It is important for employers in California to make sure that their front-line managers dealing with employees on a day-to-day basis are knowledgeable about different employment issues that routinely come up in the employment context. This week’s Friday’s Five covers five areas that employers should review with their managers to ensure they inform the appropriate executives about any potential issues in the workplace:
1. At-will employment
Under California law, it is presumed that all employment is terminable at-will. California Labor Code section 2922 provides: “An employment, having no specified term, may be terminated at the will of either party on notice to the other.” The at-will doctrine means that the employment relationship can be terminated by either party at any time, with or without cause, and with or without advanced notice. There are some major exceptions to this rule, but generally California law recognizes that employers and employees may, at any time, and for any legal reason, terminate the employment relationship. Of course managers should consult with human resources or the appropriate executive before terminating an employee, but managers need to understand that they can terminate employees with or without cause and should be trained on the legal parameters of at-will employment.
2. Anti-harassment, discrimination and retaliation
California employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide at least two hours of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment to all supervisory employees who are employed as of July 1, 2005, and to all new supervisory employees within six months of assuming a supervisory position. All covered employers must provide sexual harassment training and education to each supervisory employee once every two years. In 2015, California requires that a portion of the training also address “abusive conduct.” More information about what topics must be covered in the training, who qualifies to provide the training, as well as other requirements about the training can be found here.
Managers should also be trained about the employer’s obligation to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
3. Timekeeping requirements
California law requires employers to track start and stop times for hourly, non-exempt employees. The law also requires employer to track the start and stop times for the employee’s thirty minute meal periods. The time system needs to be accurate, and the employer needs to be involved in the installation and setup of the system. Do not simply use the default settings for the hardware and software. Understand what the system is tracking and how it is recording the data. Since the statute of limitations for California wage and hour violations can extent back four years, it is recommended that employers take steps to keep these records at least four years. Employers should also have a complaint procedure in place and regularly communicate the policy to employees in order to establish an effective way to remedy any issues.
4. Meal and rest break requirements
As I’ve written about many times previously, employers must have a compliant meal and rest break policy. Indeed, given the California Supreme Court’s ruling in Augustus v. ABM Security Services in December 2016, employers should review their rest beak policy to ensure it complies with this ruling.
5. Responding to requests for records and legal notices
There are many different Labor Code provisions that obligate the employer to provide current and former employees with a copy of their personnel files and/or payroll records. For example, Labor Code section 432 permits employees to obtain a copy of any document they signed, Labor Code section 1198.5 allows current and former employees to obtain copies of their personnel records, and Labor Code section 226(c) permits employees to inspect or copy payroll records within 21 days after making a request to do so.
Managers need to be trained to immediately inform management or Human Resources about any requests to obtain these records by current and former employees. In addition, managers should be trained to immediately report receiving any legal notices, including the following:
- PAGA Notice: Employees seeking recovery under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) must comply with requirements that place the Labor and Workforce Development Agency and the employer on notice that the employee will be seeking remedies under the Act and give the Agency a chance to investigate.
- Labor Commissioner or DOL investigation notice.
- Subpoenas from third parties.
- Service of a complaint.