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Comprehensive employee handbooks a must for California employers

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.

Filing discrimination claim with EEOC first not jurisdictional

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.

New proposals for expanding paid parental leave in California

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.

Claim against Disney for unequal pay

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.

Intersection between 'ban-the-box' law and negligent hiring claims

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 amends lactation law effective January 1, 2019

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."

Court says store must pay workers for unworked on-call shifts

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."

California court allows rounding software for meal-break tracking

In a case widely lauded as pro-employer, the California Court of Appeal in the Fourth District recently agreed with the trial court that a health staffing company's use of time-rounding software to track its employees' required meal breaks was fair and neutral and allowed under state law.

Respondeat superior in California courts (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this post, we introduced the December 2018 case of Moreno v. Visser Ranch, Inc., in which a California appellate court addressed issues of employer liability for losses or injuries caused by an employee when he or she was acting within the scope of employment; specifically, in that case, the employer had allowed an employee to use its company vehicle for business and personal reasons and the employee got into an accident leaving his passenger son inured. The son sued, among other parties, his father's employer, who owned and insured the vehicle he was in when the accident happened.

The driver, Mr. Moreno, was allowed to operate the company truck for around-the-clock use during both work and personal time.

California employer liable for employee driving company vehicle while using vehicle for personal use (Part 1)

A recent California court decision raises important issues for employers who allow their employee to use company vehicles for personal reasons. In Moreno v. Visser Ranch, Inc., an employer allowed its employee to use a truck it owned and insured for both business and personal travel. Employee Ray Moreno was required to be on call 24/7 to respond immediately to cell phone calls and maintenance needed at all times at the ranches, farms and dairies operated by the employer.

Mr. Moreno was driving this truck with his passenger son when the truck was involved in a single-vehicle, rollover mishap. They were returning from a family gathering to their home on the employer's premises, where the son was headed to work there.

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