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Santa Barbara Employment Law Blog

The Fair Labor Standards Act protects your rights

Being a worker in America is not always easy, and the fact that it is has been nine years since the minimum wage went up federally doesn't brighten the picture. As of July 24, 2018, the minimum wage in the United States has been $7.25 for nine years. At the time that it was raised, the country was in a recession. This made people wonder what the long-term effects would be on the economy and workers in America.

Today, the same questions are asked, and many states have had to take minimum wage into their own hands. It is always an argument about whether the minimum wage should be increased and what would happen if it was. There are some other things to know about the minimum wage, though.

What are reasonable accommodations?

If you are an employee in California who has a disability, an employer may not turn you down for a position, or fire you from an existing one, just because of your disability. In fact, federal regulations require that employers make reasonable accommodations for the employee so he or she can perform the job on an equal level to colleagues. These accommodations can come in different forms, from physical changes to work schedules to job reassignment.

According to the Department of Labor, reasonable accommodation refers to a modification to the work environment or specific position that enables the employee to successfully perform what is necessary for his or her job. These productivity enhancers may include:

  • Accessible and facilitating software or other technology
  • Changes to the work station and/or office spaces
  • Accessible communications
  • Policy changes such as a flexible work schedule or use of a service animal

Tips on decreasing harassment in the workplace

Although there are laws that prohibit workplace harassment in California and other states, it still occurs in certain establishments. Employers can do more to outline what constitutes harassment and make sure employees understand the consequences. Employees can also do their part to speak up when they observe situations involving harassment and come forward as witnesses in an investigation.

The Houston Chronicle reports that one of the best ways employers can show their support for a safe and comfortable work environment is to provide training to all levels of staff. It is best to have a written statement that explains the company's harassment policy as well as a demonstration, such as a video. A video should represent a similar industry and be up-to-date. A training session should include the following:

  • Procedure for reporting harassment
  • The steps for investigating a harassment allegation
  • Procedure for how complaints are resolved

What are the pay requirements for 12-hour shifts?

To help manage labor, ease scheduling headaches or to appease the needs of workers, some employers in California schedule 12-hour shifts. Employees need to understand what the rules are in regard to overtime, as they may not be eligible depending on the occupation or type of work. Working long shifts can also be detrimental in certain aspects, so workers should understand the risks before agreeing to 12-hour work days.

The State of California Department of Industrial Relations reports that overtime pay of one and one-half times the regular hourly rate must be paid for hours worked over eight hours in a day or 40 in a week. However, there are a number of exceptions that affect employees of different classifications. For example, healthcare employees may work up to 12 hours a day and not be subject to overtime. Anything over 12 hours is subject to double the regular rate. Daily overtime also does not apply at all for those in the following occupations:

  • Personal attendants
  • Camp counselors
  • Ambulance drivers
  • Resident managers

Women can commit sexual assault too

When people in California hear the phrases 'sexual harassment' or 'sexual assault', often the picture that comes to mind is a woman as the victim. While, of course, women are the victims of sexual assault, they can also be the perpetrators. In fact, it may be a bigger problem than many suspect.

According to the New York Times, Asia Argento was recently accused of sexually assaulting a minor male and arranging to pay off her accuser in installments. A director and actress, Ms. Argento was a leader of the #Metoo movement due to her accusations against Harvey Weinstein regarding rape and sexual assault. While the claim against her came out recently, the supposed assault against her accuser occurred years ago.

Here are 3 tips for understanding overtime and your paycheck

With overtime, it can sometimes be hard to know exactly how much you'll get paid. You worked over your 40-hour limit, so you should be receiving compensation at a rate of time and one-half for any hours over 40 in one week. Sometimes, depending on the cut-off times for paychecks and when your week starts and ends, there can be confusion about how much overtime you really worked.

It's always a good idea to keep track of your hours on your own and on the job. Here are a few helpful tips to use so you can avoid having to complain about lower paychecks than expected.

Long-term effects of workplace discrimination and harassment

Although workplace discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace is against the law in California and the rest of the country, it still occurs in many companies. Studies over time have concluded that not only do these negatively affect the employee's income and reputation, but there are also long-term mental and health effects.

According to The Journals of Gerontology, women who have experienced age discrimination in the workplace have issues with their mental health throughout their lives. Discrimination due to age often causes financial strain which can lead to symptoms of depression and a lower self-esteem. Many also report they have lower overall life satisfaction. Although men can be affected by age discrimination, women especially are at risk for declining mental health symptoms.

Advantages and disadvantages of an independent contractor

If you live in California and are considering being an independent contractor (IC) it is important you understand what it means. While there are distinct benefits to this employment classification, there are also some downfalls. For some workers it is a great arrangement, while for others being an employee may be the better fit.

According to the Chronicle, one of the biggest advantages of an independent contractor is you get to call the shots. You choose which projects you take, what your hours are, how many vacations you take and where you work. There is also no income ceiling. You can work as much as you want and you are not confined to salary limits. There are also tax advantages, as you can deduct your business-related expenses and no taxes are taken out of your paycheck.

Is the #metoo movement bad for women?

Women in California and all over the world are feeling more empowered thanks to the #MeToo movement. This phenomenon has resulted in many women admitting they have experienced inappropriate and unwanted touching, sexual harassment and sexual assault from men in the workplace and beyond. While many are hoping this will result in more equality for women, the reality is sadly it may have made things worse for women and their chances of landing jobs of high importance.

ABC Action News talks about why a former CEO thinks this movement is going to take women backwards in their careers. He said that some CEOs are currently making decisions that will prevent them from potentially getting accused of wrongdoings in the future. These changes include not taking meetings with women unless others are present. The fear is hiring decisions will be made based on gender, which means that equally qualified women may be passed over due to the fear of future repercussions.

Reasons why sexual harassment is not always reported

With the #MeToo movement making a splash throughout California and the rest of the country, more women continue to come forward to report sexual harassment and misconduct by high-profile figures. Some of the cases involve situations from years ago, which causes some to wonder why the women did not come forward earlier when the supposed misconduct occurred. Turns out there are numerous reasons why females do not report, and there is still a lot of work that needs to be done around this subject.

Business Insider reports of recent accusations of sexual misconduct by the CBS chairman and CEO. Six women, so far, have come forward to accuse him of intimidation and sexual advances back in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of the women say that as a result of their rebuffs, they were terminated or otherwise had their careers threatened.


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