California News & Analysis

  • False statement about job opening sufficient to imply discriminatory intent

    The California Court of Appeal recently decided that a potential employer is not immune from liability under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) for thwarting a pregnant woman's plan to apply for a job by falsely telling her that no position was available. Although the woman never applied for the job, the supervisor's statement raised a triable question about whether the employer intentionally discriminated against her based on her pregnancy. Accordingly, the trial court's dismissal of the case without a trial in favor of the employer was reversed.

  • Can an employer avoid waiting time penalties for failing to timely pay final wages?

    An employer that fails to timely pay wages when employees quit or are fired is liable for the unpaid wages and, if the failure to pay is "willful," a "waiting time" penalty of up to 30 days' wages. A California Court of Appeal recently resolved two issues: Was an employer's failure to pay "willful" if it suspected the required living wage had increased but continued paying the same wage after briefly investigating the matter? Even if the failure to pay was willful, did the trial court have the discretion to waive the waiting time penalties on equitable grounds?

  • Whistleblowing and termination: What's the connection?

    In whistleblower retaliation cases, a key factor is evidence showing a causal connection between the whistleblowing and later adverse employment action taken by the employer. In the following case, shortly after a physician reported safety concerns at a brain imaging center at University of California, Irvine's (UCI) medical school, he was informed that his contract wouldn't be renewed. The court examined whether the physician could present sufficient evidence of a causal connection between his whistleblowing and the decision not to renew his contract that would allow his case to proceed to trial.

  • Upholding the psychological employment contract

    Do you realize that every one of us has a psychological contract with our organization? The psychological contract is a concept that describes the understandings, beliefs, and commitments that exist between an employee and an employer. Although it is unwritten and intangible, it represents the mutual expectations that are felt between the two. The psychological contract is strengthened (or weakened) by each party's perception of the employment relationship. It is formed through daily interactions between colleagues, managers, and the organization.

  • Mitigating the HR quandary posed by retaliation claims

    We're past the time of year when our aspirations and resolutions for the new year start to wane. Now that 2018 is well under way, employers should renew their resolve to address the liability risks associated with retaliation claims. The steady rise of retaliation claims over the last several years has created vexing problems for HR professionals attempting to enforce employee conduct rules. A quandary arises when employees who have raised harassment, discrimination, or safety complaints face discipline for misconduct, creating the looming threat of a retaliation claim.

  • R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find out what it means to your employees

    Leadership is a two-way street, loyalty up and loyalty down. Respect for one's superiors; care for one's crew.

  • Independent contractors can't circumvent Government Code § 1090

    The California Court of Appeal recently ruled on the powers of an independent contractor as they relate to government contracts. Specifically, in Strategic Concepts, LLC v. Beverly Hills Unified School District, the court ruled that independent contractors cannot attempt to circumvent the stringent requirements of Government Code § 1090, which prohibits conflicts of interest and requires competitive bidding for contracts.

  • Court of appeal finds county violated employee's POBR rights

    The County of Fresno terminated a correctional officer for misconduct. During the disciplinary proceedings, the county relied on an Internal Affairs (IA) report that included interview transcripts and other documents. The officer challenged his dismissal, arguing that by refusing him access to the report's attachments, the county violated his statutory rights. The trial court affirmed his dismissal, and the officer appealed. In a partially published opinion, the California Court of Appeal reversed and sent the matter back to the trial court.

  • Correctional employees did not have right to representation in OIG interviews

    When former staff members of a state correctional facility were interviewed by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), they asked for representation. After their requests for representation were denied, the staff members filed a complaint alleging that their procedural due-process rights were violated. Did they state a claim for legal relief?

  • Latest wage and hour class action has lessons for all employers

    A class action is a process whereby one person is permitted to sue on behalf of herself and on behalf of other similarly situated persons. In federal court, the process is regulated by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, which imposes several requirements that must be satisfied before a claim may be "certified" to proceed as a class action. One of the requirements is referred to as the "predominance" requirement. It comes from Rule 23(b)(3), which says a plaintiff seeking certification as a class action must demonstrate that "questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual [class] members."