County of Yolo, CA: The recent rash of assault allegations and actual charges against the Hollywood elite, actors, media personalities and even members of US Congress have succeeded in raising the bar when it comes to proper office and workplace decorum and behavior. The issue has become so sensitive and emotionally-charged that an unwanted hug can be interpreted – many say, correctly – as a form of sexual assault. One well-known Hollywood studio head has recently taken a leave of absence voluntarily in order to reflect on his habit of providing warm hugs at the office. For the employer in California, employees rights and compliance to labor laws speaking to sexual and physical harassment are of paramount importance.
Sacramento, CA: Last month the undocumented worker in the State of California won yet another series of protections from those seeking to send them packing for their place of origin, with the signing of Bill SB54 by Governor Jerry Brown October 5. While other states have passed laws in an attempt to better protect their immigrants and undocumented workers, TIME / AP (10/05/17) reports that SB54 is the most comprehensive basket of protections in the country, making California a so-called ‘sanctuary state.’
San Francisco, CA: A class action ERISA lawsuit that combines two separate cases is claiming that a provider of group health insurance is in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA, as amended 1974) as well as California state laws in denying coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatments.
Los Angeles, CA: A California wrongful termination lawsuit that also has overtones of sexual harassment and an inappropriate workplace environment was launched in September against NBCUniversal by a former employee of the media company.
San Diego, CA: A California wage and hour lawsuit that was originally put forward as a class action has been amended to allow class participants the opportunity to pursue their wage and hour claims individually. To that end, all class claims associated with the plaintiffs’ fourth amended complaint have been stricken, following approval by US Magistrate Judge Elizabeth D. Laporte earlier this month.
Squaw Valley, CA: The ski resort where a ski patroller died this past January has been cited by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health for safety code violations. Fines totaling $20,250 have been levied against the operators of Squaw Valley Ski Resort. The operator, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, is not commenting on the citations beyond sharing its intention to appeal the rulings.
Los Angeles, CA: A somewhat complex harassment and discrimination lawsuit underway in California pits a gifted academic from Taiwan against the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a trainer at the university who is alleged to have contributed to the plaintiff’s early exit from the school.
Sacramento, CA: It’s a sad commentary on the preparedness of employers that there are so many instances of litigation surrounding the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the state-centric California Family Rights Act (CFRA) given the wealth and breadth of knowledge available. An employer well-versed and conversant on the Acts, and the respective relationships between the two, can easily prevent an FMLA lawsuit from occurring. What’s more, the latest information is readily available to Human Resources Departments (HR) as well as the public at large.
And yet, according to the
It doesn’t have to be this way. The California Chamber itself provides excellent information on the subject, as well as the state government. Given the availability of this information to the general public, as well as online calculators provided by the State of California for the computing of benefits, an employee reasonably versed in the subject will already know his, or her rights when approaching an employer with a request for leave.
Were that request to be met with a resounding ‘no,’ the employee probably has a good idea about how to respond.
The federal FMLA has been around for some time, and provides qualifying employees with a window of leave for certain situations – most having to do with personal or familial illness, bonding with a newborn child, or other family-related health crises.
A number of states have also enacted state-centric Acts that serve to function as an adjunct to the FMLA, and California is no exception. The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) largely takes its cue from the federal FMLA, with one primary difference: whereas FMLA leave is not paid leave, the CFRA provides for compensation according to various qualifying criteria. This helps the employee to pay the bills and keep his, or her respective head above water financially while away on leave for an approved purpose.
As an example, a new father having met all the criteria and having earned a monthly, pre-tax income of $4,000 per month across an 18-month window would qualify for a weekly benefit of $508, or about half of his stated monthly earnings, for the duration of his leave.
The applicant, according to state guidelines must have welcomed a new child into the family in the past 12 months either through a partner’s pregnancy, adoption, or foster care; have paid into State Disability Insurance (noted as “SDI” on pay stubs) in the past 5 to 18 months; and not have taken the maximum six weeks of paid family leave in the past 12 months.
The paid leave, for this purpose, is identified as six weeks in duration. The time does not have to be taken all at once, but can be broken up. Applicants can easily go online and pursue more detailed eligibility criteria for CFRA leave to care for a seriously ill child, a parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, spouse, registered domestic partner, or to bond with a new child coming into the family.
Such information is also available to the employer, from a number of sources including the California Chamber of Commerce, or CalChamber, who say that requests for leave represent one of the most frequent requests made to the Human Resources Department of a qualifying employer.
At the same time, CalChamber says, the most common error made by employers and their HR departments is failure to grant legitimate requests for family and medical leave as required by federal (FMLA) and State (CFRA) laws.
To be fair, the relationship between CFRA and FMLA is not necessarily a simple one. In most situations the two Acts run concurrently and seamlessly, but not in all things. There are some instances where the Acts overlap, says CalChamber. In other circumstances, it is better to trigger a request through either FMLA or CFRA, but not both.
Sometimes, there are conflicts.
To that end it requires due diligence on the part of the Human Resources Department of a qualifying employer to remain conversant with all aspects of federal and state leave, in order to be in the best position possible to both guide the employee making a request for leave, and to ensure compliance in order to prevent a needless FMLA lawsuit.
As for the employee who comes up against roadblocks to a legitimate request for leave, the retention of a qualified attorney expert in the various nuances of CFLA and CFRA is prudent to ensure a legitimate request for leave is taken seriously, and duly honored.
Sacramento, CA: A corrections officer in the California State Prison, Sacramento who refuses to quit her job is suing The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for discrimination and for not responding to what plaintiff Meghan Frederick claims is a hostile work environment.
San Francisco, CA: Communications giant AT&T has been battling a compliance lawsuit for some time, defending itself against plaintiffs in a nationwide FLSA collective alleging AT&T misclassified them as independent contractors and thus, stiffed them out of overtime.