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The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

The California Labor Commis­sioner’s Office has ramped up wage-and-hour compliance investigations by its Bureau of Field En­­forcement unit.

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It’s fine to pay an hourly worker a set salary as long as it covers appropriate overtime. You may deduct from the salary if the employee doesn’t work enough hours.

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Do you want to push employment disputes into arbitration, but prefer to have a state or federal court hear any trade secret-disputes? Keep those agreements separate.

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Do you routinely include an arbitration agreement in your employment applications? It’s a good idea to keep copies of both, in case the employee later claims she didn’t understand what she was signing because of language barriers.

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Facts matter. Documenting those facts can make it much easier to defeat a challenge from either the worker or a state or federal government agency.

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Few courts want to mediate petty disputes. Judges have more important matters to attend to. Just ask the judge who issued a caustic ruling in this recent case.

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Company supervisors who make family leave decisions and manage FMLA administration can be held personally liable for violations. Until now, it was unclear in California whether that liability extended to supervisors who administer the FMLA at public agencies. It is now clear it does.

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The decade-long age discrimination litigation saga of 15 San Francisco firefighters has come to an end.

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President Trump has nominated Wash­ington, D.C.-area attorney Sharon Fast Gustafson to be the new general counsel to the EEOC. The general coun­­sel is the commission’s top litigator.

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While the proposed 2019 budget is needed to fund higher spending for the military, as well as to pay for the construction of a border wall and infrastructure repairs, there were few surprises in the FY2019 budget plan for cutting the budgets of federal labor and employment agencies.

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When separate entities seem to share common ownership and one dictates how the other operates, they may be joint employers. That may make them mutually liable for employment law violations.

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In order to win a disability discrimination case, a worker who claims she is disabled by pain has to show how that affects her ability to work. If the employee misses work but doesn’t explain why or that it’s related to her disability, she doesn’t have a case.

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Some employees who need reasonable accommodations may insist on having the option to work from home. That may be a workable solution for some positions. However, it won’t be appropriate for other jobs that require direct supervision or the employee’s physical presence in the workplace.

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Deciding not to investigate can backfire badly. Not only could your organization miss an opportunity to right a wrong, but the decision not to investigate may itself be evidence of bias.

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The high court unanimously ruled that when calculating overtime for pay periods in which an employee earns a flat rate bonus, employers must divide the total compensation earned in the pay period by only the non-overtime hours worked. This is contrary to the federal overtime method used under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

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When an organization transitions from a start-up to something bigger, company needs are bound to change. A stellar performer may be left behind. That could trigger a discrimination lawsuit, although it’s likely to fail.

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When an employee requests time off for an FMLA-related reason, you should inform her she may be eligible and provide information on how to request leave. But sometimes, the employee may not want to use FMLA leave. Don’t force her.

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The U.S. Department of Labor has reissued 17 previously withdrawn opinion letters concerning the Fair Labor Standards Act. Most were written during the George W. Bush administration.

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has asked the California Supreme Court to answer several questions about meal breaks and whether certain employees are entitled to additional payments for missed meals.

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California employers must be mindful that it is easier to qualify as disabled under California law than under the federal ADA.

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