California’s Labor Commissioner Releases New Poster and Notice Related to Paid Sick Leave

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Published on Tuesday, 25 November 2014 Written by Editor

California’s Labor Commissioner has released a new poster template for the recently passed paid sick leave law, the Health Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014. The template is available here. The Labor Commissioner has also released an updated wage notice as required by Labor Code section 2810.5,  which contains information about the accrual of paid sick leave under the new law. The updated notice is available here.

OSHA Urges Retailers to Keep Workers Safe During Major Sales Events

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Published on Tuesday, 25 November 2014 Written by Editor

As the holiday season approaches, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is encouraging retail employers to implement safety measures to prevent workplace injuries during major sales events. In 2008, a retail worker was trampled to death when shoppers rushed through the store to take advantage of holiday sales. OSHA sent letters to major retailers to remind employers about the potential hazards involved with managing large crowds at retail stores during the holiday season when sales events attract a higher number of shoppers. Retailers are encouraged to use the safety guidelines, Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers, provided in the OSHA fact sheet they received. Crowd management plans should, at least, include: On-site trained security personnel or police officers; barricades or rope lines for pedestrians that do not start right in front of the store's entrance; the implementation of crowd control measures well in advance of customers arriving at the store; emergency procedures in place to address potential dangers; methods for explaining approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public; not allowing additional customers to enter the store when it reaches its maximum occupancy level; and, not blocking or locking exit doors. OSHA’s letter to retailers is available here.

Employer Allegedly Improperly Screened Job Applicants for Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

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Published on Tuesday, 25 November 2014 Written by Editor

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has charged that Amsted Industries, Inc. and Amsted Rail Co. Inc., a leader in the manufacture of steel castings for the rail industry, improperly used physical tests and applicants' health histories in the hiring process at their Granite City, Ill., facility. As a result of these practices, according to the EEOC, a class of people who had a history of carpal tunnel syndrome or who Amsted believed might develop that condition, were denied employment. The EEOC has charged that during Amsted's hiring process, the company asks applicants if they have a history of carpal tunnel syndrome and gives them a nerve conduction test, even though the most current relevant published medical literature does not support the use of such tests alone, or the use of prior medical history alone, to predict the development of carpal tunnel. Based on the results, Amsted allegedly refused to hire Montrell Ingram and at least fifty other applicants because they had a history of carpal tunnel syndrome, tested positive on the nerve conduction test, or both. Read more here.

President Obama’s Immigration Move Could Impact Job Market

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Published on Friday, 21 November 2014 Written by Editor

President Obama’s executive order on immigration may impact the U.S. economy, in particular the job market. According to economists, by offering legal-worker status to several million undocumented immigrants, the executive order may prompt many to seek higher-paying jobs, thereby heightening competition for positions in a number of sectors since employers will have a larger supply of workers to choose from. Some job sectors may experience more job competition than others. For example, undocumented workers have recently steered away from manufacturing jobs fearing raids from immigration officials. The executive order will likely impact such sectors more than others. Read more here.

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Council Considers Changes to FEHA Regulations

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Published on Friday, 21 November 2014 Written by Editor

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Council is considering significant changes to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) regulations. The FEHA covers discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The proposed regulations, which are intended to further implement and interpret the FEHA, include: adding a definition of unpaid interns and volunteers; adding that an employee who harasses a co-employee may be personally liable for the harassment, regardless of whether the employer knew or should have known of the conduct and/or failed to take appropriate corrective action; adding a new section detailing: (a) employers’ duty to prevent and correct harassment and discrimination; (b) the required contents of harassment and discrimination policies; and (c) the dissemination and translation of such polices; expounding upon rules about trainers’ maintenance of records, employers’ maintenance of records, the meaning of “effective interactive training,” examples of materials that ensure “supervisors remain engaged in the training,” who may qualify as a trainer, and course content; and, for pregnancy disability leave, simplifying the definition of “four months” and elaborating upon situations when “four months” compels more complicated calculations. Read more here.

EEOC Issues FY 2014 Performance Report

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Published on Wednesday, 19 November 2014 Written by Editor

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released its 2014 Fiscal Year Performance Report, which ended September 30. According to that report, in FY 2014, the EEOC “continued to implement its Strategic Plan for FY 2012-2016, as well as its Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).  The agency met, partially met, or exceeded target results in all 14 measures in the Strategic Plan.” More specifically, the EEOC obtained $296.1 million in monetary relief for employment discrimination through mediation, conciliation and other administrative enforcement. The EEOC also secured $22.5 million in monetary relief for charging parties through litigation, and $74 million in monetary relief for federal employees and applicants. The agency received 88,778 private sector charges in FY 2014, a decrease of about 5,000 charges from FY 2013.  In addition, a total of 87,442 charges were resolved, 9,810 fewer than in FY 2013. Read more here.

EEOC Releases Information on Enforcement Protections for LGBT Workers

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Published on Wednesday, 19 November 2014 Written by Editor

Recent events have triggered increased interest about protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals under federal employment-discrimination laws. In light of this, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has released information highlighting the agency’s enforcement efforts in this area, and addressing questions raised by employers and employees about discrimination related to LGBT status. The EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP), adopted by a bipartisan vote in December of 2012, lists "coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals under Title VII's sex discrimination provisions, as they may apply" as an enforcement priority for FY2013-2016.  This enforcement priority is consistent with positions the EEOC has taken in recent years regarding the intersection of LGBT-related discrimination and Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination. Read more here.

Jury Awards Woman $185 Million for Alleged Gender Discrimination

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Published on Wednesday, 19 November 2014 Written by Editor

A San Diego federal jury awarded $185 million in punitive damages against AutoZone Stores after finding that the company allegedly retaliated against a pregnant manager, Rosario Juarez, eventually demoting and then terminating her. The three-woman, five-man jury also awarded Rosario Juarez $872,000 in compensatory damages, for lost wages and emotional stress. It is believed to be the largest employment law verdict for an individual in U.S. history. The lawsuit, initially filed in San Diego Superior Court in 2008, outlined a corporate structure that allegedly resisted promoting women into management positions and made light of anyone who complained about it. AutoZone operates about 4,000 stores across the U.S. and abroad, with about 400 of them in California. Read more here.

Employer to Pay $187,500 for Alleged Genetic Information and Disability Discrimination

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Published on Friday, 14 November 2014 Written by Editor

Three Southern California seed and fertilizer providers - All Star Seed, Inc., La Valle Sabbia and Abatti - will pay $187,500 to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of a class of job applicants who were allegedly subjected to illegal medical and genetic information inquiries. According to the EEOC, the El Centro, Calif.-based agricultural companies (which operated as a single employer) required job applicants to undergo physical exams and fill out health questionnaires as a condition of employment that violates federal laws. The EEOC charged that the questionnaires contained improper inquiries about the applicants' medical conditions and family medical histories, also known as genetic information. 

Read more: Employer to Pay $187,500 for Alleged Genetic Information and Disability Discrimination

U.S. Supreme Court Grants Review in ACA Tax Subsidies Case

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Published on Tuesday, 11 November 2014 Written by Editor

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted review in King v. Burwell, a case involving the question of whether the federal government’s tax subsidies to purchasers of health insurance, pursuant to the Affordable Care Act, are only available if an individual purchases health insurance from a state-run exchange versus from the federally run exchanges. The Internal Revenue Service ruled that the tax subsidy is available regardless of whether the health insurance is purchased from a state or federal exchange program. Read more here.

HR Practice Note: “Best Practices in Returning an Injured Employee to Work”

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Published on Tuesday, 11 November 2014 Written by Editor

California’s Department of Industrial Relations has a helpful guide for employers entitled “Best Practices in Returning an Injured Employee to Work” which can be located here. The guide states that “An effective return-to-work program can benefit employers in numerous ways. Such a program can help avoid millions of dollars in fines and penalties, reduce workers’ compensation costs, retain experienced employees, improve employee morale and productivity, increase competitiveness of a business, and help ensure equal opportunity of employment for persons with disabilities. Employees participating in return to work can protect their jobs and income, avoid long-term unemployment, stay physically conditioned and mentally active, maintain daily structure and social connections provided by work, and participate in injury and illness prevention programs in the workplace.” The guide provides six basic steps that an employer should take to help return employees suffering from a work-related injury to work.

Read more: HR Practice Note: “Best Practices in Returning an Injured Employee to Work”

Sixth Circuit Upholds Bans on Same-Sex Marriage

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Published on Monday, 10 November 2014 Written by Editor

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has upheld bans on same-sex marriage in four states, which means it is likely that the U.S. Supreme Court must take up the issue of whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry. The 6th Circuit ruled 2 to 1 that although same-sex marriage across the nation is practically inevitable, in the words of U.S. Circuit Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, it should be settled through the democratic process and not the judicial one. The decision overturned lower-court rulings in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky and makes the 6th Circuit the first appeals court to uphold state bans since the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. Read more here.

Employer Agrees to Modify Leave Policies for Disabled Employee

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Published on Monday, 10 November 2014 Written by Editor

Doumak, Inc., a longtime Chicago-area marshmallow manufacturer, has agreed to change its leave policies to resolve a disability discrimination suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC. In its complaint, the EEOC alleged that the company had capped the duration of leaves of absence at its Elk Grove Village and Bensenville, Ill., manufacturing facilities, without making appropriate exceptions for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities. This can include making exceptions to leave policies to allow an individual with a disability to successfully return to work and perform his or her job. More information about leave as a reasonable accommodation is available in question-and-answer format on the EEOC's website. Read more here.

DOL Releases Additional FAQs Regarding the ACA

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Published on Monday, 10 November 2014 Written by Editor

The Department of Labor (DOL) has released additional Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The FAQs have been prepared jointly by the Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury (collectively, the Departments). Like previously issued FAQs, these FAQs answer questions fto help people understand the ACA. Read more here.

San Francisco Residents Vote in Minimum Wage Hike to $15 Per Hour

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Published on Thursday, 06 November 2014 Written by Editor

San Francisco residents have voted in a gradual raise in the minimum wage to $15 per hour over the course of three years. The city’s minimum wage will increase to $12.25 per hour in May 2015; $13.00 per hour in July 2016; and, from there increases of one dollar each year until $15.00 in 2018. This brings the annual pay of a minimum-wage employee who is working full-time to $31,000.00. Read more here.

HR Practice Note: Injury and Illness Prevention Programs

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Published on Wednesday, 05 November 2014 Written by Editor

In California, Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations (T8CCR) section 3203, requires every employer to develop and implement an effect Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP). Cal/OSHA enforces the IIPP requirement. There are eight (8) required elements of an IIPP as follows: (1) responsibility; (2) compliance; (3) communication; (4) hazard assessment; (5) training and instruction; (6) recordkeeping. To be effective, IIPP programs must involve all employees, supervisors and management; identify specific workplace hazards that employees are exposed to; correct identified hazards in an appropriate and timely manner; and, provide effective training. California’s Department of Industrial Relations has helpful resources on IIPPs that are located here.

Employer to Pay $128,750 For Allegedly Failing to Accommodate Employee After Back Surgery

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Published on Wednesday, 05 November 2014 Written by Editor

A car dealership, Randall Ford, will pay $128,750 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC charged that Randall Ford engaged in disability discrimination when the company allegedly refused to accommodate the disability of a used-car manager following spine surgery. Allegedly, the manager had requested as an accommodation greater use of a cart that he and other employees already used from time to time. The EEOC alleged that rather than make the accommodation the company terminated the manager a few days after the request. Read more here.

This Year’s Most Unbelievable Excuses for Calling in Sick

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Published on Tuesday, 04 November 2014 Written by Editor

CareerBuilder has released its survey on the year’s most unbelievable excuses for calling in sick. According to the survey, over the past year, 28 percent of employees have called in sick when they were feeling well, down from 32 percent last year. When asked for a reason, 30 percent said they just didn’t feel like going in to work and 29 percent said they wanted the day to relax. Another 21 percent took the day off to attend a doctor’s appointment and 19 percent wanted to catch up on sleep. Meanwhile, bad weather kept 11 percent of employees home. The national survey was commissioned by CareerBuilder and conducted online by Harris Poll. The survey included a representative sample of 3,103 workers and 2,203 managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes. When asked to share the most unbelievable excuses employees have given for calling in sick, employers reported hearing the following real-life examples: (1) Employee just put a casserole in the oven; (2) Employee’s plastic surgery needed some "tweaking" to get it just right; (3) Employee was sitting in the bathroom and her feet and legs fell asleep. When she stood, up she fell and broke her ankle; (4) Employee got stuck in the blood pressure machine at the grocery store; (5) Employee caught their uniform on fire by putting it in the microwave to dry; and, (6) Employee accidentally got on a plane. Nearly 1 in 5 employers (18 percent) say they have fired an employee for calling in sick with a fake excuse. Read more here.

California Labor Commissioner Issues More Than $3 Million in Citations to Four Assisted Living Providers

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Published on Monday, 03 November 2014 Written by Editor

California Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su has issued more than $3 million in citations to four assisted living providers in the San Francisco Bay Area, for alleged minimum wage, overtime, and rest period violations for 89 caregivers working at the four businesses. The citations issued to Common Destiny Care Homes in Fremont, Abraham Rest Home Inc. and Sanchez-Abraham Corporation of Walnut Creek and Concord, and Florian White Dove Care of Brentwood include: $1,820,551 for wages and premiums underpaid; $1,186,308 for liquidated damages; and, $121,550 for civil penalties. Common Destiny Care Homes was fined more than $358,700 on October 24 after an investigation found its 24 residential caregivers were allegedly required to work more than 8 hours a day—at times up to 17 hour a day—without being compensated the State mandated minimum wage and overtime pay. Employees allegedly received daily rates ranging from $60 to $80 per day, averaging sometimes as little as $5 an hour. Read more here.

Unauthorized Cloud-Based Software is Proliferating in the Workplace

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Published on Monday, 03 November 2014 Written by Editor

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Unauthorized cloud-based software is proliferating in the workplace, causing regulatory and security challenges for companies that often don’t even know their employees are using it. Some of the services are well known, such as Dropbox, for file sharing, and the multipurpose social-media site Facebook . But at some companies, employees are tapping hundreds of cloud-based apps to perform functions ranging from Web conferencing to conducting surveys to sharing photos. Skyhigh Networks, a provider of services that track and control cloud apps, surveyed more than 350 large companies this year and found an average of 831 cloud services being used. At one organization, employees were using 24 file-sharing services and 91 collaboration services, Skyhigh says.” Read more here.

CalChamber’s Annual White Paper on California's New 2015 Laws is Now Available

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Published on Monday, 03 November 2014 Written by Editor

CalChamber’s 
free annual white paper, "An Overview of New 2015 Laws Affecting California Employers" is now available. The white paper identifies some of the noteworthy new laws from the California Legislature, including: (1) Mandatory paid sick leave, with penalties for noncompliance; (2) New requirement to include training on preventing abusive conduct (such as bullying) as part of mandatory supervisor sexual harassment training; and, (3) Expanded liability for employers who contract for labor. Read more here.

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