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.

New California state law allows employers to fix wage statement errors

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law an amendment to the California Private Attorney General Act to allow employers the right to “cure” certain wage statement defects. Here are the details.

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?

Defrauded payroll clients out $28 million

The U.S. Supreme Court has turned down an appeal brought by the trustee of a bankrupt payroll service bureau who sought the return of $28 million, which the service bureau collected from its clients as payroll deposits, but which its principals stole. These clients now have no recovery and may have to pay the IRS again for the taxes the service bureau should have deposited.

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.

Holidays 2016: When will employers shut their doors?

While the federal government will shut down on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, only 35% of private employers plan to do the same, according to a new Society for Human Resource Management Holiday Schedules 2016 survey.

ACA transition relief ending for midsize employers

Employers with more than 50, but fewer than 100, full-time employees during 2014 didn’t have to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s play-or-pay provisions this year, although they must still file Forms 1095-C and 1094-C. This transition relief ends Dec. 31, 2015. Beginning with the 2016 plan year (next month for calendar year plans), these employers are fully covered under the law. Ensure that these critical actions have been taken before the end of the month. If you’re missing an action item, do it now.
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