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How to properly address employee complaints

California employers of all sizes may eventually face the difficult duty of handling an employee complaint. Complaints of workplace hazards, discrimination, harassment and other issues warrant a careful response.

Ideally, the employer promptly, thoroughly, and fairly investigates and resolves the employee's complaint, leading to a fair resolution and a content employee. Failure to follow the law and best practices, however, could leave employers at risk for a retaliation lawsuit or further unlawful behavior by its employees.

Abiding by California's paystub regulations

Many sections within California's labor code aim to protect workers and set expectations for employers. Regardless of a business' size, employees have certain rights regarding the payment they receive, including how employers must communicate payment. To properly document wages, employers must provide complete, accurate paystubs each time that the wages are paid.

California expands employer sexual harassment training programs

At Duggan Law Corporation, we provide training services to Northern California employers so that they can comply with state law requirements. The focus is to provide sexual harassment training to supervisors every two years for employers with more than 50 employees or contractors. As we discussed earlier this year, a new 2018 requirement requires this supervisor training to include issues related to gender expression, gender identity and sexual harassment.

On September 30, California Governor Jerry Brown signed S.B. 1343, a bill that will significantly expand employer sexual harassment training requirements in the state. Under the new law, all employers with five or more employees, including temporary and seasonal workers, must comply with new sexual harassment training requirements by January 1, 2020. However, if the employer provides compliant training after January 1, 2019, it does not have to conduct another training to meet the 2020 deadline.

Why employers should consider getting rid of probationary periods

Many companies have historically included language in their new hire contracts and employee handbooks about "probationary periods." This time frame usually spans around 90 days and outlines the employee and employer's right to terminate their employment relationship for any reason during the period.

Employers should consider removing these policies from their paperwork, as the term "probationary period" is a bit of a misnomer. California is an at-will employment state, so the legal right to terminate an employment relationship at any time with or without cause already exists for both parties This right of course excludes terminating the employment relationship for a discriminatory or retaliatory reason. It also excludes terminating the relationship in breach of the terms of a contract, which is further discussed below.

California court says gas-station manager not jointly employed

We recently wrote about a major California Supreme Court case called Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court that on April 30 adopted the new "ABC Test" for determining whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee. Dynamex answered this question for purposes of interpreting a state wage order that governs wage-and-hour requirements in the transportation industry.

Wage orders are state Industrial Welfare Commission regulations that apply to employers in specific industries and establish requirements for working conditions, hours and wages for employees.

Disability discrimination: What is a reasonable accommodation?

Both the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) require employers to provide reasonable accommodation for job applicants and employees with actual or perceived physical or mental disabilities.

While the ADA applies to all employers at least 15 employees, California's FEHA applies to many more employers, with a lowered threshold of five employees. In addition, the FEHA takes a more expansive view of what constitutes a disability for purposes of providing accommodations.

California Supreme Court: the federal de minimis rule does not apply in California wage cases

May employers ask workers to perform brief, minor tasks while off the clock? This is the central question of Troester v. Starbucks, in which a former Starbucks shift supervisor alleged that the company did not properly compensate him for work he was regularly required to perform after clocking out, including transmitting data to corporate offices, activating the store alarm, turning off lights and locking up, walking other workers to their cars or waiting with them for their rides, and occasionally putting away patio furniture that had been left outside. Starbucks argued that the time spent on remaining closing tasks was too negligible to require tracking and compensation.

A federal district court calculated that the shift supervisor's unpaid labor over 17 months added up to just under 13 hours, worth about $103 under the minimum wage at the time. The court then applied the de minimis doctrine (from de minimis non curat lex, "the law does not concern itself with trifles") in finding in favor of Starbucks. The doctrine has been used by federal courts in other cases involving very small amounts of off-the-clock labor under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

New law clarifies key terms in salary history inquiry ban

As many California employers are aware, state law now prevents employers from asking job applicants about their salary history or from using salary history to make decisions regarding job offers or starting salaries. As we discussed in a previous post, this new law, which went into effect on January 1, also requires that employers provide pay scale information to applicants upon reasonable request.

This law did not, however, clearly define the key terms involved in this requirement, namely "applicant," "pay scale" and "reasonable request." Assembly Bill 2282, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law on July 18, clarifies what these terms mean in the context of the new requirements:

More employer responsibilities regarding national origin (part 3)

Today, we wrap up our conversation about new California regulations to keep employees and job applicants safe from national-origin discrimination. Having just taken effect on July 1, these rules describe how California employers can meet their related responsibilities.

We previously talked about the definition of "national origin" and explained what the rules say about national-origin discrimination related to language. Now, we discuss remaining subjects under the new amendments.

New California rules on national-origin discrimination (part 2)

Today we continue our discussion about extensive amendments to California national-origin employment discrimination regulations that took effect on July 1, 2018. Duggan Law Corporation will be educating our employer clients about their legal responsibilities toward job applicants and employees under these new rules.

As we discussed in our previous post on this subject, harassment and discrimination based on an employee's national origin has long been unlawful under state and federal laws. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing's new regulations that took effect July 1, however, expand and clarify for employers important aspects of this category of illegal discrimination and harassment of job applicants and employees.

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