Whistleblowers, who are individuals who report a person or organization engaged in an allegedly illicit activity, are protected from workplace retaliation under a number of federal and state laws, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank, the Clean Air Act, the California Whistleblower Protection Act, and many others. In other words, an employee can file a legal claim against an employer for purported whistleblower retaliation under a number of state and/or federal laws. Does this mean that an employer’s hands are tied and, regardless of the employee’s performance down the road, the employer will be unable to fire him/her for fear of a potential lawsuit?Details
As we discussed at length in this post, this year we will see substantial changes to FEHA that will affect business owners across the country, including in California. To get specific, FEHA’s new regulations set forth that, as of April 1, 2016, employers must have anti-discrimination and harassment policies that:
· Are in writing.
· List the categories of individuals protected by FEHA.
· Clearly state that FEHA prohibits coworkers, third parties, supervisors and managers from engaging in discriminatory, harassing, or retaliatory conduct.Details
Substantial Changes to Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policy Requirements Start April 1 for California Employers
2016 is a busy year in the often-changing world of California employment law. We have discussed many of the updates employers need to be aware of here (think minimum wage increase, the Fair Pay Act, changes to Unruh, and more). The newest change that California businesses need to be aware of involves changes to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
FEHA is designed to protect employees from discrimination and harassment on the basis of various protected characteristics, including, age, race, religion, gender, and disability, as well as retaliation against an employee who engages in a protected activity, such as requesting an accommodation or objecting to conduct prohibited by the FEHA. What’s more, under FEHA, employers must engage in an interactive process to determine a reasonable accommodation for an employee who is disabled, and to accommodate the employee. All employment provisions of the FEHA anti-discrimination provisions apply to all employers with five or more full-time or part-time employees.Details
Retaliation in the workplace, whether imagined or not, continues to account for almost half of all employment claims filed with the EEOC. Last year, in 2015, 44.5% of the charges filed were for retaliation. In other words, a majority of disgruntled employees claim not that they were discriminated against, but that they received adverse treatment for reporting violations, including discrimination.
That leads us to our next issue… Whistleblowers. If your company is up against any type of claim for retaliation, it may be helpful to understand the mindset of the typical whistleblower. According to recent research, the type of culture you create within your company can have an impact on the number of retaliation claims you have to face each year. And I’ll give you a hint as to one of the most important characteristics to foster in a workplace environment: loyalty.Details
In our technologically-driven world, many California employers have the ability to monitor their employees’ whereabouts through the use of GPS – but does that mean they should?
GPS tracking has been a reality for several years. Through the use of GPS devices in vehicles, employers have been able to keep track of their employees’ locations while on the road. Now, thanks to new apps and more advanced technology, employers can do the same thing through employees’ smartphones, providing the employer with even more information about where the employee is and when. While GPS tracking certainly has its benefits, employers do need to be aware of the associated risks in order to appropriately evaluate whether these potential pluses outweigh the significant minuses.
Benefits of GPS Tracking
Tis the season for political debates. Unless you’re running a political campaign or consulting group, your employees’ political view can run the gamut. With the potential for heated debates over candidates and the issues they stand for to lead to hurt feelings and, in some cases, claims of harassment and discrimination, a California employer needs to tread cautiously.
Political speech in the workplace can raise a litany of issues that must be handled carefully. Read on for what every employer needs to know…Details
Tech incubators abound these days, especially in and around Silicon Beach. These ‘technology campuses’ allow start ups to collaborate and share ideas, strategies, resources, and knowledge. And sometimes, proprietary information. When discussing their ideas with others, entrepreneurs need to be extremely mindful of the risks to their intellectual property.
For many start ups, trade secrets and/or other intellectual property hold the keys to the business’s future. As such, entrepreneurs – and those who work for them – need to be aware of the various junctures where a start up’s IP could potentially be disclosed. These include raising capital, recruiting employees, beta testing or testing a prototype, and in seemingly innocent conversations between fellow entrepreneurs.Details
FMLA leave abuse has always been a significant concern for employers. Furthermore, intermittent FMLA leave, typically taken for chronic health conditions (i.e. migraines or bad backs), lends itself to abuse because it is very difficult to track. According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, two-thirds of surveyed HR professionals have reported challenges resulting from chronic abuse of intermittent leave, including morale issues for employees who have to cover for their absent co-workers. Additionally, 80% cited the tracking and administration of intermittent leave as the most difficult activity. Fortunately for employers, there are ways to combat FMLA abuse, including the use of written FMLA policies.
Continue reading for a list of 4 provisions that employers should include in their FMLA policies to limit FMLA abuse…Details
Whistleblower complaints are often directed to board members or committees of the board of directors and recently, a California court ruled that whistleblowers are allowed to seek compensation from directors of a company, broadening legal protections for whistleblowers by expanding those who can be held liable in such cases. In another win for the whistleblower, the court also ruled that an employee qualifies for whistleblower protection under Dodd-Frank, even in instances that he or she does not bring a complaint to the SEC. The case significantly expands whistleblower protections for those bringing a claim against their employer.
Now is the time for California employers to review and update their whistleblower compliance and related training programs to ensure that employees at all levels, (Board members and company leaders are not exempt) understand best practices for responding to and investigating employee complaints.Details
2016 brought with it a host of new legislation for California employers. With the passage of the Fair Pay Act, new piece rate legislation, family time off, and the expansion of Unruh to give stronger protection to immigrants, to name a few, it is understandable if employers are having a hard time keeping up. Unfortunately, while understandable, “we can’t keep up” is not a defense to an employment claim. With that in mind… It is important for all California business owners to remember that the minimum wage has increased this year.
As of Jan. 1, the state minimum wage has increased from $9 per hour to $10 per hour. This change not only impacts non-exempt workers, but the classification of most exempt workers. In addition to strict “duties tests” for administrative, executive and professional wage and hour exemptions, a salary of at least twice the state minimum wage must be paid to meet the “salary basis test.” To satisfy the “salary basis” test, an employee must be paid (1) on a guaranteed, minimum salary basis that cannot be reduced no matter how many hours are actually worked; and (2) a minimum salary of at least two times the state minimum wage. This raises the annualized exempt salary requirement to $41,600, up from $37,440. The retail industry is also impacted, as the inside-sales exemption requires employees be paid at least 1.5 times the state minimum wage, and at least half of their other earnings be from commissions.Details