frustrating to be sued, especially when it looks like the litigation could become a class-action lawsuit. But warn supervisors: It will only make matters worse if they threaten potential members of the class. Courts want employees to freely choose whether to participate in class actions. If courts suspect that intimidation is a factor, they’ll step in.

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If your employees work outdoors or in other hot environments, get ready for tougher rules governing the measures you must take to prevent heat-related illness and injury. The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board has unanimously voted to revise California’s already stringent heat-illness prevention regulations, formalizing temporary, emergency rules that have been in place since 2005.

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Some local California governments have to give preference to minority- or female-owned contractors. Now in an odd twist, the California Supreme Court has said that such preferences are legal only if the local government can show it does in fact discriminate. That could end such preferences.

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On Aug. 1, a union representing postdoctoral researchers at the University of California reached a tentative collective-bargaining agreement. The five-year pact between the university system and Postdoctoral Researchers Organize/UAW (PRO/UAW), which represents 6,500 postdoctoral researchers in the UC system, calls for pay increases of at least 3% per year from 2010 to 2015 for researchers earning less than $47,000.

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