The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

A California appeals court has overturned a large punitive damages jury award in a case involving underpaid wages and missed meal and break periods. Had the court upheld the awards, employers would have had a whole new reason to lose sleep over inaccurate payroll records.

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Usually, employers get zapped when employees sue, but that isn’t always so. Sometimes the union that represents employees gets slapped with a huge penalty, too—especially if it neglected to look out for workers’ interests.

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The EEOC has settled a lawsuit it filed against Texas-based Cadit Co., which was doing work for the San Francisco Municipal Railway. The agency said Cadit allowed a foreman to harass a Chinese-American welder.

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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill that will eliminate overtime pay for certain computer professionals. Assembly Bill 10 creates an overtime exemption for computer professionals working in California who are engaged in “intellectual or creative” work …

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A pharmacist formerly employed by Longs Drug Stores recently filed a class-action lawsuit demanding $2.9 billion from CVS Caremark Corp., which purchased Longs in October. According to Charles Jones, who worked as a pharmacy manager and pharmacist at a San Diego Longs, the store violated wage-reporting laws for its nonexempt employees.

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Employers have a number of immigration compliance issues to track in 2009, affecting the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9, business travel, no-match letters and employment authorization documentation.

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Federated Department Stores has agreed to settle charges that it denied meal and rest breaks to Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s department store employees. According to the settlement, Federated will pay $25 million to 200,000 employees.

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Many California employers are viewing a recent decision by a federal appeals court as a setback. The court upheld the right of local governments to pass ordinances that essentially force employers to provide a certain level of funding for employee benefits.

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If, like many employers, you include an arbitration clause in your employment applications, take note of a recent California Court of Appeal case.

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If you don’t have up-to-date job descriptions, you are asking for legal trouble the next time an employee asks for reasonable accommodations under the ADA. Without a current job description, the employee will come up with her own—quite possibly minimizing the essential functions she can’t perform.

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