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More about exemptions from mandatory overtime requirements

Many employees in the San Diego area are affected by the mandatory overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In our last post, we discussed exemptions from these requirements that apply to executive and managerial personnel. This post will continue the discussion about how the law affects professional employees, computer employees and outside sales employees. As with managerial and executive jobs, the application of an overtime exemption depends upon the reality of the job as performed by the employee, not a label chosen by the employer. However, the lines that define these jobs are easier to draw than those of executive and managerial employees.

A "bona fide professional employee" is an employee whose compensation is not less than the 40th percentile of weekly earnings of full-time nonhourly workers in the lowest wage Census region. The work of a professional must require advanced knowledge in science or in a field of learning that typically requires a prolonged course of specialized instruction and requires various mental capacities, such as imagination, invention or creativity. This class typically includes doctors, lawyers, engineers, academics and similar occupations.

Understanding executive and administrative exemptions from FLSA

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act provides many protections for workers in San Diego. Understanding these protections can be an important way of ensuring fair and lawful treatment by employers. One of the most significant protections in the statute are the minimum pay and mandatory overtime protections. These laws require employers to compensate employees for overtime worked in excess of 40 hours per week at the rate of 1.5 times the worker's regular pay.

Employers frequently attempt to avoid this requirement by classifying employees as either executive employees or administrative employees because both classes of employees are exempt from the mandatory overtime requirements of the FLSA. The mere attachment of a label does not, however, provide an automatic exemption.

Age discrimination case raises important issue for older workers

A San Diego-based health care technology firm, CareFusion, has been sued in an important age discrimination case. While the plaintiff lives in Illinois, the outcome will affect age-discrimination cases all over the country, including California.

The plaintiff is a 58-year-old attorney with over 30 years of experience. He served as general counsel at a food company and CEO of a dairy products trade group. He had been unemployed for about three years when he saw an ad for a legal position from CareFusion, saying that it was looking for an attorney with "3 to 7 years" of relevant legal experience. The plaintiff thought that he could competently fill the position and submitted an application. The company never responded.

At-will employees and wrongful termination

Most employees in San Diego understand that they are hired on an "at-will" basis, that is, either party can terminate the employment relationship at any time without cause. This rule, however, has a several important exceptions that limit the employer's right to unilaterally fire at-will employees.

The most important exception to the at-will employment rule is the public policy exception. Most states, including California, allow employees to seek damages for wrongful termination if they can prove that the employer violated an important, explicit and well-established public policy of the state by firing the employee. For example, racial bias will make a discharge wrongful if it shown to be a motivating cause for the discharge. Another important example of wrongful discharge is firing a worker for filing a workers' compensation claim.

Two San Diego massage parlors cited for wage & hour violations

Most employers in San Diego understand that they must pay employees in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, a federal statute that requires employers to pay overtime for work in excess of 40 hours per week. Unfortunately, many employers attempt to circumvent the law by improperly classifying their employees. The United States Department of Labor recently announced that two Thai massage parlors in San Diego violated the statute by misclassifying their employees.

The Fair Labor Standards Act defines a number of positions that are exempt from the mandatory overtime requirements. Two types of exempt positions are management employees and independent contractors. Many employers believe that they have the power to classify employees in whatever manner they please and that they can place employees in exempt positions without penalty. The recent Labor Department announcement reveals the error in this assumption.

Sex discrimination case against Salk Institute heading for trial

Most employers facing claims of sex discrimination will try to seek "summary judgment," determining that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Summary judgment is a judicial proceeding in which the moving party must demonstrate that no material facts are disputed, and it is entitled to judgment in its favor as a matter of law. The Salk Institute in La Jolla made such a motion in a case originally begun by three female faculty members alleging workplace discrimination. Two of the three settled their claims, and the Salk used a motion for summary judgment to dispense with the third woman's claims.

The remaining plaintiff has alleged that she was subject to gender discrimination because she was treated differently than male faculty members. She has alleged that she was routinely excluded from meeting with private donors and representatives of foundations. She also alleged that the Salk routinely denied her professional advancement opportunities. The plaintiff is also contending that the Salk retaliated against her for suing the institute when it failed to renew her contract.

Burger chain faces lawsuit alleging gender discrimination

Many people throughout the country, including in California, may think that certain types of discrimination in the workplace are a thing of the past. Gender discrimination, for instance, may be one such example. However, all too often we are reminded that this type of discrimination can still occur.

According to a recent report, a California-based restaurant chain called "Burgers & Beers" is facing a lawsuit which allegations gender discrimination in the workplace. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and specifically alleges that male employees and applicants for employment faced discrimination which favored female employees instead.

Know your rights in a wage and hour dispute

Over the past few decades there have been many efforts to help ensure fair pay between men and women in the workplace. However, a wage and hour dispute isn't usually about any type of pay disparity based on gender; on the contrary, a wage and hour dispute is about getting the right pay that you are entitled to based on your agreed-to wage from your employer and your employment status.

Many wage and hour disputes arise when employers fail to recognize that a certain employee is entitled to overtime pay. Others are based on a failure to pay an employee the correct minimum wage under the law. There even disputes that arise based on conflicts about whether or not an employee should be paid wages while on a break from work.

Can retaliation be the basis for a wrongful termination claim?

No one in California enters a new job thinking about what could happen if they are fired. Most people go into a new job full of optimism. However, unless an employee is afforded certain protections by an employment contract, the only thing that stands between an employee's livelihood and an employer acting illegally is state and federal employment laws. When employees in California believe they have been wrongfully terminated from employment, they may need to turn to these laws to determine their options.

For example, can retaliation be the basis for a wrongful termination claim? Well, as with all legal situations, the initial answer is "it depends." So, what does such a claim depend on? In essence, the employee must claim that the employer terminated their employment relationship based on the employee engaging in fully lawful conduct, but perhaps conduct that the employer didn't like.

Some basics about employment contracts

Many employees in California have relationships with their employers that are governed by employment contracts. The terms of these contracts can be fairly extensive, governing most aspects of the duties and obligations expected from both sides. However, there are some basics about employment contracts that our readers should be familiar with.

For starters, almost all employment contracts will address the length of the term of employment and how employment can be terminated by either side. For instance, the employee may want to include a condition that they can leave at any time with no notice, while the employer will likely seek a defined period of time in which the services of the employee are exclusive to the employer.