Saturday, October 31, 2009

New Poster!

The EEOC has issued a revised “Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law” poster. See the announcement here.
Here's your chance to update the look of your breakroom, time clock wall, and anywhere else that employees are likely to see the poster. Those of you with laminated multi-posters will contribute to our economic recovery by purchasing the new versions.

Click here for the compliance options. You either may print and post the "supplement" or replace your existing posters.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

New California Employment Statutes 2009

The California Bar's Labor and Employment Law Section provided this helpful list of the employment law bills Governor Schwarzenegger signed.... He vetoed the scary ones. The long list below primarily involve public sector employees and their benefits.

SB 519 by Senator Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield) - This one affects certain retirement benefits calulations for public employees.

SB 538 by Committee on Public Employment and Retirement - County employees’ retirement: mandatory retirement.

SB 751 by Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) - Teacher credentials - permits California to issue teaching credentials to teachers certified in other countries.

AB 399 by Assemblymember Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) - Public employee retirement benefits.

SB 11 by Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino) - County employees retirement: San Bernardino County health benefits.

SB 37 by Senator Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks) - State employees: statement of deductions. This law permits state employees to receive electronic wage statements unless they opt out.

SB 634 by Committee on Public Employment and Retirement - State Teachers’ Retirement System.

AB 65 by Assemblymember Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward) - Public employee health benefits: vision care: local, school, and university members.

AB 239 by Assemblymember Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) - Teacher credentialing.

AB 468 by Assemblymember Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward) - Public Employees’ Medical and Hospital Care Act: employer contributions.

AB 506 by Assemblymember Warren Furutani (D-South Los Angeles County) - State teachers’ retirement: postretirement earnings.

AB 544 by Assemblymember Joe Coto (D-San Jose) - Teaching credential: American Indian languages.

AB 854 by Assemblymember Juan Arambula (I-Fresno) - Employment regulation and supervision: unpaid wages.

AB 1319 by Assemblymember Paul Krekorian (D-Burbank) - Talent services.

AB 1584 by Assemblymember Dr. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) - Public employees’ retirement: retirement boards.

SB 72 by Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review - State employees: payroll: health care.

SB 752 by Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) - County employees’ retirement: Orange County.

AB 1025 by Assemblymember Connie Conway (R-Tulare) - Schools: employees and volunteers: Activity Supervisor Clearance Certificate.

AB 381 by Assemblymember Marty Block (D-San Diego) - Unemployment compensation disability benefits: academic employees.

AB 395 by Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar) - Employment: apprenticeship programs.

AB 720 by Assemblymember Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) - Peace officers: marital privilege.

Court of Appeal: "Reasonable Accommodation" Must Be Perfectly Executed Every Time

It is one thing to grant a reasonable accommodation. It is another thing to ensure that it is implemented perfectly, every time. Hard cases make bad law. This is a combination of a sympathetic plaintiff, a big company, and a one-time event resulting in a huge verdict.

A.M. was a cashier at an Albertson's in Marin County. After receiving treatment for cancer, she needed to drink copious water. Albertson's let her have water at her station, even though it was against policy. Naturally, A.M. had to use the bathroom more frequently because of the water she was drinking. Albertson's said that she could call her supervisor and they would cover her.

So, Albertson's had granted A.M. extra breaks as an accommodation, and had implemented a system for A.M. to obtain them. The system was working, with A.M. receiving extra breaks by calling her supervisor. On one occasion, the system did not work because the supervisor was the only person who could relieve her and he was unloading a truck. A.M. had an accident at her cashier station. She went home and did not return to work for Albertson's.

According to the court of appeal, that single failure of the supervisor sufficed to be a "denial" of reasonable accommodation. The court upheld a jury verdict of $200K for that one incident. Add the plaintiff's and defense attorney's fees and sooner or later we're talking about a lot of money.

By the same argument, then, if an employee's wrist starts to hurt a few months after the employer installs ergonomic equipment, that alone is the denial of an accommodation? If a diabetic experiences low blood sugar one day, does that mean the employer's accommodation of permitting food at the work area is actionable?

If an accommodation becomes ineffective, the employer is required to engage in the interactive process to come up with a better accommodation, and grant the new accommodation. It is unreasonable to assume that an employee with a disability has a right to a perfect work environment and a guaranteed flawless accommodation, every day. The world does not work that way for anyone - with or without a disability. The issue is: did Albertson's grant her request for accommodation? Yes. Was it effective? Except for the one occasion, apparently so. Was there evidence the company intended to mistreat A.M. or only pretended to accommodate her? No. Could A.M. have filed a workers' compensation claim if she were injured by a work-related condition? Yeah, which was her real remedy here.

Again, A.M. was very sympathetic and what happened that day was truly unfortunate. But absent proof of intentional discrimination, the result of this case is that FEHA is not providing a remedy for a wrong; it is elevating individuals with disabilities above all others and exposing employers to potential liability for isolated failures.

The case is A.M. v. Albertson's and the opinion is here.

My 0.02.

U.S. DOT: Medical Marijuana Users Cannot Breathe Easier

And they can't breathe sighs of relief, either. I kill me. Anyway, the Department of Justice announced it would pull back on enforcement against medical marijuana users where they are operating within the bounds of state law. (See DOJ memo: here) But the US Department of Transportation wants you to know they're a completely separate agency and there is no free pass on drug testing for medical marijuana users. Here is the DOT announcement.

Ninth Circuit Upholds FLSA OT Plan

Ponoma Valley Hospital pays nurses one rate for 12 hour shifts, and a higher rate for eight hour shifts. The nurses requested the 12-hour shifts. To accommodate them, the hospital calculated how much it would have to pay to neutralize the payroll effect of the 12-hour shift.

An employee claimed that the differing rates were a subterfuge to avoid paying overtime under the federal FLSA.

The Ninth Circuit held that it is lawful to pay different rates for different shifts. And it is OK to lower a base rate to minimize paying overtime, as long as it is above minimum wage.
The opinion does not address California wage and hour law.

The case is Parth v. Pomona Valley Hospital and the opinion is here.