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Failure to Reimburse Employment Class Action

In California, where it seems that we are always on the road, there has been an increase in class action litigation against employers for the alleged failure to reimburse employees for business expenses, particularly mileage reimbursement.

For example, in a recent case involving prominent retailers, employees alleged that they were not reimbursed for mileage and other work-related travel expenses for:

  •     Daily bank deposits,
  •     Purchasing supplies for store events;
  •     Required travel between stores to attend meetings;
  •     Required travel between stores to provide staffing support; or
  •     Required travel to transfer inventory.

Are you reimbursing your employees for work-related travel?

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Non-Competes in California and Protecting Your Business’s Intellectual Property

Generally speaking, employee non-compete agreements are unenforceable in California. As we have discussed, there are certain exceptions to this rule; including the seller of a business’s goodwill or a membership interest in an LLC, and where the non-compete is necessary to protect an employer’s trade secret information. In our digital age, it is all too important for a business owner to strategically protect the business’s intellectual property portfolio.

Is your business’s non-compete valid?

A recent decision from a federal district court in Northern California shows what a fine line it is between valid and invalid non-competes.  In this case, a company sought a preliminary injunction against a former employee who had joined a competing company.  In addition to alleging a claim for trade secret misappropriation, the company accused the ex-employee of breaching his employment agreement which contained a non-compete/non-solicitation provision.  The provision at issue was an agreement by the employee that he would not solicit any customer “who purchased or leased products or services from [the Company] at any time during the 12 calendar months immediately preceding the termination of this agreement for any reason and for or with whom employee had contact, responsibility or access to confidential information related to” the customer. For more information on when customer lists become trade secrets, click here.

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EEOC and Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

What is Religious Discrimination?

Religious discrimination in the workplace involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs and/or treating someone differently because that person is married to (or associated with) an individual of a particular religion or because of his or her connection with a religious organization or group. California and federal law protects anyone who has sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs. Additionally, the law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, and fringe benefits.

Most employers are aware that they cannot discriminate against employees and applicants based on their religion. Where many employers are not so clear is their requirement to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee’s or applicant’s “sincerely held” religious beliefs, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the business’s operations. Common religious accommodations in the workplace include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices.

Workplace Policies that Could Discriminate

An employer must also examine their dress code policies to ensure that they are not infringing on employer’s religious beliefs. For example, if your business has a ‘no facial hair’ policy’ and you request that a job applicant who is a member of the Sikh faith shave his beard and refuse to hire him if he does not, you could have a potential claim for religious discrimination on your hands.

Another policy to examine relates to holy days, such as the Sabbath. If a key tenet of your employee’s faith is to observe Sabbath by refraining from secular work from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, as the employer, you must make reasonable accommodations for the person’s religious practices. Discuss how this might look with an experienced Orange County employment lawyer.

How Do I Know If My Workplace Policy Discriminates Against a Certain Religion?

If you are interested in accommodating all employees and avoiding claims of religious discrimination, a “one size fits all” policy for all employees may not be the best solution for your business. Speak to your legal counsel about whether your policies and practices provide a method for addressing the religious practices of your employees.

For more information on religious discrimination, contact the Orange County employment attorneys at Newport Trial Group today.

 

 

United States Supreme Court May Ultimately Decide Issue of Mandatory Union Fees for California Schoolteachers

Once again, unions are under fire in California. A lawsuit attacking mandatory union dues filed in Federal Court by a group of California public school teachers appears as if it may be headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. The case, filed last May, is currently pending in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), which governs almost all private sector employees, an employee cannot be required to be a member of a union or pay it any monies as a condition of employment unless “the collective bargaining agreement between the employer and the union contains a provision requiring all employees to either join the union or pay union fees.”

At issue in this case is a California law requiring teachers to join a union to gain employment, and to pay union dues in order to maintain their employment. While the teachers are allegedly able to opt out of paying dues that support non-union business or political activity, the group filing the lawsuit claims that exercising these opt-outs results in negative consequences and that the opt-outs themselves are not altogether comprehensive. As a result, the group is seeking an end to mandatory union membership and membership dues, arguing that they, the California Teacher’s Association, are free to pursue any agenda they wish without considering the views of the individual teachers that fund the union.

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What Issues Can An Employer Not Require An Employee to Arbitrate?

As we have discussed in previous posts, many Orange County business owners require that employees sign arbitration agreements at the outset of their employment. These agreements state that in the case an employment claim arises, the employer and employee agree to avoid court and head to arbitration to resolve the issue. While certain kinds of claims (such as workers’ compensation claims) must be excluded from agreements that require arbitration, as an arbitration agreement will not be enforced in California if it is both “procedurally unconscionable” and “substantively unconscionable”, both federal and California public policy favor arbitration as a form of alternative dispute resolution.

Arbitration is generally supposed to be faster, cheaper, and more predictable than litigation. Benefits many Orange County business owners appreciate.  However, in a recent case involving homebuilder D.R. Horton, none of these expectations came true. In its arbitration agreement, D.R. Horton prevented employees from suing in court and from bringing class-action claims in arbitration. A disgruntled employee took issue to this, bringing his fight to the National Labor Relations Board. Along with a class of similarly-situated employees, he sought alleged unpaid overtime wages.

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