Northern California Employment & Personal Injury Law Blog

Employment & personal injury law news, insights, and information.

Fair Treatment by Your Union

Many employees are part of a labor union. Usually, a contract (often called a memorandum of understanding or collective bargaining agreement) includes what a union must do for its members.

A union member can sue the union for poor representation. However, there are very narrow grounds for bringing that lawsuit. The union has a “duty of fair representation” to the workers it represents. But the union’s actions must fall into one of three categories to break the law. A worker can bring a case if the union treats the employee in ways that are either:

  1. arbitrary: there is no reason for the union not to grieve your matter;
  2. discriminatory: the refusal to help is based on the worker’s race, gender, religion, etc.; or
  3. in bad faith: a union official refuses to grieve because s/he doesn’t like the member.

The duty of fair representation does not require that the union be competent. The union need not appeal an employee’s claim. In general, this claim is a very hard one to prove in court.

Employment Law Attorney John Furstenthal helps clients throughout the East Bay Area, California from his office in Contra Costa County. To schedule a free initial consultation, please call (925)-284-1718 or fill out our onine form today!

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Rules About Uniforms for Employees in California

Many employees need to wear uniforms, from chain employees to firefighters. Who pays for the uniforms? Who cleans them?

California law answers these and other questions. First, an employee can force employees to wear uniforms. Second, an employer usually must provide the uniform. However, if the uniform is consistent with other in the field, an employee can be forced to but it. For example, a business consultant can be forced to wear a suit and dress shirt. But if the employer’s name is printed on the shirt – or if the color or style is unusual and specific to the company – the employer will have to pay for it. Third, if the uniform is required, the employee has to take care of the normal laundering of the uniform. Employers must generally pay for special cleaning (like dry cleaning, stain removal).

There are some other specifics, but this blog entry provides the big picture of the California law.

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California Will Provide Paid Sick Leave - Assembly Bill 1522

Governor Jerry Brown on September 10, 2014 signed into law Assembly Bill 1522 which will provide workers in California guaranteed sick days. Covered employees will get one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. It does not matter the size of the employer.

California becomes the second state, after Connecticut, to require paid sick days.

This will be a relatively small benefit, allowing the employer to provide just three days, or 24 hours, of paid sick leave per year. An employer can of course choose to provide more such pay. It is common, for example, for union contracts to provide additional sick pay for union workers.
This sick leave will cover an employee’s sick days or for care for an employee’s sick family member. The law makes it illegal to retaliate for an employee’s using these rights. There are some excluded classes of workers, most significantly in-home support workers.

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California Workers’ Compensation Overview

When an employee is hurt on the job, his or her only remedy is usually temporary or permanent workers’ compensation benefits. An employee cannot usually sue an employer for an on-the-job injury. If a third party is responsible for the injuries, an employee can sue that third party for damages from the harm. On duty injuries will be covered whether the employee is at fault or not (but an employee will not be covered if the injury was on purpose). An injury covered by workers’ compensation can be 1. a specific injury (like falling off a ladder), 2.  a cumulative trauma injury (like carpel tunnel syndrome for a computer operator), 3. an exposure injury (like a lung injury from smoke inhalation), or 4. under certain circumstances, a psychological injury. An employer cannot retaliate against an employee for making a workers’ compensation claim. An employer may pay the benefits willingly, or a hurt worker may have to make a claim against the employer.
This section is meant to summarize workers’ compensation laws. It can be much more complicated. Most workers’ compensation lawyers specialize in only that field of the law. The Furstenthal Law Office does not handle workers’ compensation cases, but can recommend attorneys who do.

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COBRA Overview: Continuing Health Coverage After you Leave a Job

When an employee loses his or her job, s/he may be entitled to continue health coverage. The former employee would have to pay what the employer was paying plus two percent. For example, if an employee was getting Kaiser insurance that costs $100/month, the former employee could continue the health insurance for $102. The insurance may or may not be a better deal, so a former employee should shop around for health plans. Qualified employers include most any with 2 or more employees; government and church employers are not required to provide this benefit. To qualify, an employee must have been fired without committing a serious wrong or have quit and not be eligible for Medicare. A reduction of hours may also trigger qualification. COBRA typically lasts 36 months. An employer must provide written notice to a former employee of the employee’s rights. There are more details, but the above provides a summary.

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