The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

The Court of Appeal of California has refused to reinstate a Los Angeles ordinance that tried to force some employers to retain the employees of businesses they acquired. The case may signal a judicial effort to rein in municipal regulation of California companies.

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The California Division of Workers’ Compensation is acting to help small employers that need financial assistance bringing injured employees back to work. Small employers can apply for reimbursement of up to $2,500 for special equipment or other products needed to help accommodate the needs of injured workers returning to the job.

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Steve Poizner, the California Insurance Commissioner and Republican candidate for governor, recently filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the sale of assets in the State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF). He contends efforts by the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to use the funds to balance the state budget are unconstitutional.

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Supervisors who stand up for subordinates when they claim they have been discriminated against may be engaging in “protected activity.” That could make punishing those supervisors retaliation.

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It’s a fact of life: Employees get into arguments at work. Obviously, you can’t let a situation get out of hand. But be careful how you discipline the individuals. That’s especially important if there’s no clear evidence about who said what to whom. If you decide to suspend one employee, suspend the other one, too.

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The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires employers to follow the terms of their collective bargaining agreements when they contribute to employee benefit plans. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to extend the concept of “joint employer” to ERISA’s collective bargaining agreement provision when the second entity has not signed that agreement.

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If you have to fire an employee, don’t worry that a court is just waiting to second-guess why you did so. The fact is, courts are reluctant to question your reasons as long as you can convince them the reasons were honest, even if in retrospect they may seem baseless or even foolish. They don’t want to become a national HR department.

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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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