The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review a Court of Appeal of California decision upholding a reduction of the punitive damages awarded to a former supermarket employee in a sexual harassment case.

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The Court of Appeal of California has limited the situations in which an employer will be liable for assaults committed by its employees.

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Employees who claim that supervisors harassed them to the point that they became emotionally distraught cannot sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress if the alleged harassment is job related. Instead, they must file a workers’ compensation claim.

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There’s only one safe way to respond to an employee’s pregnancy announcement—and that’s a simple “Congratulations!” Anything else may spell trouble down the line, especially if the pregnant woman ends up being terminated. She’ll probably sue and try to tie any negative comments to the termination, arguing they demonstrate pregnancy bias.

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The California Supreme Court has ruled in a case involving video camera surveillance and employee privacy rights. The court said employees do indeed have a right to considerable privacy at work, but that in this particular case the employer had acted reasonably and limited the surveillance to what was necessary under the circumstances.

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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill that would have created a card check election process for farm workers seeking union representation. S.B. 789, which was introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, is similar to bills the governor also vetoed in 2007 and 2008.

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The workplace is meant for working, and employers have the right to expect their employees to behave themselves. You can and should demand that all your employees treat each other, customers, supervisors and everyone else with dignity. If you don’t already have a civility rule, consider adopting one.

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A California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement opinion letter has given the green light to an increasingly common employment practice in today’s fragile economy: Cutting exempt employees’ normal workweeks and then paying them proportionately less.

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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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