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The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

If you want to create independent contractor relationships, get expert legal advice on how to structure the contract.

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Many employees who might otherwise have considered retiring have decided to keep working for the foreseeable future. These employees may feel threatened if they are passed over for promotions. By itself, that probably isn’t enough to make them contemplate a lawsuit. But add a supervisor’s ill-timed suggestion that the employee should retire, and you may end up facing an age discrimination lawsuit.

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Los Angeles sportswear manufacturer Tapout would have been better off paying up in the first place. All former employee Michelle Thomas originally wanted was overtime pay and some disputed commissions she said she had earned. But now that a California Superior Court jury in L.A. has ruled, Tapout is on the hook for $3.2 million, including $2.4 million in punitive damages.

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A recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision highlights unexpected problems employers can face when gay employees are harassed because of their sexual orientation. The case—Dawson v. Entek International—illustrates what can go wrong when harassment occurs, HR is slow to respond and retaliation is alleged.

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Under California law, all employees must receive regular wage statements. Employers that “inadvertently” fail to provide pay information might get away with it, but they shouldn’t count on it. Recently, the Court of Appeal of California considered the meaning of “inadvertently” and upheld penalties assessed against an employer that classified workers as independent contractors when they could not provide Social Security numbers.

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When a disabled employee needs reasonable accommodations, he has to tell his employer. Then the employer and employee must engage in an interactive process to see what accommodations are possible. Courts want to see sincere effort from both. That’s why you should track the accommodations process.

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Despite tough fiscal times, labor unions are trying to squeeze out the best possible benefits for their members. But when the people of California will pay the bill, unions and government agencies need to provide a cost breakdown to the state Legislature. Otherwise the agreements won’t become law.

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Increases of any kind are rare in the newspaper business these days. Thus, it was big news late last year when the San Francisco Chronicle and the California Media Workers Guild agreed to a two-year contract that increased wages for some employees as much as 5% and added benefits, too.

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a strongly worded opinion chastising an employer for trying to dodge liability for not giving 60 days’ notice that it would close a facility, as required by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

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More than 2,700 staffers at five hospitals run by Hospital Corporation of America will get pay raises following ratification of a new contract by members of the United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW) union.

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