All employers recognize the importance of taking steps to avoid inviting a wrongful termination lawsuit.  However, layoffs and firing are not the only aspects of employment law with which business owners must concern themselves.  It is just as crucial to comply with state and federal hiring laws, violations of which can result in civil penalties, litigation, and disruptions to productivity.  

If your business is preparing to hire new employees, or if you simply wish to review your current hiring policies to ensure compliance with state and federal law, the experienced employment attorneys of Bellatrix PC can assist.  We dedicate our practice to providing cost-efficient hiring solutions to corporations, limited liability companies, and partnerships at all stages of the business life cycle.  

To arrange for private consultation, call Bellatrix PC today at (800) 449-8992.

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How to Avoid Discriminatory Hiring Practices

California is an at-will employment state, which means – at least in theory – that employers are legally permitted to hire or terminate employees at any time, for any reason.  In practice, employers must avoid terminating (or selectively failing to hire) employees on a basis which constitutes discrimination.  

In other words, employers may not exclude from consideration job applicants based purely on their sex, sexual orientation, race, nationality, religion, age, or pregnancy.  If an employer discounts an otherwise qualified applicant based purely on his or her membership in a class which is protected by state or federal law, the employer may become vulnerable to a lawsuit based on sex discrimination, race discrimination, religious discrimination, or other forms of workplace discrimination.

Fortunately, by taking a few simple steps, employers can dramatically reduce the likelihood of accidentally engaging in hiring discrimination.  Regardless of the company’s size, nature, or legal structure, all employers should be sure to take the following precautions:

  • Make sure the job posting is as clear and detailed as possible.  List the skills, tasks, duties, experience levels, and education levels which will be expected of qualified hires.
  • Consider speaking to other business owners in your industry about their standards and expectations for prospective employees.  This will help you gauge the sorts of criteria and salary requirements which are reasonable for the position you are trying to fill.
  • When writing your job posting, exclude any explicit physical requirements which would automatically discount a group of people.  For example, while it is fine to note that applicants “must be able to lift at least 30 pounds” for a warehouse position, it is not acceptable to include statements like “seeking men only” or “applicants must be at least six feet tall.”
  • Take detailed notes during and immediately after the applicant’s interview.  This will facilitate an objective comparison of applicants after all interviews are complete.  
  • Do not make any statements referring to protected classes.  For example, do not bring up your company’s leave policy for pregnant employees.  If an applicant asks any questions related to a protected class, inform them it will not be a factor during the consideration of new hires.

Background Checks and Employee Screening Laws

The vast majority of employers screen prospective hires with some form of background check.  While background checks are increasingly common, employers are still required to comply with certain laws when screening job applicants.  

In October of 2013, SB 530 amended California’s labor laws to expand the legal protections afforded job applicants with criminal records.  SB 530, which took effect on January 1, 2014, prohibits both private and public employers from requiring job applicants to disclose arrests which did not lead to a criminal conviction.  Employers are also prohibited from:

  • “Utilizing [information concerning an arrest or detention that did not result in a conviction] as a factor in determining any condition of employment.”
  • Asking job applicants to disclose information pertaining to records which have been sealed, dismissed, or expunged.  

This further extends to questions about an applicant’s participation in any pre-trial or post-trial diversion programs, such as the “Back on Track” drug diversion program.

Updates to California’s Minimum Wage Requirements  

In the past, California’s minimum wage was set at $8.00 per hour.  However, California recently increased its minimum wage.  Effective July 1, 2014, California minimum wage is $9.00, $1.75 higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25, which is established by the Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA.  Employers should also be advised that California has already scheduled another minimum wage increase for January 1, 2016, at which point the current $9.00 rate will increase to $10.00.  

Exempt employees are typically paid on salary instead of receiving an hourly wage.  However, exempt employees – and in turn, their employers – are still affected by current and scheduled minimum wage increases.  Because exempt employees must be paid monthly compensation equivalent to at least twice the minimum wage, minimum wage increases also lead to increased monthly salary requirements for exempt employees.

Don’t expand your workforce until you consult with an experienced attorney.  Call the law offices of Bellatrix PC at (800) 449-8992 today to schedule a private consultation.  Ask about our Employer Protection.


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