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Palo Alto Employment Law Blog

Same-sex marriage and ERISA guidelines

Even though same-sex marriage is legal in the state of California, many people still have questions and concerns over their eligibility for employment benefits once only extended to opposite-sex couples. An important federal ruling on same-sex marriage applied significant amendments to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, helping to ensure that same-sex married couples are entitled to ERISA protections.

In a news release published by the United States Department of Labor in the fall of 2013, it was announced that title I of ERISA would include legally married same-sex couples. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling prompted the change in interpretation of ERISA, which was altered to identify same-sex married couples as spouses under federal guidelines. Under the new application of title I of ERISA, a same-sex marriage would be considered valid as long as the couple in question married in a foreign jurisdiction or US state where same-sex marriage is legal.

Wrongful termination case challenges employment law protections

Despite the fact that California state and federal employment guidelines extend legal protections to a huge number of workers, some forms of discrimination are not yet identified as illegal. For instance, questions continue to be raised over whether or not gender identity is considered a protected class under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced that title VII of the Civil Rights Act does prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of transgender status. However, no official federal statute or Supreme Court decision has settled the issue. As a result, a major retailer claims that current employment law guidelines do not identify transgender status as a protected class.

2015 California employment law highlights

While the New Year ushers in important personal changes and goals for California residents, it also marks the inauguration of a number of new state laws. In fact, several significant employment law guidelines are officially in effect, extending legal protections to specific groups of California workers and protecting more employees against workplace discrimination than ever before.

The list of new employment law guidelines going into effect in the state of California this year is long, and is punctuated by several significant policies regarding retaliation and unlawful discrimination in the workplace. Two laws address discrimination against workers on the basis of immigration status. AB 2751 prohibits employers from filing or threatening to file an untrue complaint with a state or federal agency over a worker’s supposed immigration status. AB 1660 protects undocumented workers from being discriminated against by their employer on the basis of their newly issued state driver’s licenses.

What is the Wage Theft Protection Act?

California workers can be placed in an incredibly difficult situation when their employer wrongfully withholds or manipulates their earned wages and/or benefits. That is why the state has implemented a number of legal guidelines mandating proper pay practices. If you have questions or concerns about your employment and wages, it can be helpful to review the standards set by the Wage Theft Protection Act.

According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, the Wage Theft Protection Act was enacted in the state in an effort to amend and reinforce current wage laws and labor code protections in 2012. One of the key provisions of the new law mandated that nonexempt employers provide new employees with the terms of their wages. Consequently, your employer may be required to provide you with information relating to your:

Merger and acquisition-related employment law issues

As an executive or high-ranking employee, you likely feel a great deal of pride and responsibility for your work and professional achievements. In fact, the terms of your employment contract probably reflect thoughtful negotiations between you and your employer. And while you may feel confident that your established pay and employment benefits are appropriate for your contributions, the attorneys at Kastner Kim, L.L.P., are all too familiar with the fact that a corporate merger or acquisition can have a profound impact on employee pay and rights.

Serious employment law concerns can be raised when companies engage in significant changes. If your company recently acquired another business, for instance, your employer may attempt to change your position and/or alter the terms of your employment agreement. And in the event that you are expected by your employer to accept less favorable terms, you may be compelled to explore your legal rights.

Employment law guidelines and contract workers

Despite the fact that California state and federal guidelines extend a number of vital legal protections to workers, some are still left vulnerable to unfair employment practices. For many, the key to being protected against illegal workplace conditions is being identified as an employee instead of a contract or contingent worker.

In discussing the difference between a contract worker and an employee, the California Department of Industrial Relations concedes that a hard-set distinction does not exist. In fact, a large number of workers across the state and beyond are inadvertently or intentionally classified by their employers as independent contractors even though they should be identified as employees. In order to determine whether someone is an employee or independent contractor, employment law agencies often consider several factors, including:

Considering severance pay in California

The true value of severance pay was undoubtedly understood by countless people across the state of California in recent years, as the state faced record layoffs and unemployment rates. The negotiation and inclusion of severance packages in employment contracts can go a long way to safeguard financial security for employees, and are an important aspect of executive compensation. Having a realistic understanding of what can and cannot be expected in a severance package can allow prospective and current employees to maintain control over their employment benefits and rights.

While many employers do offer some sort of severance pay as a condition of employment, the California Department of Industrial Relations points out that the state does not implement or enforce severance pay guidelines. Such benefits are offered at the discretion of the employer and can be subject to federal employment law policies in some cases. Even so, the terms of a severance package outlined in an employment contract are generally legally enforceable.

What is immigration status discrimination?

If you are legally allowed to work in the state of California, or anywhere else in the U.S., your prospective or current employer is prohibited from discriminating against you on the basis of several protected classes. And while many people are familiar with the fact that employers cannot base hiring or disciplinary decisions on their race or religion, some are unaware of other forms of unlawful discrimination. Nonexempt workers everywhere are protected from being discriminated against on the basis of their immigration or citizenship status.

Discussing the forms of workplace discrimination that are recognized under federal law, workplacefairness.org defines immigration or citizenship status discrimination according to the Immigration Reform and Control Act. You may be experiencing discrimination, for instance, if you are fired or denied employment because an employer questions your citizenship. Similarly, your prospective employer is not allowed to require that you provide him or her with additional or different documentation of your legal employment eligibility.

Holiday pay guidelines for the state of California

For many workers across the state of California, the holiday season offers the promise of pay bonuses and other employment rewards. And while some employers take it upon themselves to offer employees some kind of overtime incentive or holidays off from work with pay, others do not. That is why it is so important for workers to understand California legal guidelines regarding overtime and holiday pay this winter season.

The Society for Human Resource Management explains that adult, nonexempt workers are protected by state regulations mandating work hours and overtime wages. According to state guidelines, an employee is eligible for overtime pay once he or she works more than eight hours in one shift or more than 40 hours in one six-day workweek. Overtime pay is defined as one and one-half times the average pay rate when it applies to shifts lasting between 8 to 12 hours, and increases to double pay after that.

Is it bad to negotiate pay during a job interview?

If you are like so many people across the state of California currently looking for a job, you may know just how stressful and time-consuming the process can be. Effectively engaging in a job interview can make the difference between gaining valuable employment and being denied. And being able to discuss and negotiate your perspective compensation can go a long way to ensure that you achieve the position, and wages, that you want.

Despite the fact that you may be reluctant to bring up the conversation of pay and benefits at any point during your interview process, salary.com explains that it is an entirely reasonable thing to do in most cases. In fact, negotiating your perspective salary and incentives early can be beneficial to both you and your employer. Before you ever bring up the topic of your desired wages, however, it’s important to have an accurate and realistic idea of what your position typically pays. Your particular education, experience and job skills should be factored into the equation so that you can negotiate more effectively too.

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