• Robert Nuddleman Discusses California’s Administrative Exemption

    I am excited to be sharing the stage today with Richard Schramm of Employment Rights Attorneys and Ray Hixson of Hixson Nagatani, LLP as we discuss the administrative exemption under California’s overtime laws.  This is the first in a serious of discussions regarding wage and hour laws in California for the Santa Clara County Bar Association’s Labor & Employment Law Section.

    The purpose of the Wage & Hour Roundtable is to have an open discussion with practitioners to help each other understand complex wage and hour issues.  In this Roundtable, we will discuss California’s administrative exemption.  Attendees will receive practical information from experienced wage and hour attorneys and tools to help attorneys understand the administrative exemption.

    The administrative exemption under California wage and hour law is one of the most frequently misunderstood and misapplied exemptions.  Which duties are exempt?  To what extent can employers rely on federal regulations?  What if an employee is performing exempt duties at the same time they are performing non-exempt duties?  What role does the employer’s job description play in the analysis? Of special importance in Silicon Valley, when may an employer rely upon the administrative exemption in lieu of the software professional exemption (with its higher salary requirement) for software-related jobs? Recent court decisions try to clarify the issues, but oftentimes create confusing and sometimes conflicting results.

    The Roundtable is FREE!  Bring your lunch, your questions and your experiences as we delve into this oft misunderstood issue.

    You can register for the event at the SCCBA’s website.

    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.

    n Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

  • I Broke It, But What Are You Going To Do About It?

    A colleague of mine said that her friend’s company (it’s always a friend) has a “you broke it, you bought it policy,” in that if an employee breaks or loses a piece of equipment, the employer deducts the costs from the employee’s pay check.  My colleague opined that the policy is likely problematic, but the employer was adamant that it had the right to deduct money from an employee’s wages for breakages or losses.  So who’s right? They both are.

    Labor Code Section 224 prohibits an employer from making unauthorized deductions from an employee’s pay.  The statute authorizes deductions for taxes, court ordered garnishments, health insurance when authorized by the employee and as otherwise authorized by the employee in writing.  This means the Labor Code does not allow an employer to deduct money from an employee’s pay check without the employee’s written authorization except as otherwise provided by law.

    So, does the Labor Code allow an employer to deduct for breakages or losses?  No, but most Wage Orders do in limited circumstances.  “No employer shall make any deduction from the wage or require any reimbursement from an employee for any cash shortage, breakage, or loss of equipment, unless it can be shown that the shortage, breakage, or loss is caused by a dishonest or willful act, or by the gross negligence of the employee.”  See, for example, Wage Order 4-2001, section 8.

    I have three concerns with an employer relying on this subsection of the Wage Order as a basis for deducting money from an employee’s pay check.

    1. Although the Wage Order authorizes the deduction, the Labor Code does not.  Until a few years ago that would have been enough for me to advise my clients to avoid this briar pit.  After Bright v. 99¢ Only Stores, which held that the the Wage Order regulations can be enforced by the employee through a PAGA action, you might have a better argument that the Wage Order authorization is sufficient.  I’m not convinced, but I could make a credible argument supporting the deduction.
    2. If you are wrong, you could face significant penalties.  What is “gross negligence” and what constitutes a “willful act?”  There are some case authorities interpreting the phrases, but you run the risk that a judge or a jury will disagree with your conclusion.  If the Labor Commissioner or a judge or a jury determines that you should not have deducted money from the wages, then you failed to pay an employee all wages earned and could be subject to penalties under Labor Code Sections 203, 204 & 210.  Labor Code Section 203 penalties can equal the employee’s daily wage multiplied by 30.  Is that worth the risk?
    3. Even if there is no question the employee engaged in a culpable degree of negligence, the employer still has to pay the employee no less than minimum wage.  In my friend’s case, most of the employees only earn slightly more than minimum wage.  If the employer deducted too much money from the wages the employee would not earn minimum wage.  Any time an employer reduces an employee’s earnings to less than minimum wage without a court order or the employee’s written authorization, red flags fly and sirens wail.

    An employer puts itself at risk whenever the employer puts itself ahead of other creditors by virtue of the fact that the employer controls the pay check.  For example, if I lent my car to a friend and that friend crashed into a pole, I don’t have the right to deduct money from my friend’s pay check to cover the loss without first obtaining a judgment and a garnishment order.  Why, then, should the employer be in a better position than other creditors?  The employer, just like the friend, can either work it out with the employee or take whatever judicial efforts are necessary to recoup the losses.

    So, what should the employer do?  You can always tell the employee s/he is responsible for the loss and has to pay you back.  The employee can agree to make payments over time, either through payroll deductions or by separate payment.  If the employee agrees to pay through payroll deductions, the agreement should be in writing signed by the employee.  To be safe, I would still ensure the employee receives at least minimum wage.

    If the employee refuses to pay for the loss, then you need to decide whether you will pursue the claim through court.  You may also want to consider disciplining the employee.  I would decide the discipline issue separate from the the repayment issue.  If you insist the employee pay you back through pay roll deductions and the employee refuses to allow you to deduct money from his/her pay check, the employee has likely engaged in protected activity.  You cannot fire the employee for refusing to allow you to deduct amounts from his pay check.  Therefore, discipline the employee for the breakage or loss (documented in writing), and then have the discussion about how the employee will pay you back.  Do not increase or decrease the discipline based on the way the employee agrees to pay you back.

    If you are losing money due to employee losses and breakages, talk with an attorney or HR consultant familiar with the Wage Orders and the Labor Codebefore taking action.  The last thing you want to do is spend tens of thousands of dollars defending a wrongful termination or unpaid wage claim because an employee “accidentally” dropped the computer monitor out of the window.

    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.

  • Revised New Hire Form

    Four months after providing the original template, the Labor Commissioner has posted a new template for employers to use when hiring new employees.  As you may recall, pursuant to the Wage Theft Protection Act, all new employees must receive and sign a “Notice to Employee” under Labor Code 2810.5.  The form includes information regarding the name and addresses of the employer, pay rates, and the employer’s workers’ compensation carrier.

    Employers were not required to provide the required notice to existing employees (unless one of the listed items changes), but all new hires must receive and execute the form.  The new form has slight changes affecting temporary staffing agencies.  Employers are not required to provide the new form to employees who already filled out the old form.

    The new form can be downloaded here.

    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.

  • Look Out Brinker and Brinkley, Here Comes Sharon

    As employers and employee advocates eagerly await the California Supreme Court’s decision in Brinkley and Brinker regarding the lengths to which employers must ensure employees are afforded the opportunity to take meal breaks, some companies have decided to go so far as to discipline employees who voluntarily work “off the clock.”  I have to admit that when a manager asks me, “what do I do if an employee insists on working through lunch,” I have offhandedly commented that the only choice may be to discipline the employee for refusing to follow the employer’s reasonable directions.  Well, it turns out that may not be the best advice.

    A recent Chicago Tribune article reports a victory for Sharon Smiley after she was fired for working during her lunch hour.  In Illinois, like California, employees are entitled to a lunch break in the middle of the day.  After 10 years of employment, Sharon Smiley decided to work through a lunch break to finish some work. Her manager became upset because Sharon was apparently in violation of company policies so he sent her to HR.  HR had a short discussion with her and then fired her for misconduct (violating company policies) and insubordination (refusing to follow the employer’s instructions).  Sharon was devastated.

    To add insult to injury, the company opposed her unemployment insurance claim.  She went to several different attorneys, all of which told her she had no chance of winning.  Undaunted, and really with no other choice, Sharon represented herself.  She appealed the initial unemployment insurance benefits denial, and the superior court judge overturned the decision.  Last week an appellate court upheld the lower court’s decision allowing Sharon to obtain unemployment insurance benefits.

    To my knowledge there are no plans to file a wrongful discharge claim.

    The article is particularly interesting here in California as the Supreme Court decides whether employers must force employees to take lunch breaks or merely ensure employees have a realistic opportunity to take the required breaks.  I guess I’ll have to add a few more caveats to my advice.

    You can read the original Chicago Tribune article here.

    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.

  • For Whom No Bell Tolls

    OK, maybe this case is only interesting to those of us Wage and Hour nerds, but Harris v. Superior Court could be hailed as the final nail in the Bell case trilogy.  Although this post may include more information about how sausage is made than you ever wanted to know, the Court’s decision could curtail a fairly significant number of overtime lawsuits.

    The Bell cases are  three  decisions that the Supreme Court issued regarding whether claims adjusters working for Farmers Insurance Exchange were exempt from California’s overtime requirements.  The cases were important because the court used the production/administration dichotomy to find the adjusters did not meet the administrative exemption test.

    The production/administration dichotomy distinguishes between administrative employees primarily engaged in “administering the business affairs of the enterprise” and production employees primarily engaged in “producing the commodity or commodities, whether goods or services,” that were the focus of the enterprise.  Despite the fact that Bell specifically held that the production/administration dichotomy is not useful in every case, a lot of attorneys try to rely on the distinction as a simple way of determining whether an employee is exempt.

    In Harris, claims adjusters employed by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and Golden Eagle Insurance Corporation filed a class action seeking unpaid overtime.  The employer alleged the employees were exempt under the administrative exemption, and the plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a determination that “as a matter of law,” the claims adjusters could not be exempt.  The appellate court used the production/administration dichotomy and held the employees could not be exempt from California’s overtime laws.  The California Supreme Court disagreed and put a huge damper on further attempts to use the production/administration dichotomy as the sole basis for defeating a claimed exemption.

    Harris pointed out that Bell was decided based on pre-2000 regulations which did not clearly define the administrative exemption.  In 2000, the IWC amended the wage orders providing more details as to what activities qualify as exempt duties and specifically incorporated specific federal regulations.  Bell did not have the advantage of those regulations and therefore relied on the production/administration dichotomy absence clear direction from the legislature or the IWC.  Now that we have specific regulatory guidance, the production/administration dichotomy is even less useful.

    Perhaps the biggest death toll for Bell is the Supreme Court’s focus on the fact that Bell is really only applicable to pre-2000 cases.  While there may be a few pre-2000 cases still winding their way through the court system, I suspect there aren’t many of them left.

    It is also important to note that the Supreme Court did not say the claims adjusters were or were not exempt from overtime.  The court merely pointed out that the appellate court used the wrong test in determining whether the employees are entitled to overtime.  Correctly classifying employees is not easy, and you should seek the assistance of competent professionals before making a costly mistake.

    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.

  • 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.

  • Commission Agreements Must Be In Writing

    On October 7, 2011, Governor Brown signed AB 1396 which amends Labor Code Section 2751.  Section 2751 currently requires an employer who has no permanent and fixed place of business in the state and who enters into a contract of employment involving commissions as a method of payment with an employee for services to be rendered within the state to put the contract in writing and to set forth the method by which the commissions are required to be computed and paid. An employer who does not comply with those requirements is liable to the employee in a civil action for triple damages.  This statute has been held invalid (see Lett v. Paymentech, Inc. (N.D.Cal. 1999) 81 F.Supp.2d 992) because it applied only to out of state companies.  AB 1396 alters the statute and makes it applicable to all employers doing business in California.  AB 1396 also removes the triple damages clause.

    The new law requires:

    (a) By January 1, 2013, whenever an employer enters into a contract of employment with an employee for services to be rendered within this state and the contemplated method of payment of the employee involves commissions, the contract shall be in writing and shall set forth the method by which the commissions shall be computed and paid.
    (b) The employer shall give a signed copy of the contract to every employee who is a party thereto and shall obtain a signed receipt for the contract from each employee. In the case of a contract that expires and where the parties nevertheless continue to work under the terms of the expired contract, the contract terms are presumed to remain in full force and effect until the contract is superseded or employment is terminated by either party.

    Commission wages are compensation paid to any person for services rendered in the sale of such employer’s property or services and based proportionately upon the amount or value thereof.  Under the modified statute “Commissions” does not include short-term productivity bonuses such as are paid to retail clerks; and it does not include bonus and profit-sharing plans, unless there has been an offer by the employer to pay a fixed percentage of sales or profits as compensation for work to be performed.

    There are no penalties associated with a violation of the newly worded statute, but it could be a basis for suit under California’s Labor Code Private Attorney General Act (PAGA).

    If you pay your employees a commission, you must have the commission plan reduced to writing by January 1, 2013.  The contract must state the method of calculating the commission and how it is paid.  Employees must also receive a copy of the executed commission agreement.

    Commission plans can be simple or complicated, but many employers forget to include provisions in the commission agreement regarding when the commission is earned (versus when it is paid out), what conditions have to be met to earn the commission, and what happens to unpaid and/or unearned commissions when the employment is terminated.  Failure to consider and include such provisions can lead to costly litigation.

    If you have a commission plan at your work, review the plan with knowledgeable counsel to ensure the terms are clear and lawful.

    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.

  • New Laws Regarding California Employers and Employees

    There are several new laws and amendments currently under consideration by the Governor of California, as well as the legislature.

    The Recorder reports that three bills, AB 267, AB 325, and AB 559, are currently sitting before the Governor Brown.

    • AB 267 prohibits “choice of law” or “forum selection” clauses in employment contracts if those clauses require the use of non-California law or litigation outside of California.
    • AB 325 would allow up to 3 days bereavement leave and would prohibit discrimination against employees who take time off for the  death of a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or domestic partner.  A successful plaintiff could recover back wages and attorneys’ fees.
    • AB 559 would modify a rule denounced by the California Supreme Court (Chavez v. City of Los Angeles, 47 Cal.4th 970) granting courts the authority to limit attorneys’ fees awards when the case could have been brought in limited jurisdiction as opposed to unlimited jurisdiction.

    The California Chamber of Commerce and other pro-employer entities oppose these bills, and in the past have successfully defeated similar bills while Schwarzenegger was in office.

    Governor Brown has already signed into law the following bills affecting employers and employees in California:

    • AB 240 Compensation recovery actions: liquidated damages.
    • AB 587 Public works: volunteers.
    • SB 117 Public contracts: prohibitions: discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.
    • SB 374 Gambling control: key employee licenses.
    • SB 559  Discrimination: genetic information.
    • SB 609 Public Employment Relations Board: final orders.

    Of course we can’t forget about AB 889 regarding domestic workers, which I’ve discussed before.

    If you work or do business in California, especially if you do business on any public works projects, you should familiarize yourself with any new requirements applicable to your industry.

    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.

  • Follow Up on Current Version of AB 889 – Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

    I hope you were able to listen to the discussion this morning on KQED regarding the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.  Unfortunately I was not able to address an area of the law that gives me the greatest concern: This bill would unduly broaden the definition of employer, unnecessarily increase who will be considered an employee, and create additional burdens on homeowners and occupants with respect to non-caregiver workers.  I apologize in advance for the length of this post (I usually try to keep them brief), but there is some background that I think is necessary.

    Putting aside the issue of whether personal attendants/caregivers should or should not be entitled to overtime, AB889 broadens the definition of an employer.  Under most wage orders, an employer is anyone who exercises control over the wages, hours or working conditions of the employee. (See Martinez v. Combs.) Court decisions have agreed that corporate officers and directors are not considered employers.  AB889, however, includes corporate officers or executives who directly or indirectly through third parties exercise control over wages, hours or working conditions of employers.  In essence, the bill eradicates the typical corporate shield that is a significant benefit of the corporate structure.

    Let’s consider how this broad definition could impact the typical independent contractor relationship most homeowners have with non-caregivers.  I’m talking about the gardener, the roofer, the pool cleaner, etc..  If you, as the homeowner, control the working conditions, then you are the employer.  If you decide on the wages you will pay or what hours the person will come into your home, then you are the employer.  You will not be able to hire a sole proprietor with no employees because otherwise you are arguably controlling the wages, hours and working conditions of the employee.  If you hire a company with employees, then hopefully the company will control the hours and wages, but I’m not so sure about the working conditions.

    Additionally, AB889 modifies the workers’ compensation laws to apply to any person who performs any work at or on your home regardless of how long they work at the home.  Labor Code Section 3351 defines who is an employee for workers’ compensation purposes.  Workers’ Compensation laws not only require workers’ compensation insurance coverage for all employees, but also requires employers to provide notice of certain rights under the Workers’ Compensation laws.  Currently, Labor Code Section 3352(h) excludes person employed by the homeowner for less than 52 hours in the 90 calendar days preceding the date of injury from the definition of employee.  AB889 deletes the 3352(h) exemption.  What that means is that you, as a homeowner, will need to carry workers’ compensation insurance for any person providing services to your home, such as gardeners, construction workers, pest control servicemen, cable installers, etc.  You will have to have workers’ compensation insurance for them even if they only come to your house one day for a couple of hours and even if they are covered by their own workers’ compensation insurance.  You will also have to provide them notification of their workers’ compensation rights.

    AB889 deletes a similar provision in Labor Code Section 226.  Labor Code Section 226 requires employers to provide itemized pay stubs to all employees.  The pay stubs must have specific information such as hours worked, wage rates, last four digits of the employee’s social security number, etc.  Currently, there is an exemption to that rule for employees employed by the owner or occupant of a residential dwelling whose duties are incidental to the ownership, maintenance or use of the dwelling.  AB889 takes away that exemption.  Like the Workers’ Compensation laws discussed above, that means you will have to provide a pay stub to your gardener, cable installer, home improvement contractor, etc.

    Regardless of which side of the aisle you are on regarding overtime entitlements for caregivers, the other changes proposed by AB889 create a significant burden on everyone, overly broadens the definition of employer, and imposes unwieldy requirements in situations that do not need reform.  I encourage you to read the bill.  Talk about the issue with your friends, families and co-workers, and come to your own conclusions regarding whether this bill is the appropriate way to resolve the problems.  Then, write your representative and let them know your thoughts.  That’s what I’m going to do.

    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.

  • Arbitration Clause in Independent Contractor Agreement Invalid

    Employers doing business in California know, or should know, that arbitration agreements are oftentimes thrown out as being “unconscionable.”  See Armendariz v. Foundation Health Psychcare Services, Inc. (2000) 24 Cal.4th 83, and its progeny.  If the employment arbitration agreement is procedurally and substantively unconscionable the courts will not enforce the agreement.  In the typical employer-employee context, the courts oftentimes have no trouble deciding the agreement is procedurally unconscionable because the employer drafts the agreement and gives it to the employee on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.  The courts believe an employee’s option to find a job elsewhere does not mitigate the inequality of bargaining power between the employer and employee.

    But what about an arbitration clause between a company and an independent contractor?  Does the same analysis apply and will the court be more or less likely to find the agreement procedurally unconscionable?  In Wherry v. Award, Inc.  (11 C.D.O.S. 2413), a California Appellate Court decided that the fact that “plaintiffs are independent contractors and not employees makes no difference in this context.”

    Whether the company uses employees or independent contractors, arbitration agreements should be reviewed by knowledgeable counsel before using or executing the agreement.  I have my own view on whether arbitration clauses are a good idea in the first place, but if you do business in California you need to be aware of the issues that you will face should you enter into an arbitration agreement.

    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.