Are you ready for the increase in minimum wage? Join us for a mid-year update on employment and corporate issues.

My firm is conducting a webinar on Thursday June 19, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. for a mid-year update on emerging employment law issues and the newly enacted LLC statute effecting most California Limited Liability Companies. 

For more information and to register, please complete the form below:

 

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What other legal issues arise from an increase in California's minimum wage?

With Governor Brown's signing of the bill raising California's minimum wage to $10.00 per hour by January 2016, there are a few new considerations this triggers for California employers.  This quick video discusses the increase in guaranteed salary employers must pay in order to for employees to qualify as exempt. 

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New Law Effective 2012 Restricts Employers Ability To Conduct Employee Credit Checks

California’s new labor code provision severely restricts an employer’s ability to conduct credit checks on employees. Labor Code 1024.5, which took effect on January 1, 2012, only allows employers to conduct credit checks for employees who meet one of the following categories:

    • A managerial position.

    • A position in the state Department of Justice.

    • That of a sworn peace officer or other law enforcement position.

    • A position for which the information contained in the report is required by law to be disclosed or obtained.

    • A position that involves regular access, for any purpose other than the routine solicitation and processing of credit card applications in a retail establishment, to all of the following types of information of any one person: (A) Bank or credit card account information. (B) Social security number. (C) Date of birth.

    • A position in which the person is, or would be, any of the following: (A) A named signatory on the bank or credit card account of the employer. (B) Authorized to transfer money on behalf of the employer. (C) Authorized to enter into financial contracts on behalf of the employer.

    • A position that involves access to confidential or proprietary information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, process or trade secret that (i) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who may obtain economic value from the disclosure or use of the information, and (ii) is the subject of an effort that is reasonable under the circumstances to maintain secrecy of the information.

    • A position that involves regular access to cash totaling ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or more of the employer, a customer, or client, during the workday.

A “managerial position” is defined as an employee who qualifies for the executive exemption set forth in the Industrial Welfare Commission’s Wage Orders. The test of who qualifies as an exempt executive is very detailed, and it is determined by the amount of pay and actual duties the employee performs. So employers need to approach this prong with caution and obtain guidance to ensure the employee actually qualifies as an exempt executive.

The new law also added the requirement under California Civil Code section 1785.20.5 that employers must notify the employee in writing of the basis in Labor Code section 1024.5 as set forth above that applies to permit the employer to perform the credit check. The new law does not change the other obligations already in effect that employers had to comply with prior to conduct a credit check. These obligations include informing the employee in writing that a credit check would be performed, the source of the credit check, and that the employee may receive a free copy of the credit check. Finally, if an adverse employment action is taken by the employer based on the report, the employee must be notified of the name and address of the reporting agency making the report.

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Template To Comply With Wage Theft Protection Act of 2011 Notice Requirement To All Hires Beginning in 2012 Published By Labor Commissioner

Today the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”) published a template that employers can use in order to comply with the new notice requirements set forth in Labor Code section 2810.5. A Word version can be downloaded here and a PDF version can be downloaded here.

All California employers are required to provide a notice to all employees hired beginning on January 1, 2012 that complies with the requirements of section 2810.5. The new law required the Labor Commissioner to publish a template for employers to use in order to comply with the new law. For more information regarding the notice, and the new law, see my previous post.

I’ve only had a chance to do a quick review of the template, but one area of new information that the DLSE is apparently requiring on the notice is whether the “employment agreement” is oral or written in the wage information section of the template. The new Labor Code section 2810.5 did not require this to be on the notice to the employee, but the law does provide that there may be “[o]ther information added by the Labor Commissioner as material and necessary.” I am wondering if the fact that all employers are required to provide this information on the form necessary means that the “employment agreement” is therefore always going to be written.

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All California Employers Have New Employee Notice Requirements Beginning January 1, 2012

The new law affecting every employer in California is the Wage Theft Protection Act of 2011. It takes effect on January 1, 2012 and adds additional notice and record keeping requirements that employers must comply with. The new law added Labor Code section 2810.5, which requires private employers to provide all new employees with a written notice that contains certain information.

The new law requires private employers to provide all newly-hired, non-overtime-exempt employees with a disclosure containing the following information:

(a) The job rate or rates of pay and whether it pays by the hour, shift, day, week, salary, piece, commission, or otherwise, including any rates for overtime.
(b) Any allowances claimed as part of the minimum wage, such as for uniforms, meals, and lodging.
(c) The employer's regular payday, subject to the Labor Code.
(d) The employer's name, including any “doing business as” names used.
(e) The address of the employer's main office or principal place of business, and its mailing address, if different.
(f) The employer's telephone number.
(g) The name, address, and telephone number of the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
(h) Other information added by the Labor Commissioner as material and necessary.

The new law also requires employers to notify employees in writing of any changes to the information in the notice within seven calendar days of any changes, unless the changes are reflected on a timely wage statement that complies with Labor code Section 226. Employers also do not need to notify employees of any changes if the change is provided in another writing required by law within seven days of the changes.

The new law requires the Labor Commissioner to publish a template for employers to follow in order to comply with the law. The Labor Commissioner’s website states it is “anticipated” and the template will be published in mid-December. However, as of the publishing of this post, the Labor Commissioner has not yet published the template.

There is no prescribed requirement in the law about how long this notice should be retained, but as wage and hour violations contain a four year statute of limitations, these notices should be retained in the employee’s personnel file for four years. It is also important to note that the new law does not apply to exempt employees. However, if there is ever a challenge to the employee’s classification as exempt and they are found to be non-exempt, this provision could result in increased penalties. Therefore, it may be wise to complete this form for exempt employees just as a safety precaution.

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Webinar: New Laws Facing California Employers In 2012

 

Governor Brown signed a number of new employment laws that take effect in January 2012.  During this webinar, we will cover the new obligations facing employers under these recently enacted employment laws as well as the proper steps employers should take to comply with them.  The discussion will also cover the recent oral argument in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court and what steps employers should take while waiting for the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Other topics will include:

  • New laws effective January 2012, including:
    • Statute increasing the penalties for employers who misclassify independent contractors
    • What the Wage Theft Protection Act of 2011 means for employers
    • Gender identity and expression
    • Prohibiting e-verify requirements under the Employment Acceleration Act of 2011.
    • New requirement to provide health benefits during pregnancy disability leave
  • Review of new developments that took place in 2011:
    • Development of case law upholding class action waivers in arbitration agreements
    • Payment requirements for non-resident employees working in California

The cost is $150 per connection (no fee for existing clients).  Click here for more information and to register. 

 

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New Law Imposes Large Penalties For Misclassification Of Independent Contractors

Over the weekend, Governor Brown signed S.B. 459 into law (among other employment bills) which makes employers liable for civil penalties of $5,000 to $15,000 for each violation of “willful misclassification” of employees as independent contractors. In addition, if it is found that the employer has a pattern and practice of misclassifying independent contractors, the penalties can increase to a minimum of $10,000 to $25,000 per violation. The new law adds Sections 226.8 and 2753 to the Labor Code. 

The new law imposes the penalties for a “willful misclassification,” which is defined as:

"Willful misclassification" means avoiding employee status for an individual by voluntarily and knowingly misclassifying that individual as an independent contractor.

Click here to read more information about the factors considered in determining whether a worker qualifies as an independent contractor and other areas of liability employers face in addition to this new law. 

Internet Posting

In addition to the substantial civil penalties, employers who violate the law are also required to post a notice on their website, or if the employer does not have a website they must post it in an area available to employees and the general public, for one year about the violation. The notice must contain the following information:

(1) That the Labor and Workforce Development Agency or a court, as applicable, has found that the person or employer has committed a serious violation of the law by engaging in the willful misclassification of employees.
(2) That the person or employer has changed its business practices in order to avoid committing further violations of this section.
(3) That any employee who believes that he or she is being misclassified as an independent contractor may contact the Labor and Workforce Development Agency. The notice shall include the mailing address, e-mail address, and telephone number of the agency.
(4) That the notice is being posted pursuant to a state order.

The law gives the Labor Commissioner the power the collect the civil penalties. There is also an argument that individual litigants may recover a portion of the civil penalties by bringing a Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claim. However, PAGA was not amended to specifically deal with the new labor code sections created by the new law, so there will undoubtedly be litigation over the extent the new law is actionable under PAGA, or the legislature may amend PAGA to clarify this issue.

The intent of the legislature is clear by passing this law - it does not want independent contractors to be used in California.  Employers must therefore be very careful in conducting the analysis of whether employees are properly classified as independent contractors.

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New Law Makes It Illegal To Impersonate Others On Social Networking Sites

Among the seven hundred or so new laws that took effect on January 1, 2011 is SB 1411 that makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to impersonate another on the internet “for the purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person.” The bill, which was signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger, adds section 528.5 to the California Penal Code and makes the offense punishable up to $1,000 and one year imprisonment.

The law specifically makes it an offense to open an email account or social networking profile to impersonate another person:

For purposes of this section, "electronic means" shall include opening an e-mail account or an account or profile on a social networking Internet Web site in another person's name.

The law is intended to prevent cyberbullying that has occurred in schools and the workplace. This law will be an additional aid for employers to prevent any type of abuse at the workplace, and provide victims an additional avenue for protection. In addition to the criminal punishment set forth, it also provides that a victim may bring a civil lawsuit against the defendant for compensatory damages and injunctive relief.

For California employers, the new law stresses the need to keep current with the new obligations employers face in regards to social networking sites and and to review their policies about how they monitor employees' use of technology, as well as what is appropriate uses of the company's technology. Under the theory of respondeat superior, employers are vicariously liable for tortious acts committed by employees during the course and scope of their employment. Therefore, if an employee uses a company computer to violate the new law, the company could face joint liability in a civil lawsuit for compensatory damages.

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Governor Vetoes Bill Giving Farmworkers Greater Overtime

Last week, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed SB1121, a bill that would have given farm workers overtime when they work over eight hours in one day or over forty hours in one week. Currently, California farm workers earn overtime for all hours over 10 hours in one day and 60 hours in one week. Federal law, by contrast, does not require employers to pay farm workers any overtime at all.

 

The Governor explained:

In order to remain competitive against other states that do not have such wage requirements, businesses will simply avoid paying overtime.

The bill would have also applied California’s meal and rest break requirements to farm workers. The Governor also cited this as a reason why he vetoed the law:

Finally, it should be noted that Senate Bill 1121 would not just change the rules governing overtime pay for agricultural workers, but would also apply California's confusing and burdensome rest and meal requirements. Unfortunately, while there have been several attempts to clean up this section of law, efforts at comprehensive reform continue to fail. There is no reason to exacerbate this continuing problem by adding agricultural workers to it. For these reasons, I am unable to sign this bill.

The Governor’s statement is referring to the issues that the California Supreme Court is currently reviewing in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court. One of the many issues being reviewed in Brinker, is whether California employers need to only provide, not ensure, employees with their 30-minute meal break under California law. Click here for more analysis on the Brinker case
 

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Proposed Bill Targets Employers' Classification of Independent Contractors

The US House of Representatives introduced a bill (H.R. 5107), Employee Misclassification Prevention Act, that if passed would amend the FLSA to required employers who employ “non-employees” to keep records of classification of the non-employees. The bill refers to non-employees, which is targeting employers’ classification of independent contractors.

Should the employer fail to maintain the records required under the proposed bill, a presumption would be created that the worker is an employee – not an independent contractor. The employer could only then overturn this presumption by presenting “clear and convincing evidence” that the worker is properly classified.

The bill would also require employers to provide written notice to any non-employees about their classification. Among other items, the notice would need to state:

Your rights to wage, hour, and other labor protections depend upon your proper classification as an employee or non-employee. If you have any questions or concerns about how you have been classified or suspect that you may have been misclassified, contact the U.S. Department of Labor.

The notice would also need to include additional information that Department of Labor deems necessary by regulation at a later date.

Violation of the proposed bill’s requirements carries a civil fine of $1,100 per worker, which could increase to $5,000 for willful repeat violations.

The bill (H.R. 5107) can be read here. From what I could gather, it appears that the bill has a strong chance of becoming law. This is definitely one I will be keeping my eye on in coming months.

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Politicians Closer To CA Budget Deal - No Changes To Meal & Rest Break Laws

It appears that the California state politicians are close to finalizing a budget deal in Sacramento by this Friday. The Governor placed everything on the table during these negotiations, including attempting to bring some relief to businesses in regards to the meal and rest break laws and even revising California’s requirements that overtime is owed for all work performed over 8 hours in a day. However, by many reports it appears that there will be no change to the current meal and rest break laws, or the overtime requirements.

Many California businesses have been sued in wage and hour class actions alleging that they have not properly administered meal and rest breaks. Employers face large amounts of liability in these class actions in the form of premium pay of one hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of pay for each violation for a period of four years.

The Press Democrat also reports that the deal will increase taxes:

Vehicle license fees would nearly double, going from the current rate of 0.65 percent to 1.15 percent of the value of a car or truck.
The sales tax would increase by 1 cent. Gas taxes would increase by 12 cents a gallon.
Californians would pay a new surcharge on their personal income taxes, amounting to 2.5 percent of their total tax bills. The state's dependent credit would be cut in half, raising taxes for parents and those who take care of elders.
The new and increased taxes would remain in effect for at least two years.
 

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