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Palo Alto Employment Law Blog

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

Is my employer allowed to reduce my pay?

If you are paid on a salary-basis in the state of California, you may appreciate the fact that your wages are fairly stable. Not only do you not have to worry about how a slow sales week could impact your paycheck but you can pretty much anticipate your earnings from pay period to pay period. What happens, then, if your paycheck reflects an unexpected decrease in your salary? Here is some general information relating to legal and unlawful salary practices in the state.

Yahoo Finance! explains that the Fair Labor Standards Act outlines the conditions under which employers can reduce salary pay in the state of California. Since your salary is predetermined and not actually dependent upon how many hours you work during any given shift or pay cycle, your employer is generally prohibited from altering the amount that you earn. For instance, your employer is not allowed to reduce your salary because business has slowed or your workload has temporarily decreased. He or she is also not allowed to pay you less if you are absent for business-related travel.

Effectively negotiating an employment agreement

The attorneys at the law office of Kastner Kim, L.L.P., understand just how important it is for their clients to establish employment contracts that not only provide them with the incentives they are hoping for but also the employment protections they deserve. If you are currently considering applying for a new job position or are being sought out by a prospective employer, it can be incredibly helpful to approach any contract negotiations that may occur with a few key points in mind.

Business News Daily explains that you should enter into the negotiation process feeling prepared and confident. You should already feel pretty good about yourself since you are in the position to actually have a discussion about your employment expectations and desires. Beyond that, negotiations give you the opportunity to illustrate your unique level of knowledge and skills when it comes to your position and industry.

Employment law guidelines for disability accommodations

In the state of California alone, millions of people with significant and/or permanent physical impairments contribute to the workforce. And while a large number of cognitive and physical disabilities do not require any kind of assistance on the part of employers, many employees do need reasonable accommodations in order to do their jobs effectively. As a result, serious questions often arise over when and how California state employment law guidelines apply to employers and workers with disabilities.

Discussing legal protections extended to workers with disabilities, the California Department of Industrial Relations website explains that many people are not eligible to receive reasonable accommodations in their working environment. Not every form of disability is recognized under state law as requiring assistance. Therefore, a person must be identified as legally disabled before he or she can request an accommodation.

California punitive damages award tests lawsuit bounds

When an employment law dispute results in a legal judgment in favor of the plaintiff, both compensatory and punitive damages can be awarded in some cases. Compensatory damages account for actual financial losses, while punitive damages serve another purpose altogether. One major retailer is challenging a California workplace discrimination verdict worth hundreds of millions of dollars in punitive damages.

Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are intended to penalize liable parties for wrongdoing. In cases involving unlawful discrimination against workers, punitive damages awards hold employers financially responsible for imposing upon the civil rights of employees. Regarding a recent wrongful termination verdict awarding $185 million in punitive damages to a former AutoZone Inc. manager, an expert noted that the huge judgment was meant to send a message to other large corporations.

The Equal Pay Act and wage disparities

Despite the fact that the Fair Labor Standards Act was instituted in 1938, countless workers across the state of California and the entire country continue to be subjected to unlawful employment and wage practices. Pay disparities between male and female workers prevail in industries everywhere, illustrating that more can and should be done to promote employment equality for all.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website explains that the Equal Pay Act is an amendment that was made to the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1963. The Equal Pay Act prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of their gender by mandating that employers pay male and female workers the same wages for the same work and work skills. Under the federal guideline, employees who exhibit comparable levels of responsibility, job performance and experience must receive comparable wages, no matter their gender. An employer is therefore not allowed to pay a qualified female worker less than her male counterpart on the basis of her sex.

What is the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act?

If you are entitled to group healthcare coverage through your employer, it is important that you understand your legal rights as a California worker and healthcare insurance consumer. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act is an important component of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and extends legal protections to a huge number of workers and their families across the country.

The United States Department of Labor website explains that federal COBRA guidelines apply to most employers with at least 20 employees in the private sector, along with many local and state governments. Therefore, if you are not employed by a church organization or the federal government, you and your family could be covered under COBRA regulations regarding the continuation of group healthcare coverage.

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