Employee sends spouse to voice harassment complaint: Is that 'protected' activity?


Employees who complain to HR or management about alleged discrimination or harassment are engaging in protected activity and can’t be punished for complaining. But what if the employee can’t summon the courage to complain and, instead, sends someone else? Is sending a spokesperson to complain also protected activity? A federal court says “yes,” at least when it’s the employee’s spouse who takes action.

We think an employee is stealing money; can we deduct it from her wages?

Q. I have noticed that a lot of inventory is leaving the store, but the money for some items is not in the cash register. I believe one of my employees is stealing money from the cash register. Can I deduct the cash shortfall from his wages?

Employer can choose the location for arbitration

Are you an out-of-state employer with headquarters elsewhere? You can still require arbitration to happen at corporate offices. It’s not automatically unfair, a California appeals court has concluded.

Make sure medical leave requests funnel through HR

Don’t let supervisors handle employee requests for medical leave informally—make sure all requests come through HR. If bosses are allowed to make their own rules, inconsistencies will trip you up in court.

Arbitration agreement: Don't bury it in handbook; deliver separate document


Do you require employees to direct employment law complaints through the arbitration process rather than a lawsuit? If so, don’t bury your arbitration agreement deep in your handbook or job application. Instead, present workers with a separate document. As this new case shows, California courts are more likely to find a separate agreement to be binding.

Labor issues looming from new TPP trade agreement

The recently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement will go before Congress for ratification next year. Organized labor has been one of the most vocal critics of the pact and certainly labor leaders will be scrutinizing the agreement’s Chapter 19.

Silicon Valley city faces age discrimination charge

The EEOC has filed suit against the City of Milpitas, Ca., alleging the company hired a 39-year-old executive secretary over four other more qualified and older candidates.

Court: Reporting personal theft is 'protected activity'

A new California appellate court ruling shows that employees who are terminated for reporting the alleged theft of personal property at work have a right to sue for wrongful termination as a whistle-blower. The report merely has to involve criminal activity. It doesn’t have to be work related or concern a matter of public interest.

New law makes unequal pay claims easier in California

Borrowing liberally from a bill that has languished on Capitol Hill (the Paycheck Fairness Act), California lawmakers have passed SB 358, which requires employers to allow employees to discuss their pay. It also makes it easier for employees to bring unequal pay claims against employers.

Does USERRA apply to contract workers?


The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act prevents employers from discharging returning service members for anything except “cause” for a year after their return. But what if the service member is working under an employment contract? What if that agreement has a termination clause built in? Does USERRA prevent the employer for exercising that contractual term?

When religious freedom & harassment collide

Employers that have strict codes of conduct prohibiting harassment of any kind can still punish employees whose religious beliefs are behind their harassment of gay co-workers. You can’t interfere with an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs, but you can punish religious “expression” that interferes with another employee’s rights.

'Cowboy as Religion' and 5 Other Classic Employee Misunderstandings of Employment Law

HR professionals live in a world where sentences like, "Oh no, the EEOC says we violated the FMLA and ADA, and the DOL is looking at our BYOD policy," actually trigger fear instead of just wide-eyed confusion. So HR may be taken aback by how little some employees understand about the laws that are meant to protect them in the workplace. This fall, we asked HR professionals to share their best stories of situations in which employees totally misunderstood, misinterpreted or completely maligned an employment law or company policy. Here are some of the real winners ...

New EEOC rules: How do wellness plans interact with genetic-bias law?

The EEOC issued a proposed rule earlier this month that aims to clarify how employers’ wellness programs would interact with a section of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

DOL official: Overtime rules coming in late 2016

Don’t look for release of those controversial changes to federal overtime laws anytime soon.

Race-based restrooms? Write the settlement check

A black female worker at a North Carolina health care company filed a race discrimination claim, saying the owner repeatedly used the N-word and maintained racially segregated restroom facilities. The court said her hostile environment claim could proceed to trial.
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