Yesterday I talked about employers who get into trouble for having a "one size fits all" Employee Handbook that doesn't take into account the peculiarities of California law. Here's a real-life example based on a recent case of mine. The employer is nationwide, headquartered in New York. My client worked for a retail outlet in Los Angeles. She got pregnant, and asked how much leave time she could take. The employer told her that she could take 12 weeks total under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The employer failed to tell her that she was entitled to take four months' leave under California's Pregnancy Discrimination Leave Laws (PDLL) for disabilities related to pregnancy or childbirth. The Employee Handbook said nothing about the PDLL either. My client was unable to find childcare her first weekend back at work, so the employer fired her for "job abandonment." It turns out that the employer fired her more than a week before her four months of leave would have expired under the PDLL. Also, the California regulations provide that if an employer fails to give notice of an employee's rights under the PDLL, the employer cannot take any adverse action against the employee. We were able to settle the case before any depositions were taken for a confidential amount.
If you believe that your employer has fired you for taking leave related to pregnancy or childbirth, give us a call today to discuss your options.
We are putting the finishing touches on the firm and getting ready for our launch on June 1, 2017. Like any good plaintiff-side employment law firm, we paid special attention to our Employee Handbook. I know that there are a zillion things to do when starting a new business, and it's hard to make time for an Employee Handbook. But it's also critical to have clear and lawful policies in place from Day One so that you don't inadvertently break the law in the craze of starting up. For example, if you will have employees on Day One, it is really important to have a written break policy so that employees understand when to take breaks on their very first day of work. If you have part-time employees whose shifts will be completed in less than six hours, you might discuss with them whether they want to agree to a meal waiver. California law is pretty complicated when it comes to meal and rest breaks - even judges sometimes don't get it. One big mistake I regularly see is a multi-state employer based outside of California using a "one size fits all" Employee Handbook for its California employees. These "one size fits all" handbooks often miss important California-specific policies, such as for pregnancy leave or breaks. So, if you're starting up a new business, be sure to take some time to draft an Employee Handbook, preferably with assistance from an attorney who is familiar with California law.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.