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The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

High-profile lawyer Mark Geragos has set his sights on Web-based real estate company Zillow.com. His firm has filed four lawsuits against the company for various federal law violations. In the two most recent suits, Gera­­gos represents a woman who claims she was the victim of age discrimination and another who alleges severe sexual harassment.

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The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review the California Supreme Court Decision in which the state’s highest court ruled that the Federal Arbitration Act preempted California’s policy against enforcement of class-action waivers on the grounds that they were contrary to public policy or unconscionable.

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Among the flurry of new California labor laws passed in 2014 is an amendment to the labor code that allows the state Labor Commissioner to issue a civil penalty for failure to pay less than the minimum wage.

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An employee doesn’t become an independent contractor just by signing an agreement that says so. Courts use several tests to make that determination.

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Employers must pay for the time em­­ployees spend sitting at their desks if they aren’t allowed to leave—even if they aren’t doing any work.

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Attention to detail is essential when using arbitration agreements. They are contracts and the ordinary legal requirements for contract formation must be followed.

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Don’t let a disabled employee get away with behavior you wouldn’t tolerate in other employees. There’s no reason to put up with threats and intimidation.

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Generally, employers have the right to choose which accommo­­dation they want to offer a disabled employee. That is, the employer—not the employee—gets to choose. But that right has limits.

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has found two California nursing homes failed to pay their employees the federal minimum wage.

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It is now illegal in the state to require employees to sign agreements waiving their rights under the Ralph Civil Rights Act (Civil Code 51.7) and the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act (Civil Code 52.1). Those civil rights laws prohibit hate violence and threats against citizens based on certain protected classes, such as political affiliation, sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability or medical condition, or on account of position in a labor dispute.

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Two California Court of Appeal districts have significantly ex­­panded employee protection for whistle-blowers. The cases highlight that employees don’t actually have to “blow the whistle” to be protected from retaliation.

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Six California cities scored perfect 100 ratings in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual assessment of American cities with local laws and policies that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination.

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Last month, we provided background information on Cali­­for­­nia’s new Paid Sick Leave Law. This month, we follow up with critical information on how you need to implement the law.

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A worker who files a Fair Labor Stand­­ards Act lawsuit claiming unpaid wages must actually set out facts showing that he wasn’t properly paid. Mere allegations aren’t enough.

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A public school teacher who files an internal appeal over her pay or classification has three years after the final decision to file a lawsuit.

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Here’s a warning for employers thinking about turning employees into independent contractors to avoid paying benefits and payroll taxes: If some of the employees challenge the decision, you may be in for years of expensive, time-consuming litigation. That can easily turn a penny-pinching strategy into a money pit.

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In a series of decisions in the past two months, California appellate courts have tried to clarify the ins and outs of arbitration, giving em­­ployers possible guidance on whether to institute, revise or eliminate arbitration agreements as part of their employment practices.

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A state appeals court has just reversed part of a jury award based on a new California Supreme Court requirement that employees prove that discrimination was “a substantial motivating factor” for the firing rather than merely a motivating factor. However, no such rule applies to har­­ass­­ment claims.

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The newly enacted Healthy Work­­places, Healthy Families Act of 2014 requires California employers to provide employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, starting on July 1. This is the first of a two-part series designed to get you up to speed on exactly what the new law requires.

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A plastering company in Ceres, California has agreed to patch things up with 208 current and former employees following a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation. The employees of Ace Commercial Plastering will receive $131,953 in back pay, the amount WHD concluded the company had sanded off their paychecks.

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