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If you are opening a new California business or expanding an existing operation, you may be hiring workers for the first time. You must abide by the state’s wage and hour laws to avoid a costly lawsuit.

Review and understand the required break and lunch periods for California employees.

Meal periods

State law mandates a meal break of at least 30 minutes for every five hours an employee works. However, you and the worker can agree to skip the meal break if he or she works less than six hours. The same rule applies to waive a second meal break after at least 10 but less than 12 hours of work.

The employee can agree to an on-duty meal period. You do not have to allow employees who work through a meal break to leave early, but you must pay a worker for this type of break. For unpaid meal breaks, the person must be completely free of duty for the entire time.

Exceptions

If you manage California workers in the motion picture industry, they cannot work more than six hours without a 30-to-60-minute meal break. You must allow employees to take a second meal break if they are still working within six hours of the end of the first meal break.

If your company fails to meet these meal break requirements, affected employees can file a claim with the state’s Division of Labor. If the complaint has merit, you must pay the affected workers one hour of pay for every past workday on which they did not get a meal break.

Despite your attempts to comply with all local, state and federal regulations regarding employment, you may eventually find yourself in dispute with a current or former employee. Alternative dispute resolution techniques are available in place of litigation and offer benefits to you and your employee alike.

There are multiple ADR options available. Among those often used are arbitration and mediation. Though they seem similar on the surface, they are fundamentally different.

Arbitration

Arbitration is similar to litigation in that a third party presides over the proceedings and makes a decision after hearing both sides present their cases. In many instances, the arbitrator’s decision is legally binding, meaning that both you and your employee must abide by it.

Arbitration is different from litigation in that it takes place in a less formal setting and is often less expensive.

Mediation

The goal of mediation is for both parties to work together to come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial. Mediation is confidential and voluntary. Once the process has begun, either party can choose to put a stop to it. Nothing discussed during mediation needs to become part of the public record after the fact, which is beneficial if it involves matters that may be sensitive or embarrassing for either you or your employee.

Like arbitration, mediation involves a neutral third party. However, the mediator’s role is different from that of the arbitrator in that he or she tries to facilitate productive discussions between the two parties. The mediator does not make any decisions or judgments about the case as the arbitrator does. Like arbitration, mediation is less expensive than litigation and does not take as long, typically requiring only one session.

If your company is lacking in diversity, it could signal a need for a diversity initiative. After all, you do not want to violate (or appear to violate) anti-discrimination statutes.

The ACLU notes that the law allows you to set inclusion goals as long as you are careful to keep these in compliance with the law.

Raising the numbers

A number is low if you have a significant imbalance between how many members of a protected group work in your company versus how many work in the labor pool for that particular job outside your company. Your goal is to identify the barriers that have kept the number low in your company and eliminate those through tailored measures.

Setting numerical goals

You cannot set a specific quota or set a certain number of jobs aside for the protected class. For example, you cannot reserve the next six positions for a specific protected class. However, you can set short-term goals such as achieving a measurable statistical improvement each year until you have reached the percentage that meets the larger goal.

Choosing qualified applicants

If you choose not to hire people outside that demographic even though they are more qualified, or fire them to free up a certain number of jobs so you can fill them with the protected class, this causes undue harm. You can only fill relevant positions with people from the protected class who have the qualifications necessary to perform the job.

Identifying solutions

You may need to hire more people, but perhaps part of the problem is the lack of training within the company or biases in the promotion process. You may need to hire a professional from outside the company to assess these factors and help you to identify barriers and solutions.