Employers concerned about 2004 | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Employers concerned about 2004

Susan Wood, Tribune staff writer

Come January, California businesses may yell: “Take this law – or state – and stuff it.”

Of the more than 3,000 bills signed into law this year, a slew of them make an attempt to increase protections for employees. Some might say at the expense of business.

A “Sue Your Boss Law,” SB796, gives employees more grounds to take legal action against an individual or company upon termination.

“Usually the people who are going to take advantage of these laws you don’t want working for you anyway,” said Larry Miller, a Halliburton oil executive from Bakersfield, in town for the holidays.

With the new law, employee handbooks are not automatically going to save employers. A disgruntled fired worker will have more ammunition for a lawsuit with the new rules. The civil action may be imposed and managed by the Labor Commission, despite California’s being an at-will state.

The bill authored by state Sen. Joseph Dunn, D-Garden Grove, puts more money into the state labor commissioner’s office. Because of the growing work force there are more complaints.

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State Sen. Rico Oller, R-San Andreas, and Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, voted against the bill signed by former Gov. Gray Davis in October.

Many South Shore critics – employers and employees alike -contend the law will clog up the courts, hurt business and therefore harm employees in the long run.

“This is ludicrous. There is enough business owners have to deal with. Corporations have big legal teams, but it’s harder on a smaller business. They’re going to find themselves spending more time in court,” John Scobie said, while working the floor of Village Sports on Sunday.

He added that some companies may also resort to stricter reference checks to weed out sue-happy employees.

Scobie said he’s considered suing a boss before over a character assassination, but he let the controversy go and moved on. He suggests others do the same.

“If they don’t like the way things are done, then there are other jobs they can go work for,” he said, adding his competitive business of ski sports wear demands workers be alert and at their best.

Part-time resident Michael Gaylor agrees. Gaylor has been positioned on both sides of the fence as an employer and worker. For a dozen years he’s been forced to fire countless people while managing in the revolving door industry of restaurants.

Some have left on bad terms. Others were better to deal with because they realized the relationship was not a good fit.

“The fun ones would thank you because of that,” he said, coming out of Safeway. “It’s lonely at the top. But it’s like watching TV. If you don’t like it, turn the channel.”

Now as a public employee, the schoolteacher is convinced the high expectations placed on him make him more alert.

Like others, Gaylor believes these laws have a detrimental effect on companies in a state prone to drive away business.

In line with the California Chamber of Commerce, Duane Wallace said Nevada may be pleased to see more of these “job killer” laws because companies tend to move east.

“The bottom line is, California will hurt business with the multitude of job killer bills passed that has made it almost impossible to do business here,” the South Lake Tahoe chamber executive director said.

Wallace also objected to SB2, which requires employers pay for their staff’s health coverage or face tax penalties come 2004. By 2006, businesses with 200 workers must offer health benefits. A year later, the law mandates employers with 50 to 199 people provide coverage.

“We’re calling this bill the under 50 employee bill because so many companies will stop growing at 49 employees,” he said.

In addition, SB777 allows greater protection of retaliation against whistle-blowers who report illegal activity at companies.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com