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The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

California wage-and-hour law requires employers that provide vacation benefits to pay out unused vacation immediately upon termination. However, there’s an exception for union workplaces if the employer and union clearly and unmistakably agree to waive that payment.

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Good news for employers worried about their public image: If you provide carpool transportation for your employees and want to control their behavior while using that transportation, you can.

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Adhere to standard payroll practices if you want to avoid paying unnecessary overtime for otherwise exempt employees. One of those standards is to pay a set salary regardless of the quantity or quality of work performed in a particular week.

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U.S. Nursing Corp., a temp agency that provides replacement nurses to hospitals when staff go on strike, has agreed to pay $1.77 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by California employees.

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A San Francisco jury has awarded $2,729,037 to five former employees of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who alleged wrongful termination and breach of their employment contracts.

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California Labor Commissioner Julie Su has issued a report summarizing the enforcement activity of the Division of Labor Standards Enforce­­ment in 2011 and 2012. Its conclusion: The DLSE has significantly increased the number and scope of its enforcement actions during the first two years of Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration.
Our conclusion: Now more than ever, employers should ensure that their pay practices comply with Cali­­for­­nia law.

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Here’s an important case to watch if some of your em­­ployees can’t take regular meal breaks. The Court of Appeal of California will soon determine if an agreement requiring employees to eat while working (and being paid) violates California labor codes for one class of employees.

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Major League Soccer team Chivas USA, which plays its home games in suburban Los Angeles, has been sued for race and ethnic discrimination by two former youth coaches. They claim they were fired because they are not Mexican or Latino.

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Embattled celebrity chef Paula Deen has fired her Georgia attorneys and called in the big guns—including famed Hollywood attorney-to-the-stars Patricia Glaser—to help salvage her reputation and media empire.

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The U.S. Supreme Court in June issued two highly anticipated decisions addressing same-sex marriage in cases that resonated nationwide and in California. The cases are significant for employers because they are likely to have ripple effects on state, federal and local laws, in particular those dealing with employee benefit plans, taxation and immigration.

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You are free to tell employees they can be terminated for having marijuana in their systems and then randomly test for the substance. That’s true even if a doctor recommends that the employee use medical marijuana.

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A recent court decision on the availability of seating at work suggests the best approach may be to just offer everyone a chair. It seems employees sue without actually requesting a place to sit down.

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Here’s an important reminder for senior executives: If an employee says she will sue for discrimination unless her evaluation is changed, don’t punish her supervisor if he refuses to go along. That could amount to retaliation for protected activity—meaning you could have two lawsuits on your hands.

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The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a class-action lawsuit filed by a worker under the FLSA was properly dismissed because the ­worker’s suit was moot when she failed to accept an offer of judgment from her employer.

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Like most employers, your em­­ployee handbook probably in­­cludes a disclaimer informing employees that nothing in the document creates a contract. But what if your handbook also includes a clause that says employee disputes must go to arbitration instead of state or federal court, where a run­­away jury might bankrupt the company? Bad idea.

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Employers are supposed to reasonably accommodate an employee’s disability so he or she can perform the essential functions of the job. Some workers take that as a guarantee that—should they develop a disability—their employer must find a position the employee can do. That’s simply not the case.

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Here’s some good news: An employee’s interpretation of a manager’s facial expressions isn’t enough for a successful lawsuit. A smirk isn’t evidence.

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The San Jose Minimum Wage Ordinance, which took effect on March 11, raised the minimum wage for “covered employees” to $10 per hour. A “covered em­­ployee” is anyone who works two or more hours per week within the city limits.

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A cardinal HR rule: Everyone who breaks the same rule should receive the same punishment. That doesn’t mean a frequent rule-breaker can’t be punished more harshly.

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A hearing-impaired Los Angeles man is suing the Bed Bath & Beyond retail chain, complaining that it fails to provide captions or transcripts for the promotional videos that play in the aisles of its stores.

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