It is well known that California state labor and employment laws tend to be more pro-employee than corresponding federal laws. Therefore, it may come as no surprise that if you make your employees stand in line before they leave so you can inspect their bags to ensure they didn't make off with your merchandise - such as some shiny new Nike Air Force 1's - you must pay them for this time in California. As we previously explained in this space, the California Supreme Court held last summer in a unanimous opinion called Troester v. Starbucks that in a wage and hour complaint under California state law, the federal de minimis doctrine does not apply.
Current California law provides that an employee who claims to have been the victim of unlawful discrimination or harassment must file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing within one-year of the unlawful practice before they can file a civil lawsuit. A bill is under consideration before the state legislature that would extend the deadline for filing to three years.
On June 3, a pregnancy discrimination trial began in Napa County Superior Court in which a restaurant server alleged that a job transfer from her New York workplace to the company's location in Yountville fell through because of pregnancy discrimination.
An employee handbook is a document that communicates your company's mission, policies and expectations. Employers give this to employees to clarify their rights and responsibilities while they're employed with the company. Beyond their value in running an organization, when done correctly, employee handbooks can be a valuable tool in building a defense in the event of a lawsuit. These are just a few of the reasons why every employer, regardless of the number of employees, should have one.
A recent unanimous employment discrimination case out of the U.S. Supreme Court has important takeaways for California employers. Fort Bend County, Texas v. Davis decides an unsettled legal question about Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the main federal anti-discrimination law impacting the workplace.
When an employee or job applicant alleges unlawful discrimination under Title VII, the claimant must first file their complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, the federal agency that enforces employment discrimination laws. The EEOC may investigate the claim and, if it finds "reasonable cause," has the option to try to get the parties to settle informally, or the agency can file a lawsuit. It may choose to do none of these things, depending on the claim.
As part of his budget proposals in January, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced support for a change in state law that would allow new parents to take six months of parental leave while receiving partial wage replacement. Families could allocate the time to one parent, or split the time between two parents, or between a single parent and another family member. Ann O'Leary, the governor's chief of staff who is a "leading force behind the proposal," voiced concern about the potential impact of one employee utilizing all six months of leave, stating that it would be too onerous on employers and instead supporting dividing the leave time for a baby between some combination of parents or other relatives.
In early April, two female employees filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court in Los Angeles County against The Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Pictures, and Hollywood Records Inc (collectively "Disney.") The allegations of the lawsuit are that Disney pays them, and other female employees, less than their male colleagues for the same or substantially similar work. They accuse Disney of violating the California Equal Pay Act as well as the unfair competition prohibition of the state Business and Professions Code.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to certify the suit as a class action to resolve similar claims of other women working for the same business unit within Disney.
Since January 1, 2018, California has had a "ban-the-box" law that prohibits most employers in the state with five or more employees from asking in the initial stages of the onboarding process whether job applicants have had criminal convictions. We discussed the law in detail in an earlier post.
The Fair Chance Act says that an employer cannot conduct background checks that include criminal history, or make inquiries about convictions, until the employer has made a conditional job offer. (There are a few exceptions, such as for employers offering jobs that require background checks by law such as those involving work with children or vulnerable adults.)
California employers should be aware of a change in our state's lactation accommodation law as of January 1. Previously, an employer could satisfy the requirement for a private room for breastfeeding mothers to express milk so long as the room was not a "toilet stall."
To prevent employers from using bathroom areas outside of stalls as designated areas to express breast milk, the legislature amended the law in AB 1976 to say the location must be one "other than a bathroom."
Our state is known for its wide-reaching employee protections. A recent Court of Appeal case illustrates this in the context of a department store that required retail employees to call in two hours before possible on-call shifts to see if they had to report in person.
In the February 4 decision Ward v. Tilly's, Inc., Tilly's assigned its employees on-call shifts, but required them to call in two hours before their scheduled on-call shift to see whether they should actually come in to work. If they were told to come in, they were paid for their shifts; if not, they did not receive any compensation for having been "on-call."