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Palo Alto Employment Law Blog

What should I do if my boss wants to lower my pay?

When California businesses are confronted by financial difficulties like decreased sales or increased expenses, they typically explore ways to cut down on costs. Lowering employee wages is one option that many companies choose, but there are instances when cutting pay is not legally acceptable. If you are currently facing the prospect of having your regular pay cut, here are some legal considerations that you should keep in mind.

According to Monster.com, your employer must generally have a legitimate business reason for lowering wages in order for such conduct to be legal. In the event that your employer lowers wages by an excessive amount, you may not only be entitled to collect unemployment benefits but you could also have an employment law claim. Another factor that can determine whether your employer’s decision to cut your salary is legal is the existence of an employment contract. Attempting to alter the terms of your existing employment agreement could be considered a breach of contract in some cases.

Understanding your family medical leave rights

In the event that you or a loved one are seriously injured or become ill, California state and federal employment law guidelines help to safeguard your employment prospects. In fact, several state mandates supplement standard federal requirements, protecting you against issues like wrongful termination or retaliation.

According to Cal Chamber Advocacy, employment law disputes over issues relating to family medical leave are among the most common to reach litigation in the state. Both the California Family Rights Act and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act require employers to allow qualifying workers to take time off of work for certain medical and/or care reasons. For instance, both laws prohibit employers from discriminating or retaliating against workers who take medical leave and mandate that workers have access to their previous and/or comparable employment conditions upon their return to the job.

OSHA safety hazards, regulations and wrongful termination

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, along with state agencies like the California Department of Industrial Relations, are responsible for implementing and enforcing employment health and safety guidelines. One major aspect of ensuring that workplace environments across the country are safe for employees is to guarantee that workers who raise concerns over potential health and safety hazards are protected against employment issues like wrongful termination.

Discussing some of the workplace dangers that employees can encounter, OSHA explains that a huge number of hazards can pose the risk of illness, injury and even death. Work organization hazards, such as sexual harassment, workplace violence and unreasonable demands, can impose stress upon workers and potentially have long-term effects on their health and well-being. Similarly, safety hazards like unguarded machinery and uneven flooring can contribute to injury incidents.

U.S. government accused of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act

The Federal Government can be considered the largest employer in the entire country, and is responsible for employing millions of California residents. As a result, government agencies are obligated to abide by federal employment law guidelines like the Fair Labor Standards Act. It is for that reason that many government workers and employment law experts are questioning the legality of the government shutdown of 2013.

According to the national Bureau of Economic Research, the 2013 government sequestration had a profound and harmful impact on federal workers across the country. The government shutdown lasted 16 days and resulted in a huge number of federal employees having their regular wages either lowered or suspended altogether. During that time, it is estimated that the average federal employee paycheck was cut that by around 40 percent. It is also estimated that it took many of the workers directly affected by sequestration almost half a year to recover financially.

Is my verbal employment contract valid in California?

There are many circumstances under which you may accept a job position in California without signing an actual employment agreement. Some employers prefer to outline details like job duties, pay and benefits during the course of the interview process, while others choose to avoid specifying the terms of employment at all. In any case, it’s important for you as a worker to understand if and when the terms of a verbal contract are enforceable under the law.

According to Business and Legal Resources, California’s status as an at-will-employment state means that both you and your employer generally have the right to terminate your employment for any reason at any time. However, you cannot be terminated on the basis of legally identified discrimination or in violation of an established contract agreement between you and your employer. Therefore, an employer may be acting in defiance of the law if he or she terminates your position after establishing an oral employment contract with you.

Understanding executive pay components

If you are considering applying for a new job position or have been approached with a promising job offer, it is important that you understand how executive compensation is typically determined. After all, being familiar with the various factors that go into executive contracts and pay can help you not only negotiate for the employment incentives you want, but also guarantee the benefits you deserve. That is why we here at Kastner Kim, L.L.P., are committed to guiding our clients through the entire process of contract negotiations and enforcement.

Investopedia.com explains that unlike with most other job positions, executive compensation is typically strongly linked to business performance and growth. Therefore, you may expect that your prospective pay and benefits will be strongly will be dependent, at least in part, on how well you and the company do. For instance, a significant portion of your pay may come in the form of an annual bonus. Pay bonuses that are based on performance are intended to serve as an incentive for executives to work hard on behalf of the company. There may be instances, however, when the level of your performance is not accurately reflected in the success of the business. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the terms of your salary and bonuses are fair to both you and company investors.

A brief overview of pension plans

Many California workers have very little personal savings, and many others have not yet begun to plan for retirement. Fortunately, workers of all experience levels and ages can begin to save for their retirement years. Continually evolving economic conditions and pension plan trends are having an impact on the way American workers and employers are approaching retirement savings. That is why it can be helpful to have a general understanding of retirement options and benefits.

According to the American Institute for Economic Research, close to 85 percent of workers across the country had a defined contribution plan like a 401(k) in 2013. 30 years ago, that number stood at a little less than 40 percent. In 1983, the vast majority of American workers maintained a defined benefit pension plan. In order to appreciate the significance of the shift in plan types over the years, it is necessary to understand the similarities and differences between the two.

Wage laws may fail female nurses

Despite the fact that a number of factors can contribute to wage trends in any given industry, gender should not play a role in determining how much money any employee is entitled to. In fact, California state and federal wage laws strictly prohibit gender discrimination in wage practices. The findings of a recent study suggest, however, that significant wage disparities exist in the medical industry between male and female registered nurses.

While male workers only account for between 7 to 10 percent of the entire nursing population in the country, it is now estimated that they earn significantly more than female nurses in comparable roles. A new study, which was conducted by researchers with two major universities, used data from two separate studies over a 25-year period. Census and wage data, along with information on nursing specialties and levels of experience, was used to compare the earnings of male and female registered nurses.

California tips and gratuities guidelines

California state and federal employment law guidelines mandate a number of legal protections for employees. However, California labor laws go above and beyond federal statutes in some cases. State laws account for tips and gratuities paid to employees in several ways not addressed under federal statutes, for instance. That is why it is important for workers in the state to understand their legal rights when it comes to tips and gratuities.

According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, a tip is defined as money that is left by a customer for an employee in addition to or on top of the amount due for services offered. As a result, tips and gratuities belong to the employee or employees for which they were offered. California employers neither have the right to use tips as a portion of wages owed nor deduct tips from wages paid.

Right and wrongful discharge from the workplace

Given that California is considered an at-will employment state, your employer has the legal right to terminate your employment under a number of circumstances. That does not mean, however, that your employer is not obligated to abide by state and federal employment law guidelines. In addition to abiding by civil rights and anti-discrimination policies, California employers must base professional decisions relating to the terms of your employment on valid rules and concerns. After all, the attorneys at Kastner Kim, L.L.P., are all too familiar with the fact that many employers dismiss workers for unlawful or inappropriate reasons.

The California Employment Development Department explains that an employer must be able to illustrate a number of qualifications in order to legally dismiss an employee for misconduct. In order for your alleged violation to qualify as misconduct under the law, several requirements must be met. They can include but are not limited to:

  •          You were or should have been aware of the rule you violated
  •          The rule was reasonable
  •          Your violation could have or did contradict the employer’s interests
  •          Your violation was material
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