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Current California labor laws can be a minefield for general counsel. These are the areas to watch: Overtime Pay: California has the most rigid wage and hour laws in the country, thanks, in part, to key state law revisions in 2000. � Unlike federal and most state laws, which recognize a 40-hour week as the minimum before overtime pay kicks in, California hourly employees earn overtime after eight hours in a single day. � Interesting tidbit: A nonexempt employee who makes a business call while vacationing in Aruba is owed a day’s wages. � Major corporations have shelled out millions of dollars to settle so-called wage and hour claims, and insurers are refusing to cover them. “They’re all considered catastrophic” events for insurance purposes, says Peter Taffae, a Los Angeles insurance broker. � Employers’ best bet: a case brought by workers at Sav-On Drug Stores Inc., that is pending before the California Supreme Court. Employers are hoping the decision will limit wage and hour class actions. Disability Rights: In 2000 California passed a law that went beyond the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The state also contravened a trio of 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decisions that curtailed the reach of federal disability rights. � In California, “social activities” is considered a major life activity to be protected along with mental and physical well-being. � The state has a broad definition of what constitutes a disability that requires special accommodation. Leaves of Absence: California recognizes approximately 20 different leave protections (federal and state), according to Felicia Reid, a San Francisco lawyer who represents corporations. � They cover everything from paid family medical leave to time off for pregnancy and the aftermath of sexual abuse. � Last year’s passage of the expanded family medical benefit is considered the most radical of the bunch. It stands alone as the only paid family leave in the country. � The law applies to every employee, even those who just started a job. (Federal medical leave law requires at least a year and 1,250 hours of service.) Sexual Harassment: It remains an evolving issue in the state. � Federal law permits an employer the defense that the accuser failed to complain internally or take advantage of company procedures against sexual harassment before filing a lawsuit. � California may not permit this defense; the issue is before the California Supreme Court.

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