• Are You Ready for the San Jose Minimum Wage Ordinance?

    The San Jose Minimum Wage Ordinance goes into effect on March 11, 2013.  Passed by voters during the last election, the new ordinance requires employers doing business in San Jose to pay a minimum of $10.00 per hour for any employee that works at 2 hours per week in San Jose.

    At first glance it might seem that the law only applies to businesses physically located in San Jose, but that is not accurate.  The ordinance defines an employer as:

    any person, including corporate officers or executives, as defined by Section 19 of the California Labor Code, who directly or indirectly through any other person, including through the services of a temporary employment agency, staffing agency or similar entity, employes or exercises control over the wages, hours or working conditions of any Employee and who is either subject to the Business License Tax Chapter 4.76 of the Municipal Code or maintains a facility in the City.”

    The City’s perspective is that anyone carrying on or conducting business in San Jose is subject to the Business License Tax.  Even if your business is located outside of San Jose, if you provide goods or services in San Jose you are an “employer” under the SJMWO.

    Not all employees working in San Jose are covered by the SJMWO.  Employees who are not otherwise entitled to payment of minimum wage under California minimum wage laws (e.g., outside salespersons, certain family members of the employer, etc.) are not “employees” under the SJMWO.  Additionally, the employee must work in San Jose at least 2 hours per week.

    In addition to paying the increased minimum wage, employers subject to the SJMWO must post the SJMWO poster in a conspicuous place.  You can download copies of the SJMWO poster here.

    The City has developed a list of FAQ’s that they hope to post on their website soon.  Unfortunately, there were a few errors in the FAQ’s that require revision, so we don’t know when the FAQ’s will be posted.

    The City has, or soon will, set up an enforcement mechanism for complaints regarding violations.  One of the benefits of the enforcement/complaint process is the ability to resolve the matter through early mediation or conciliation.  One of the drawbacks is that complaints do not need to be filed with the City agency and nothing prohibits an employee from pursuing a claim with the City and in court.

    As with many wage and hour statutes and regulations, an employee suing an employer for a violation of the SJMWO is entitled to recover his/her attorneys’ fees, but a successful employer is not able to recoup its attorneys’ fees even if the employer proves there was no violation.  The City hopes that its administrative process will allow the parties to resolve cases early without extensive litigation, and that the attorneys’ fees therefore will not be a significant issue in resolving a case.  I’ll hold my opinion until I see the results.

    One of the concerns is that an employer who has a posting violation, for example, may be subject to a $50.00 per day per employee penalty (plus attorneys’ fees), if the employer fails to have the required posting in a conspicuous place.  The penalty begins from the date of the violation and continues until the violation ceases.  For example, if you have 5 employees that each travel to San Jose at least 2 hours per week, and you fail to have the correct poster, you could face over $90,000.00 in penalties.

    Employers are also required to maintain payroll records, and to allow the City access to such records, for 4 years.

    Of course employers may not discriminate in any manner or take adverse action against any person in retaliation for exercising any of the rights under the SJMWO.

    Failing to understand and comply with the SJMWO may have devastating effects on your business.  Every employer and every employee should become familiar with the SJMWO so they can understand their rights, remedies and responsibilities.

    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.

  • An Interesting Way to Resolve a Case: mediation/binding baseball arbitration

    I previously discussed some of my concerns regarding binding arbitration agreements.  Arbitration has its place, and it can be a very useful tool in resolving cases.  As much of my practice involves employment disputes, drafting an enforceable arbitration agreement can be difficult, and I believe arbitration oftentimes does not meet the objectives that it is intended to achieve (i.e., lower costs, quicker resolution, lower awards, etc.).  There are many variants to the typical arbitration or mediation options, and a recent case caught my eye because it presented one of the more unique variants.

    In Bowers v. Raymond J. Lucia Companies, Inc. (No. D059333), the parties were in the middle of binding arbitration, when they decided to dismiss the arbitration and the accompanying state court action, and participate in “mediation/binding baseball arbitration.”  According to the record, the plan was to:

    participate in a full day mediation. If, at the end of that mediation, the Parties have failed to reach an agreement, the Plaintiffs (Bowers, Seward, and LaBerge) shall provide to the mediator their last and final demand, which demand shall be some amount between $100,000 and $5,000,000, and the Defendants (Companies, Wealth Management, and Enterprises) shall provide to the mediator their last and final offer which offer shall be some amount between $100,000 and $5,000,000. The mediator shall then be empowered to set the amount of the judgment in favor of Plaintiffs against Raymond J. Lucia Companies, Inc. by choosing either Plaintiffs’ demand or Defendants’ offer, such binding mediator judgment to then be entered as a legally enforceable judgment

    At the end of the mediation, the mediator decided to award the plaintiffs the full $5,000,000.00.  That’s right, the “mediator” awarded the money.  This is unusual because typically mediators do not have the power or authority to “award” anything.  The mediator typically helps the parties reach a resolution, but if the parties are unable to reach an amicable (or unamicable?) resolution, the mediator’s job is done.  Because the parties in Bowers agreed the mediator could make a binding award if the mediation failed, the trial court and the appellate court upheld the award. Parties can agree to allow a third party to decide what the parties will pay, even if the evidence is not presented in a typical trial or arbitration setting.

    It’s easy to armchair quarterback this one and second-guess the thinking behind agreeing to such an unusual form of dispute resolution.  Going into the process the parties had to know that the plaintiff’s “last and final demand” was going to be $500,000.00, just like the defendant’s “last and final offer” was going to be $100,000.00.  The case does not provide a lot of facts regarding the underlying claims or liabilities (we only know that it was some kind of defamation claim), but I presume liability was not much of a question, and that the real issue was the amount of damages.  The big risk for each side is that, knowing the other side’s “last and final” number is likely going to be the highest or lowest allowed by the parties’ agreement, the resulting mediator’s “award” was essentially going to be an all or nothing deal.  I suppose there was the possibility that had the parties stuck with the original arbitration the arbitrators could have awarded significantly more than the $5,000,000.00 ceiling to which the parties agreed, but it seems like a pretty high risk given the fact that the mediator receives information differently than an arbitrator, a judge or a jury.

    I am a big proponent of mediation.  Given the costs and risks involved in litigation, mediation offers the parties the opportunity to have a say in the outcome of the resolution.  I’m not so sure I would be willing to hand that control over to the mediator.  The process of presenting my case in mediation differs significantly to how I present my case to the trier of fact.  I’m not sure how my presentation would have to change if I knew that at the end of the day the mediator was going to “decide” the case.

    If you want to read the case, you can find it 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.

  • Recent Article Reveals Long Delays at State Labor Commissioner’s Office

    A recent article from the Los Angeles Daily Journal (Vol. 125 No. 057, March 23, 2012) reports “Wage claims get uneven treatment, records show.”  According to the article, data obtained through a Public Records Act request and interviews with lawyers representing business and workers reveals significant delays.

    State law requires the Labor Commissioner to conduct its hearings within 120 days after filing.  The Daily Journal’s analysis shows that 11 of the 16 regional offices did not meet that obligation in 2011.  Different offices report different average waiting periods, with Oakland showing the worst results: over 400 days to get to a hearing.  Santa Rosa, on the other hand, gets its cases to hearing within 85 days.  San Francisco heard its cases within 301 days on average.  San Jose averaged approximately 275 days to get to a hearing.

    The study did not discuss how long it takes for a decision to get mailed after the hearing.  By law, the decision is supposed to be written within 15 days after the hearing.  In my experience, however, it often takes several months to receive the actual decision.  This sometimes means a case can take between one to two years to resolve if filed with the Labor Commissioner.  Cases take even longer if they are then appealed to superior court for a trial de novo.

    Budget cutbacks and state-mandated furloughs as well as an increase in claims filed are main causes of the long delays.  In some cases, the state assigns hearing officers from other jurisdictions to help carry some of the load, and I’ve seen an improvement in the speed with which cases proceed in the last few months, but there are still significant delays.  In many instances, a case can move more quickly through court than through the Labor Commissioner.

    The Daily Journal article also discusses perceived inconsistent rulings reported by several practitioners.

    When deciding whether to proceed with a Labor Commissioner claim, claimants should consider the length of time it will take to receive a decision.  Employers should realize that they may need to maintain records for a longer period than required by law so they can ensure they have appropriate evidence and witnesses by the time a hearing comes around.

    If you are contemplating filing a claim with the Labor Commissioner, or if you’ve recently been notified that a claim has been filed, I highly recommend speaking with competent counsel familiar with the Labor Commissioner and wage and hour issues.

    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.

    , San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

  • Court Clarifies Commission Case

    By the end of this year all commission agreements in California must be in writing.  When drafting or reviewing your commission agreement it is a good idea to keep in mind several issues; one of which is whether the commissioned employee is exempt from California’s overtime laws.  A recent court decision (Muldrow v. Surrex Solutions) addresses the basic requirements of the inside salesperson exemption.

    Let me start off by reminding you that there are two different possible sales-related exemptions under California’s overtime laws: inside sales persons and outside salespersons.  Outside salespersons are exempt under most, if not all, wage orders.  Inside salespersons are only exempt if the employment is governed by Wage Order 4 (professional, technical, clerical mechanical and similar occupations) or Wage Order 7 (mercantile industry).  If some other wage order applies then the inside salesperson exemption is not available.  There are several different distinctions between the inside salesperson and the outside salesperson exemptions that I hope to address in a subsequent article.  For now, I want to focus on a couple of key points discussed in the Muldrow case.

    Surrex Solutions Corporation locates and provides qualified candidates for employment to other companies.  Sometimes the candidates are hired directly by the customer and other times Surrex “rents” the candidate to the customer for a specified billing rate.  Surrex employees review open positions, research and locate qualified candidates, negotiate terms of employment/hiring with candidates and customers, and obtain orders from customers for the candidates.  The Surrex employees are paid a percentage of any placement/hiring fees when the customer hires the candidate directly, and a percentage of the adjusted gross profit for candidates retained on a consultant basis.  Tyrone Muldrow, on behalf of himself and other similarly situated employees, filed a class action against Surrex claiming he was entitled to overtime.  The trial court and the appellate court rejected the claim and determined Muldrow was exempt from California’s overtime laws under the inside salesperson exemption.

    The court emphasized several earlier cases distilling the necessary criteria for the inside salesperson exemption:  “First, the employees must be involved principally in selling a product or service, not making the product or rendering the services.  Second, the amount of their compensation must be a percentage of the price of the product or service.” (quoting Ramirez v. Yosemite Water Co (1990) 20 Cal.4th785)

    In addressing the first issue (i.e, was the employee involved principally in selling a product or service), the court reduced Muldrow’s job to its essence: Surrex employees would offer a candidate’s services to a client in exchange for a payment of money from the client to Surrex.  Although there was some discussion regarding duties leading up to the consummation of the sale, all of those duties were part of the selling process and therefore the employees were “involved principally in selling a product or service.”

    As to the second issue, the employees conceded that they were paid a percentage of the price of the product for the direct hires, but claimed that since the amounts paid on the non-direct hire cases was not based on the gross price of the product or service, it was not a commission.  The court had no trouble rejecting this argument.  Nothing indicates the percentage must be based on the gross price versus an adjusted gross or net price.  The court similarly rejected the employees’ argument that the commission plan should be rejected because it was “too complex.”

    An interesting issue that was not addressed by the court (and possibly not raised by either side) was the fact that the commissions are calculated by taking the gross profit then deducting ordinary costs of doing business in order to calculate the commission.  There has been discussion for some time regarding the extent to which an employer can use the ordinary costs of doing business in the calculation of bonuses, commissions and profit-sharing agreements.  The California Supreme Court has flip-flopped on the issue at least once.  The latest rule is that, at least with respect to managerial profit sharing plans, an employer can calculate a profit sharing plan using profitability which necessarily includes the ordinary costs of doing business.  Under Muldrow, it would appear an employer can also calculate a commission based on the ordinary costs of doing business (e.g., overhead, employee costs, benefit costs, etc.)

    Commission plans can be simple or they can be complicated.  Even simple commission agreements need to carefully consider a number of factors.  Now that California law will require all commission agreements to be in writing and provided to the employee, it is extremely important for you to review and understand your commission arrangement.  If your plan is not in writing, now is the time to start working on it with a knowledgeable professional.  And don’t forget to consider any possible overtime ramifications!

    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.

  • IRS Announces Plan to Limit Exposure for Misclassification Claims

    Employers who incorrectly classify employees as independent contractors or non-employees are responsible for paying the taxes that were not previously withheld.  The Internal Revenue Service may also seek penalties for the unpaid taxes.  The IRS just announced a new program that allows qualifying employers the opportunity to get into compliance by making a minimal payment covering past payroll tax obligations rather than waiting for an IRS audit.

    To be eligible, an applicant must:

    • Consistently have treated the workers in the past as nonemployees,
    • Have filed all required Forms 1099 for the workers for the previous three years
    • Not currently be under audit by the IRS, the Department of Labor or a state agency concerning the classification of these workers

    According to the IRS announcement:

    The new Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP) is designed to increase tax compliance and reduce burden for employers by providing greater certainty for employers, workers and the government. Under the program, eligible employers can obtain substantial relief from federal payroll taxes they may have owed for the past, if they prospectively treat workers as employees. The VCSP is available to many businesses, tax-exempt organizations and government entities that currently erroneously treat their workers or a class or group of workers as nonemployees or independent contractors, and now want to correctly treat these workers as employees.

    Interested employers can apply for the program by filing Form 8952, Application for Voluntary Classification Settlement Program, at least 60 days before they want to begin treating the workers as employees.

    Employers accepted into the program will pay an amount effectively equaling just over one percent of the wages paid to the reclassified workers for the past year. No interest or penalties will be due, and the employers will not be audited on payroll taxes related to these workers for prior years. Participating employers will, for the first three years under the program, be subject to a special six-year statute of limitations, rather than the usual three years that generally applies to payroll taxes.

    You can view the official announcement at the IRS website.  Employers interested in taking advantage of the VCSP should speak with counsel familiar with employee/independent contractor issues as well as a tax specialist.

    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.