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The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

Here’s some good news for HR professionals and supervisors trying to manage the workforce: You don’t have to worry that ordinary functions like putting together performance reviews and making hiring and firing decisions will somehow be misconstrued as harassment.

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The presumption is that by discussing possible accommodations, the employer and worker will arrive at some sort of consensus. Employers that don’t take this seriously risk being sued for failing to engage in the interactive accommodations process.

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Think a simple written employment contract precludes other oral contracts? Think again. It is quite possible in California for an employee to win an oral contract claim despite an apparent written contractual agreement that seems to preclude just that, as a recent case shows.

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Sometimes an excellent employee who has received great reviews and consistent raises exhibits a sudden performance decline. When that happens, be sure to carefully document the changes in his or her work.

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If the facts alleged in a recently filed EEOC lawsuit turn out to be true, food wasn’t the only spicy item on offer at a Chipotle restaurant in San Jose.

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L.A. Lousianne, a Los Angeles jazz club, is headed to court after the EEOC filed a lawsuit alleging violations of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

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Cheryl Stanton is one step closer to becoming administrator of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

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The Supreme Court of California has unanimously held that a representative plaintiff in a Private Attorneys General Act case does not need to show good cause at the outset of litigation before the employer is required to produce the names and contact information of other allegedly aggrieved employees.

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Under some circumstances, an employer may be fully justified in requiring an employee to undergo a psychiatric or other medical exam. Doing so won’t violate the ADA if it is job related and consistent with business necessity.

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Courts generally bend over backwards to help plaintiffs who can’t afford an attorney when they try to represent themselves. However, once the case is over, that’s generally it.

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Before an employee can sue his employer for discrimination, he usually has to show that he was subjected to some sort of adverse employment action. Under the right circumstances, that can include being moved into a position the worker considers demeaning, such as being forced to work for someone he once supervised.

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Arbitration agreements can be a great way to save time and money on litigation should an employee accuse you of violating employment laws. But unless the agreement is properly drafted, it can be struck down.

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What kind of investigation, if any, is required before an employer can fire a worker for what it believes is some kind of misconduct?

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The workers’ compensation system is supposed to make it easy for employees who are injured at work to get benefits. They don’t have to sue: If they can prove they were hurt at work, they receive benefits.

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It goes without saying that you must handle with care any situation in which an employee accuses another of sexual assault. Any hint that you are treating the victim less favorably than the alleged perpetrator can lead to a hostile work environment claim.

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Zenefits FTW Insurance Services, an HR management software service based in San Francisco, has settled charges it misclassified 743 account executives and sales people as exempt from minimum wage protections. Workers in both California and Arizona were affected.

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Two years ago, Emeryville, Calif. passed its Minimum Wage, Paid Sick Leave, and Other Employment Standards Ordinance. Now the city manager has released the regulations implementing the ordinance.

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Employers are supposed to engage in the interactive accommodations process with disabled workers to arrive at workable accommodations. But what if the employee stops communicating with HR about suggested accommodations?

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Do you think you may have slightly underpaid an employee who is being terminated? Paying her a little extra as she heads out the door may fix that problem without penalty, based on California wage payment rules.

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Unless you can verify that the employee did in fact complete your process, it may not actually bind employees to any contractual provisions such as arbitration agreements.

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