Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Very Real and Very Costly for Employers

150212-sexualharassment-stockWhile sexual harassment has been in everyone’s vocabulary since Dolly Parton’s Nine to Five graced screens in 1980, it has become a topic of increased importance and media coverage as more and more sexual harassment claims are brought against celebrities such as Bill Cosby, President-Elect Donald Trump, and former President Bill Clinton.  While you or your employees may not identify with these over-the-top personalities in positions of power, sexual harassment claims are very real and very expensive.

For example, a recent claim against the popular P.F. Chang’s China Bistro chain cost the company $1 million in response to two employees’ claims that they were repeatedly sexually harassed and were subjected to a hostile work environment. According to the arbitrator’s written order, both women said they were subjected to offensive comments and conduct from the male kitchen staff at the restaurants, including jokes about sex, remarks about female workers’ bodies, and kissing and whistling noises aimed at female employees as they walked by. In addition, one of the women said she saw a group of male kitchen employees watching a pornographic video on a smartphone, and she frequently heard the cooks singing sexually explicit songs in the rear of the restaurant in University City.  The reality is that these activities occur more often than you might think.

To continue reading about the risks of sexual harassment in the workplace and how to protect yourself as an employer, continue reading our article in the December issue of the California Employer’s Report. Continue reading

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DOL Rule Increasing Minimum Salary Requirements for Exempt Employees Now on Hold Per Court Order

gavelLast month, we discussed how the Department of Labor (DOL) was scheduled to implement a new rule that would increase the minimum salary requirements for exempt employees.  The new rule published by the DOL would have doubled the minimum salary requirements for employees from $455/week to $913/week. This rule was supposed to take effect on December 1, 2016; however, employers can breathe easy for a bit longer.

On November 22, 2016 a federal judge from the United States District Court in Texas temporarily blocked implementation of the rule, in response to a request by 21 states and business groups.  This delay is temporary, while litigation continues and the court makes a determination as to whether the DOL has the authority to implement such a rule. Continue reading

New DOL Rule Increases Minimum Salary Requirements for Exempt Employees Starting 12/01/16

12/01/16: This Rule is currently on hold, per court order. Please read the latest article for news updates on this topic.

On May 23, 2016, the Department of Labor announced a new, final rule that will take effect on December 1, 2016. To the relief of employers, the new rule does not make any changes to the criteria for classifying employees as exempt. Employers can continue to classify employees as exempt or non-exempt under the same duties tests and criteria they used in the past. However, the principal change comes in the form of several heightened minimum salary requirements.

The DOL estimates that in the first year as many as 4.2 million workers would either need to: (1) be reclassified as non-exempt and paid overtime whenever they work more than 40 hours in a workweek; or (2) receive an increase in their salary to meet the new requirement.

exempt-well-maybeUnder the new rule, the minimum annual salary for exempt employees will more than double, from $23,660 ($455 per week) to $47,476 ($921 a week). The minimum annual salary for highly compensated employees will also increase from $100,000 to $134,004. Furthermore, these minimums will continue to automatically increase every three years.

In a new addition to the rule, employers will now be permitted to satisfy up to 10 percent of the annual salary level through non-discretionary bonus and incentive payments, including commissions. Payments to health insurance policies, however, may not be used to satisfy the salary requirement. Continue reading

When and How Must an Employee Be Compensated for Travel Time?

businessman at the airport

There are various factors that influence whether an employee must be compensated for his or her travel time to a new work site, or for off-site employment activity. One of the main factors to consider is whether the employee is actually engaging in travel as part of the employer’s principal activity or, whether the employee is engaging in travel for the convenience of the employer.

At the federal level, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the primary law governing travel pay. The standard asks whether the employee’s time is spent primarily for the benefit of the employer. It also includes time spent, even if not doing work, but under the control of the employer, such as on-site, on-call time.

Pursuant to California’s Labor Code, the standard comes down to whether the employee is

subject to the control of the employer; the concept of “control” is narrower than federal standard. While the federal and state laws overlap, California’s Labor Code is of course generally more liberal and more protective of employees.

California Law

The definition of hours worked is found in the Industrial Welfare Commission Orders, and refers to the time during which the employee is subject to the control travel-timeof an employer, and includes all the time the employee is “suffered or permitted to work,” whether or not required to do so. State law does not distinguish between hours worked during the “normal” working hours, or hours worked outside “normal” working hours, nor does it distinguish between hours worked in connection with an overnight out-of-town assignment. Continue reading