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Hostile Workplace: When Does Vulgarity Cross The Line?

It’s not always easy to know when inappropriate behavior becomes illegal harassment. While a single offensive comment alone may not be enough to justify a claim, there isn’t always a clearcut test for harassment. In the accompanying story beginning on page 1, the jury found that racial harassment had occurred, but the results in similar […]

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Exempt Workers: High Court Clarifies Rules On Pay Docking Policies; Why You Should Review Yours Now

You probably know that docking the pay of an employee who is exempt from overtime is fraught with risk-the person could lose their exempt status and you could have to begin paying overtime, as well as back overtime for up to three years. And some courts have said that merely having a written policy giving […]

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Medical Marijuana: Fired Employee Files First Challenge To New Law

In January, we reported on the impact California’s Proposition 215, the Medical Marijuana Initiative, will have on the workplace. Prop. 215 allows marijuana use if it is recommended, orally or in writing, by a physician. But there are many unanswered questions, including when the use of medical marijuana can be grounds for termination and how […]

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Investigating And Terminating Employees: How One Employer Did It Right

Every time you fire someone, you run the risk of being sued. But your chances of getting hit with a big jury verdict or a hefty legal bill defending yourself can be drastically reduced with proper planning. That’s what one employer found when, because it carefully laid the groundwork to dismiss an employee accused of […]

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Racial Harassment: Employer Ordered To Pay $1.9 Million; Why Teasing Even Among “Friends” Can Land You In Court

Good-natured banter is part of the normal work environment. But when the teasing takes on racial or sexual overtones, you can be sued for millions of dollars-even if everyone laughingly participates in the give-and-take. That’s what happened to a Los Angeles employer who failed to intervene when kidding crossed the line and became illegal workplace […]

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News Notes: Court To Review Microsoft Independent Contractor Case

Late last year, software giant Microsoft Corp. was ordered by a federal Court of Appeal to extend retroactive pension and stock purchase benefits-potentially worth millions of dollars-to employees improperly classified as independent contractors. (See CEA November 1996.) But now, the court says it will reconsider its decision-a potentially positive signal for Microsoft. A change in […]

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News Notes: Help On New Health Insurance Laws Available

Several federal laws affecting employee health benefits were added last year, including the Health Insurance Portability Act, the Mental Health Parity Act and the Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act. To help clear the confusion about these complex regulations, the U.S. Department of Labor has issued a booklet that answers some of the most common […]

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News Notes: Race Discrimination Claim Upheld, Damages Reduced

In 1994, we reported on the case of a black engineer and his supervisor who sued Hughes Aircraft. The engineer claimed he was denied promotions and raises because of his race. His supervisor charged that managers pressured him to fabricate negative performance reviews about the engineer, and when he refused to comply, turned him down […]

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News Notes: High Court Bars Retaliation By Employers Against Ex-Workers

The U.S. Supreme Court has just handed employers one more reason to keep quiet when asked to give a job reference for a former employee. Charles Robinson sued Shell Oil Co. for race discrimination after he was fired. Later, when Shell gave him a negative reference, he filed a second lawsuit charging that the bad […]

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News Notes: Insurance Commissioner Seizes Workers’ Comp Insurer

The state Insurance Commissioner has taken over control of Golden Eagle Insurance Co., California’s third largest workers’ compensation carrier. The action grew out of concerns about Golden Eagle’s financial solvency. The Insurance Commissioner is optimistic that several insurers will join together to operate Golden Eagle’s business through a new company, San Diego Casualty Insurance Co. […]

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