The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

It can be months or years of administrative hearings to decide how much you are obliged to pay terminated employees. That’s one reason the Court of Appeal of California has begun advocating arbitration as a legal alternative to hearings.

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You know that you have to accommodate disabled applicants and employees under both the ADA and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. When making those accommodations, think of customers, too. The California Supreme Court has ruled that customers who can’t access your public spaces can sue for damages.

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Are you considering ways to weather the current economic storm? Perhaps you can cut some benefits, at least for new hires and maybe for current employees, too. For example, nothing in California law (or federal law, for that matter) requires you to offer vacation time or pay.

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Here’s a good idea if you are reviewing employment agreements that spell out how you pay commissions: Be sure to specify that the end of employment means the end of commissions.

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The Pacific Legal Foundation recently filed a lawsuit alleging that Caltrans’ new contract quota program for minority-owned firms is unconstitutional. The suit, filed on behalf of the San Diego chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, argues that Caltrans did not do enough to show that discrimination was a problem before it implemented the program.

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The commissioner of California’s Department of Insurance has reached a $37.3 million settlement of four lawsuits stemming from Fremont Indemnity Co.’s 2003 bankruptcy.

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Warn your supervisors and managers: If they sexually harass business associates who aren’t your employees, those associates can sue for sexual harassment, too. The harassment has to meet the same standards as in the employment setting.

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Are some of your organization’s leaders still stuck in the Dark Ages when it comes to attitudes about pregnancy, childbirth and child care? You might be a few off-base questions away from a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit. Remind managers and supervisors to keep their opinions on mothers and motherhood to themselves.

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Sometimes, you have to make workplace changes because of outside factors. If those changes are going to affect a disabled employee’s job, proceed with caution. Make sure you can come up with a concrete, reasonable rationale for your decision—that shows it was unrelated to the employee’s disability.

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Most companies employ a broad range of workers with varying backgrounds. Those who are well-educated will have no trouble reading and understanding an application or employee handbook. Others may have a harder time understanding what they are reading. Still others may not speak or read English. That’s why it’s important to use plain language when drafting any documents your employees need to read.

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