The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has long been seen as the most liberal federal appeals court—and very employee-friendly. Could that slowly be changing? The court sided with employers in this recent Employee Retirement Income Security Act case.

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Failing to comply with a new law could wind up costing some employers lots of money—if they’re self-insured or pay deductibles on Employment Practices Liability Insurance coverage. As of Jan. 1, entities that pay Medicare-eligible individuals to resolve claims involving medical expenses must report those payments to Medicare. The penalty for noncompliance: $1,000 per day.

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The Oakland City Council has tentatively approved a proposed settlement of a wage-and-hour lawsuit claiming city police officers were not correctly paid overtime and were not paid for off-the-clock work.

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A teacher employed by the government has a First Amendment right to speak as she wishes during instructional time, and her employer must have a sound educational reason for punishing such speech.

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Here’s an important lesson for employers: Judges don’t want to hear any excuses from employers that fail to pay back wages when ordered to do so. In fact, they’re perfectly willing to throw you in the slammer if you do. Example: Recently, the owners of a cleaning service were jailed when they didn’t make court-ordered payments of back wages owed to 385 workers.

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It’s a business imperative that’s especially important for HR: Make sure your computer systems allow you to retrieve critical information immediately on demand. That’s essential if you are ever sued, because long delays in providing documentary evidence can lead to needless litigation costs—and could even mean you’ll lose the case.

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The Judicial Council of the 3rd Circuit recently released its opinion dismissing a porn-related misconduct case against 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. The complaint, brought by a court administrator, accused Kozinski and two other judges of disabling the court’s Internet filters to download illegal pornography and pirated music without being detected.

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Offering an employee a severance payment in exchange for releasing any legal claims won’t be used against you. Courts want to encourage dispute settlement—and if severance offers could be used against employers later in court, cases would rarely be settled.

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Employees who sue for discrimination have to come up with some evidence before the case can advance beyond the initial stages—and before it gets progressively more expensive for employers paying the legal bill. Employers that fight back right away with statistics showing there was no discrimination can save big bucks in the long run.

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Lawry’s Restaurants recently agreed to settle a gender discrimination class action alleging that the chain hired only women for its food server positions. The EEOC filed the suit after Lawry’s Las Vegas restaurant refused to accept a male busboy’s application for an opening as a food server.

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