• 3 Things That Can’t Wait Until Next Year

    Well, the California legislature is at it again. Governor Brown signed several laws that change how employers do business in California. Most of the new laws are effective January 1st and require immediate action, so don’t put this off!

    1. Update Your Handbook

    You must now add “gender expression” and “genetic information” to the list of protected characteristics in your EEO and Anti-Harassment policies.

    You must now maintain an employee’s health insurance benefits at the same level of benefit during an employee’s Pregnancy Disability Leave.  Handbooks must be modified to reflect the new requirement.

    2. Revise or Create Offer Letters & Commission Agreements

    All employers must now provide the terms of employment in writing prior to commencing work.  In addition to standard information regarding pay rates, the offer letter must specify overtime rates, the regular paydays, and the contact information for the company’s Workers’ Compensation Carrier.  You will also need to provide written notice when any of the designated items changes.

    12/29/11 UPDATE

    The Labor Commissioner has drafted a template employers should use to comply with new Labor Code Section 2810.5(a).  You can download the template here.

    Beginning January 1, 2013, all employees paid on a commission basis must receive written copies of the commission plan specifying “the method by which commissions shall be computed and paid.” Given the complexity of many commission plans, do not wait until the end of 2012 to contact your employment counsel to review the plan and ensure your bases are covered.

    3. Rethink Your Hiring Practices

    The penalties for willfully misclassifying employees as independent contractors just went up.  This is an extremely high-risk area; so consult with knowledgeable counsel about your workforce status.

    Stop conducting financial background checks on applicants or employees until you speak with knowledgeable counsel regarding revisions to California’s privacy laws.  A new law limits which employers can conduct financial background checks and which employees can be the subject of such background checks.

    There are many more laws coming into effect in 2012. If you would like to receive a more detailed review of the changes, please send us an email at update@griegolaw.com with the subject line: “Send me the update.”

    The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
    95 South Market Street, Suite 520
    San Jose, CA 95113
    Tel. 408-293-6341
     
    Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
     
    Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
     
    Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

  • Inexpensive Sexual Harassment Training By The DFEH?

    The DFEH has been conducting no-cost sexual harassment prevention for state employers for the past year. It has now decided to offer the same training to private employers, purportedly at a low cost. The DFEH hasn’t specified what it means by “low-cost,” but it did indicate that the training will be available online.

    You can visit the DFEH’s website for more information. The press release should be available online in the next couple of days.

    The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
    95 South Market Street, Suite 520
    San Jose, CA 95113
    Tel. 408-293-6341
     
    Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
     
    Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
     
    Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

  • Holiday Party Warning Repost

    I originally posted this article in 2008, but I think it is a good reminder:

    Jessica Hawthorne, an employment attorney formerly with the California Chamber of Commerce, has some good suggestions regarding holiday parties and preventing sexual harassment lawsuits.

    As holiday decorations start to go up around the office and everyone is full of seasonal cheer, many businesses may find that work parties, along with a more relaxed environment, can lead to sexual harassment claims.

    Much too often especially if the event is off-site and the alcohol flows freely the office holiday party becomes a breeding ground for this sort of behavior. It seems that some employees can get the impression that professional behavior isn’t necessary at the festivities.

    But that’s not the case. If its a work-sponsored event, workplace etiquette applies. And unfortunately for employers, liability can be the unexpected Christmas delivery if things aren’t handled properly.

    Every year, claims and lawsuits over sexual harassment problems cost companies millions of dollars. In 2007, for example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received nearly 25,000 sex-discrimination complaints and fined businesses more than $135 million for violating these workplace protections, the highest level since 2002.

    But businesses can protect employees against legal turmoil by taking simple steps to prevent harassment from occurring at the office holiday party or anywhere else:

    Advise employees of all relevant policies, such as harassment, dress code and appropriate workplace behavior.
    Make sure all supervisors have received sexual harassment training.
    Make sure everyone knows how to report unwanted or unwelcome behavior.
    Remind all employees that the company’s sexual harassment policies will be in full force and effect during the event.

    Despite training and preparation, sexual harassment claims could arise, so employers should also be aware of how to mitigate the situation. Its important to act swiftly if there are any complaints to determine what happened and how best to deal with the claim. That way, you will have done your harassment prevention due diligence if any legal situation arises later.

    The best way to accomplish this and follow California law is to conduct proactive employee training and awareness against all forms of harassment.

    All organizations, and that includes businesses, government agencies and non-profits, with 50 or more employees are required to train all supervisory personnel in sexual harassment prevention. Employers must prove that all of these employees take an interactive, two-hour harassment prevention course within six months of hire and every two years thereafter.

    So keep in mind that while sexual harassment prevention is relevant all year round, now is a good time to give your office a refresher course. Your business should enjoy this festive time of year by keeping employees aware and preventing sexual harassment before it starts.

    Jessica Hawthorne was formerly employment attorney the California Chamber of Commerce.

    The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
    95 South Market Street, Suite 520
    San Jose, CA 95113
    Tel. 408-293-6341
      
    Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
     
    Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

  • Obama Directs DOL to Expand FLSA to Cover In-Home Care Workers

    “President Obama announces a new rule that will ensure in-home care workers are included in the same minimum wage and overtime protections afforded to other workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

    Last year the California legislature failed to pass legislation that would have added substantial burdens to families hiring home workers, including personal attendants or other in-home care providers.  President Obama is taking credit for newly proposed Department of Labor regulations modifying overtime and minimum wage requirements for in-home care workers.  The DOL previously attempted to make similar changes in 1993 and again in 2001, but those rules never became formalized.

    A copy of the currently proposed regulations can be downloaded here. To save you the time of having to read the 186-page document, I’ve summarized the proposed changes below.  The new regulations would not take affect until after the public is allowed the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes.

    Current regulations provide an exemption from the FLSA for in-home companions.  Like babysitters, the in-home companions care for the elderly or infirm and are typically employed by the household or family as opposed to a third-party employer.  There are a number of regulations defining what a “companion” can or cannot do and still remain exempt from the overtime and minimum wage obligations of the FLSA.  The new regulations make it clear that a companion is someone who provides fellowship and protection, but does not perform general household work.  The legislative history uses the example of a neighbor who comes over to help with grandma or grandpa.

    Under the new regulations, an exempt companion can:

    • Occasionally help the elderly person get dressed or undressed, but this cannot be a part of the regular duties.
    • Occasionally assist the elderly person with grooming including combing and brushing hair, assistance with brushing teeth, applying deodorant or washing face/hands following a meal.
    • Assist the elderly person with using the toilet or changing diapers.
    • Occasionally driver the elderly person to appointments, but this cannot be a part of the regular duties (the regulations suggest the companion should typically accompany the elderly person using a taxi or public transportation).
    • Cook meals so long as the meals are going to be eaten by the elderly person while the companion is there (e.g., no more preparing a week of meals at a time) and is not to be eaten by other members of the household.
    • Do some “light laundry” for the elderly person (but not for others), which can include putting clothes in the washer or dryer and assisting the elderly person with putting away or folding the clothes.
    • Occasionally assisting with bathing, but this cannot be a part of the regular duties.
    • Provide reminders of medical appointments or a predetermined medicinal schedule (e.g., provide pills out of a presorted pill box)

    Under the new regulations a companion cannot:

    • Do household chores for the benefit of other household members.
    • Vacuum, wash windows, dust or other similar “housekeeping” chores.
    • Provide medical care such as changing bandages, taking vital signs, evaluating health or other diagnostic or medically-related tasks (pulse, blood sugar, respiration, temperature) – The DOL is requesting comments on whether companions should be allowed to apply band-aids.
    • Determine whether prescription medications need to be taken.

    The new regulations make it clear that third-party employers (e.g., agencies) cannot take advantage of the exemption.  Even if the if agency is a joint employer with the family/household member, the employee must received federal minimum wage and overtime.  The definition of what constitutes family or household member for the purposes of determining the employer includes “an individual who is a child, niece, guardian or authorized representative, housemate, or person acting in loco parentis to the elderly or infirm individual needing companionship or live-in services.”

    The new regulations also change the record-keeping requires for live-in domestic workers.  Currently employers can avoid formal pay records for domestic live-in domestic workers if the parties have an agreement setting forth the agreed upon work hours with notifications for any deviations from the standard hours.  The DOL has determined that such lax record-keeping is no longer sufficient, and that even live-in domestic workers will be required to turn in accurate records of the actual hours worked, and employers are required to maintain those records as specified in the Act.  It is my understanding that companions employed by the family/household, regardless of whether they are live-in companions or not, will not have to keep records of hours worked, but that is not entirely clear.  Companions employed by third-parties will have to keep accurate records of hours worked.

    If you are interested in submitting your comments to the DOL regarding the proposed changes, you will eventually be able to log onto http://www.regulations.gov and search for RIN 12350AA05.  When I searched for it today, it was not available, likely because the regulations are not yet ready for public comment.

    If you or someone you know uses, employs or works with companions or other domestic workers, familiarize yourself with the proposed regulations and submit your comments.

    The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
    95 South Market Street, Suite 520
    San Jose, CA 95113
    Tel. 408-293-6341
     
    Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
     
    Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
     
    Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.