California News & Analysis

  • LA jury awards $2.9 million for failure to provide reasonable accommodation

    A Los Angeles jury rejected an employee's disability discrimination claim but found in her favor on her reasonable accommodation and interactive process claims. The jury awarded her $2,899,670, and the court awarded $503,273.50 in attorneys' fees. The employer appealed the judgment on the grounds that the employee failed to establish a reasonable accommodation was available for her disability.

  • California's unconscionability test is alive and well

    With the courts looking at likely delays as they catch up from COVID-19-related shutdowns, arbitration becomes more appealing for parties looking for a quick resolution without spending time in the courthouse. The California courts of appeal have been pretty predictable in how they enforce arbitration agreements, although we likely will be hearing more from the California Supreme Court on the issue soon.

  • Cupid meets COVID: Harassment threat remains during pandemic

    The days leading up to Valentine's Day are often the time for deliveries of roses and chocolates all over the office. The holiday for sweethearts also can spark talk of office relationships, which sometimes can turn into headaches for HR. Of course, this year is different. But how different, really? With many offices still empty, flirtatious coworkers aren't so obvious, although they may still be out there harassing coworkers remotely. Certainly, socially distanced colleagues can still cross the line and pose sexual harassment problems.

  • Navigating workplace wellness programs in the age of COVID

    We're early enough in 2021 that New Year's resolutions are still top of mind for many people, and workplace wellness programs may be seeing renewed interest. But as with so many aspects of life, COVID-19 is changing normal practice. In past years, employers may have brought in experts on nutrition, weight loss, or other health-related topics to conduct seminars for interested employees. Or employees may have organized lunchtime walking sessions to get some exercise and fresh air. Lately, however, the coronavirus has overshadowed the more typical health topics and sparked the need for a different kind of program.

  • Trump administration critiques provide chance for civil service reform

    The state's current civil service system is a complicated, inflexible, and highly bureaucratic set of rules, regulations, and policies that has been slow to adapt to generational and demographic changes in the workforce and to emerging trends in the workplace. As a result, California is not optimally positioned to consistently recruit and retain the best and brightest, properly train and support employees to perform to their highest potential, and plan for the succession of future leaders —all key characteristics of a strong and nimble civil service system.

  • Employers weighing whether to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations

    A limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine will become available before the end of 2020. While that is good news for those of us who look forward to returning to our favorite prepandemic activities, it presents difficult questions for employers: Can you require employees to be vaccinated? Should you do so? Like most things in 2020, the answer isn't easy.

  • Dealing with hostile work environment claims in a work-from-home world

    An October 2020 article on harassment in the work-from- home world identified eight "red flag" signs of misconduct. "Just like the working environment has changed to a home-based environment, so has workplace harassment," the article observed, warning "workplace harassment that follows [employees] into their homes can have devastating impacts on their mental well-being, as well as on their family." As of now, we don't know if the increase in remote working will accelerate the resurgence of hostile environment claims. Yet it almost certainly will alter how you investigate and defend them and, more important, how you modify your policies and train to prevent wrongful conduct irrespective of location.

  • Baby, it's COVID outside: how to return to work safely after the holidays

    It's the holiday season, when the kids arrive home from college, the Griswolds take vacation, and Santa Claus comes to town. But for many, the most wonderful time of the year has become a cause for concern. With COVID-19 cases on the rise and family gatherings inevitable, you may be worried the virus will spread in your workplace faster than holiday cheer. Don't have a blue Christmas. Instead, plan now to keep your workplace safe by revisiting your coronavirus policies.

  • Promoting workplace diversity: What's legal and what works

    Motivated by a summer of protests as well as a recognition of inequality in their ranks, a number of high-profile corporations recently committed to make their workforces—especially their leadership—more diverse. But those efforts raised red flags after President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) in September that questioned the legality of some of those commitments. Lawsuits aimed at quashing the order soon followed. Even if the order survives court challenges, there's little doubt that as president, Joe Biden will rescind it. But the order, which affected federal employers and private-sector employers that do business with the federal government, left many employers wondering how to best accomplish their diversity goals in a politicized environment.

  • Be on guard as retaliation claims rise

    A recent report from the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) includes a startling statistic about how often employees say they experience retaliation after reporting instances of sexual harassment. The organization found that 72% of workers who experienced sexual harassment said they also faced retaliation. That should be a warning to employers to make sure managers know the seriousness of retaliation charges and how to avoid them.