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The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court decision that allowed a teacher to display banners with the word “God” in the classroom.

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Employees who complain about har­­assment are protected from retaliation. It follows that if the employee is promoted and gets a raise, he can’t argue that he was punished. One employee’s case before the 9th Circuit Court failed because his employer treated him well after he complained.

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Here’s an important note for companies that use subcontractors to carry out work. The state Division of Occupational Safety and Health can cite your company for on-the-job injuries if it appears you were a controlling employer.

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When an employer loses a discrimination or other job-related lawsuit, the employee who sued typically recovers attorneys’ fees in addition to any lost pay or other damages. The same isn’t true if the employee loses.

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to reinstate a lawsuit based on a “one strike, you’re out” drug testing policy.

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Sometimes, it becomes clear that an employee has been misclassified as exempt when she should really be an hourly employee. Employers that want to fix the situation can do so and avoid a lawsuit by offering the employee double her lost overtime pay, plus interest going back either two or three years depending on how the mistake happened.

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It might make sense to give newer employees a bit more leeway when it comes to discipline for poor job performance. After all, sometimes it takes time to learn a job well. But if the newer employees happen to be younger than another, older employee who doesn’t get the same benefit of the doubt, you may spark an age discrimination lawsuit.

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A new law allows the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) to levy fines of at least $5,000 against employers that misclassify workers and requires the em­­ployers to publicize their violations on their company websites. Em­­ployers face penalties as high as $25,000 for willfully misclassifying employees as independent contractors.

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It’s illegal for employers to use em­­ployees’ undocumented status as an excuse to avoid paying the minimum wage and overtime. But that’s not true in failure-to-hire cases—because if an applicant isn’t authorized to work, the em­­ployer couldn’t hire the worker at all.

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The Court of Appeal of California has clarified that employees taking California Family Rights Act leave are entitled to reinstatement to the same or an equivalent job only if they return at the end of their 12 weeks of leave or earlier. They can’t take additional non-CFRA leave to ex­­­tend their return rights.

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