The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

Federal employees have special rules they have to follow in order to sue their employers for discrimination. One of these requirements is to contact an Equal Employment Opportunity “counselor” within 45 days of the alleged discriminatory act. The 9th Circuit has concluded that employees don’t have to contact the individual their employer has designated as the EEO counselor …

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Wouldn’t it be great if you could just turn your employees into independent contractors? That way, you wouldn’t have to pay unemployment compensation taxes, provide workers’ compensation insurance and so on. But California courts are quick to zap employers that wrongly convert employees into contractors.

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Here’s a bit of good news from the Supreme Court of California: The court has ruled that labor unions can’t intercede for union members to sue employers for missed meal and rest breaks under the state’s unfair competition law or the private attorney general statute.

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It probably comes as no surprise to Southern Californians that the Los Angeles and Orange County region ranks as one of the nation’s worst examples of urban sprawl, according to a recent report by the Brookings Institution. Only Detroit, Chicago and Dallas have more spread-out employment bases.

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Guess what: You can’t press forward with a wage-and-hour class-action suit after you’ve already settled with the organization you’re suing. So said the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals when it tossed a class-action bid brought by two former T-Mobile sales reps.

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Deputy probation officer Timothy Bentley is suing the Los Angeles County Probation Department, claiming that the county had a “pattern and practice of refusing to pay overtime” to deputy officers in the Suitable Placement Division.

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A Los Angeles Superior Court jury recently awarded $370 million in damages to five former employees who said they were defamed by Georges Marciano, co-founder of fashion company Guess, Inc., and an independent candidate in the 2010 California governor’s race.

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Public employees retain the right to free speech under the First Amendment and can’t be punished for exercising that right. However, the right is limited when the “speech” they’re using is part of their jobs. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has recently concluded that for California police officers, free speech protection may be even more limited.

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The Fair Labor Standards Act says some managers may be held personally liable for unpaid wages, independent of the company’s obligation to pay. Not even a company bankruptcy halts individual liability.

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A federal judge recently refused to certify a class-action suit in which workers at several California refiners sought to jointly sue ConocoPhillips Co. for failing to provide meal periods.

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