San Jose Business Lawyers Blog

Articles Posted in Employment

California has distinct wage and hour laws in place to ensure the proper pay of employees. Employers often need clarification on California wage and hour laws. Each industry is different but here is an overview of requirements in the state.

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California Wage and Hour Laws

Minimum Wage

California’s minimum wage is set at $9.00 per hour. Unlike some states, California does not allow for tipped employees to be paid less than the state’s minimum wage.

Overtime

Employers often ask when they need to pay overtime wages.  Whether or not an employee is “salary” or “hourly” is not determinative of overtime pay entitlement, rather, it matters if the employee is “exempt” or “nonexempt.” “Nonexempt” employees are entitled to overtime at the rate of one and a half times their regular rate of pay for:

  • All time worked in excess of 8 hours in a workday
  • All time worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek
  • The first 8 hours of work performed on a seventh (or more) consecutive workday

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California employees are protected from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and state laws. An employer cannot discriminate on the basis of:

• Race
• Gender, gender identity, or gender expression
• Sexual orientation
• Religion
• National origin
• Disability
• Medical conditions
• Sex, including pregnancy, childbirth, or breast-feeding
• Citizenship status
• Age
• Genetic information
• Ancestry
• Color
• Marital status Continue Reading

Does your company have a social media policy for employees? Policies regulating Internet use in the workplace can be very effective for maintaining your business’ positive reputation online. Last week, we discussed the first 3 items to think about when writing a social media policy. Here are 3 more considerations for writing an effective and appropriate company-wide policy.
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3 More Considerations When Drafting a Social Media Policy
1. Define “Appropriate”

Your employees need to know what is acceptable to say online and what isn’t. Make sure you set clear boundaries on what business and trade information is private and for internal-use only, and what information is acceptable for online discussion or even marketing purposes. Continue Reading

Instituting a company-wide social media policy is one of the best ways to protect your business’s brand and image on the Internet. Disgruntled employees may say negative things about your business online, harming your reputation and putting your company at risk. A well-written social media policy sets reasonable restrictions on your employees’ use of the Internet. Here are 3 considerations to think about when drafting a social media policy.
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3 Considerations When Drafting a Social Media Policy
1. Read Other Policies

It’s important to do your research when writing a social media policy for employees to make sure yours is in line with current industry standards. You don’t want to institute a policy so unforgiving that you drive potential talent away from your business. Search for other social media policies and contact an experienced lawyer to make sure your policy is appropriate. Continue Reading

An employment contract can be a useful tool to protect your business while providing clarity and structure for your employees. An effective agreement should clearly spell out the terms of both employment and termination. In this post we’ll take a look at the basics of creating an employment contract.

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Understanding Employment Contracts

A well-designed contract outlines an employee’s roles and responsibilities. What tasks is the employee expected to perform? What does the job pay? What benefits will the employee receive? Clearly stating this information upfront will protect your business from future lawsuits, provided you abide by the contract.

You’ll want to be specific that the employment relationship is at-will. This means either the employer or the employee can terminate the agreement at any time for no reason. If instead it is not at-will, you should be sure to spell out the grounds for termination.
One thing to keep in mind is what happens after an employee is either terminated or leaves. Who owns the right to any material he or she produced? What about confidentiality? An employment contract can protect your business by safeguarding its intellectual property.

Advantages of Employment Contracts

Besides offering reassurance, an employment contract can be a great way to attract new talent. Think of a contract as an offer sheet. You’re providing a prospective employee with job security and a clear path to success.

Contracts can also make it easier to manage employees. The expectations can be laid out for all to see, which means there’s less gray area. Unfortunately, not all employees work out and a contract can avoid any confusion between employer and employee as to whether it is working out or not. make it easier to terminate employment should the need arise.

If you’re thinking about putting together an employment contract, contact the professionals at Structure Law Group. We can help you create something that is specific to your business and adheres to the law.

About Structure Law Group
Structure Law Group is a San Jose based firm that specializes in business issues including business formations, commercial contracts and litigation.

rules.jpgOne of the first things any newly formed corporation should do is draft bylaws. Bylaws are a corporation’s operational blueprint. They identify what the business does, how it is run and who is in charge. Here then are five steps to drafting a set of bylaws.

5 Steps to Creating Corporate Bylaws

1. Detail relevant information concerning shareholders. This includes who holds stake in your corporation, what rights they hold and when and where meetings are to be held.

2. Identify the Board of Directors. Include information on meetings, procedures for resignation and removal or addition of directors.

3. Outline the procedure by which officers are elected. Officers are people like the CEO or CFO. Detail their roles and responsibilities as well as how they will be compensated.

4. Indemnification of Officers, Directors, and Agents. In order to protect those who labor on behalf of the corporation, the bylaws should spell out who is indemnified for acts taken on behalf of the corporation, as well as the procedure for handling claims.

5. Finally, bylaws are made to be amended. What’s the process look like? Deciding on this issue now will prevent headaches down the road. You’ll want to figure out who has the authority to add, alter or completely remove a bylaw.

These five steps are really just a working model. There are fine points that should really only be handled by a professional. An attorney can help you craft a set of bylaws that are clear, sensible and legal. In reality, this process consists of at least six steps with the first being contacting a local lawyer to help get you started.

About Structure Law Group

Structure Law Group is a San Jose based firm that specializes in business issues including business formations, commercial contracts and litigation.

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Converting a limited liability company to a corporation is a relatively easy process. Before I take you through the steps, let’s take a quick look at the differences between the two types of business structures.

3 Differences Between Limited Liability Companies and Corporations

1. LLCs are formed by one or more people (members). These members file Articles of Organization and craft an Operating Agreement. Corporations file similar paperwork. However, unlike LLCs, corporations have shareholders and governing bodies like a Board of Directors.

2. Corporations have the ability to offer preferred stock which can be desirable to investors, including angel investors and venture capital investors. LLCs do not have a recognized class of preferred ownership.

3. LLCs are subject to a gross receipt fee based on the gross revenues of the company. This fee is charged based on the gross receipts, irrespective of whether the company had net income or a net loss. Corporations by comparison are taxed on net income.

Converting an LLC to a Corporation

Now that I’ve gone over some of the key differences, it’s time to talk about converting your limited liability company into a corporation. There are details specific to your company, but in general the process is pretty straightforward.

1. Adopt a plan of conversion. Here you’ll need to address some key questions like the name of your new corporation and how you plan to convert membership interests into shares.

2. Craft a statement of conversion. The statement needs to include the following: the name of your LLC, the Secretary of State’s file number for your LLC, documentation that your plan of conversion was approved by the LLC’s members and is compliant with California law.

Once these tasks have been completed and approved, your LLC is now a corporation – but don’t think you’re done. You’ll need to draft bylaws, elect officers and directors, hold an initial board meeting and issue stock certificates. The team at Structure Law Group can help you with the transition. You can find more information about our services by clicking on this link.

About Structure Law Group

Structure Law Group is a San Jose based firm that specializes in business issues including business formations, commercial contracts and litigation.

You’re ready to hire. Should you go with an employee or independent contractor? Your decision will have implications for your business. In this blog post we’ll address the differences between employees and independent contractors, the benefits of both and how to tell the difference between the two.

What is an Employee?

A simple definition of an employee is someone you hire and directly manage. Employees are generally provided training by the business and work for only one employer. A benefit of hiring an employee is that you get to set a schedule and train the person in the way you want things done. Employers generally have more control over the end result in this situation.

What is an Independent Contractor?

A contractor can have his or her own business. They do not fit within the company framework. Contractors can work for more than one business at a time and they set their own schedule. A major advantage to hiring a contractor is that you don’t have to pay into Social Security, Medicare and unemployment. You also can set the terms for employment. If you don’t like their work you can let them go at the end of the contract.

How do you know?

The IRS offers some general guidelines to help you determine whether or not you have an employee or independent contractor. The agency looks at degrees of control and independence. The three categories they use are behavioral, financial and relationship.

• Behavioral refers to whether or not your business has the right to control how the worker does his or her job.
• Financial is a measure of how the worker is paid and if he or she is reimbursed.

• Relationship examines any contracts or benefits.

There are several questions to ask yourself to determine if you’re hiring an employee or independent contractor.

1. Do you want full control of how the person does the work? If so, the person will be an employee.
2. Do you plan to have the worker paid regularly via your normal payroll system as opposed to having them send you invoices for their services? If so, the person will likely be an employee.
3. Will the worker will be paid by the project rather than hourly? If so, they’re likely an independent contractor.

4. Will the person be eligible for company benefits? If so, the person will be an employee.

These are just some of the important things to consider when determining if you’re hiring an employee or an independent contractor. If you need help you can fill out a Form SS-8 and send it to the IRS. For quicker results consider calling or email the professionals at Structure Law Group. We’re happy to help.

About Structure Law Group

Structure Law Group is a San Jose based firm that specializes in business issues including business formations, commercial contracts and litigation.

Business is an ongoing back-and-forth between interested parties. Contract negotiations, whether they be with employees or a competing business, can be contentious. There’s a lot at stake and big feelings are involved. A successful contract negotiation is one where all parties feel they got something out of the deal. This isn’t wishful thinking. By following these four simple tips you can create an environment where everyone is heard and respected.

1. Multiple Meetings

The first tip is pretty straightforward. Break down the negotiation into multiple sessions. The longer you sit at a table arguing over the same points the less likely you’ll come to an agreement. Give the person time to digest the information. Clear eyes and a fresh head make for better judgment.

2. Focus on Interests not Positions

The second tip involves removing emotion from the table. If a person is angry or frustrated, chances are it’s not because of you. Identify the interests behind the issue. Business is a world of clashing personalities and ideas. Depersonalize the process by removing statements like, “I think” or “I believe.” Instead, focus on the facts. If an employee is asking for a salary increase you can’t afford, then be honest. Say something inclusive like, “We don’t have the funds right now.” This way you’re not making a judgment about the person’s abilities, which can lead you into trouble.

3. Know your Priorities

The third tip is all about you. What do you want to see happen? Know what you want before you go into the negotiations. This doesn’t mean you should box your ears and ignore what the other person has to say. Good faith negotiation requires keeping an open mind. Still, knowing what you want and expressing those views provides a starting point that is clear to the other party.

4. Ask Questions

Finally, don’t be afraid to delve deeper. If the other party is coming back to the same issue it’s okay to ask why. This is clearly an important topic to them, so find out why it’s so critical; just be mindful of your approach. You want to sound interested and not accusatory.

A successful contract negotiation will help your business. These four tips are a good start. If you need further guidance consider consulting an attorney like those at Structure Law Group. This is a good idea if you need clarifications about contract law or have an especially difficult other party.

About Structure Law Group

Structure Law Group is a San Jose based firm that specializes in business issues including business formations, commercial contracts and litigation.

Photo Credit: Jonny Goldstein via Flickr

Having practiced corporate law in Silicon Valley for 15 years, I must say that there is nothing more frustrating for my clients, who are mostly closely held businesses in the San Jose area, than spending months or years training an employee only to have her leave and go on to compete with the company that trained her. In particular, I represent several staffing and consulting companies and have had to listen to their complaints of how unfair this is from the employer’s perspective. Often, I have to tell these hard working, small business owners that there is almost nothing they can do (except pursue a claim against the employee for misappropriation of trade secrets). In 2008, the California Supreme Court decided Edwards v. Arthur Andersen LLP, making it clear that employee post-employment non-compete agreements are unenforceable in California except in certain very limited circumstances, including in connection with the sale of a good business involving goodwill.

Now, a new California Court of Appeals case, Fillpoint, LLC v. Maas (August 24, 2012) further enforces California’s attitude towards fostering open competition and disfavoring restrictions on employees. In the Fillpoint case, a major shareholder and key employee signed both a three year non-compete agreement related to the sale of his stock, and a one year post-employment non-compete in his new employment agreement. The Court paid particular attention to whether the stock purchase agreement and the employment agreement should be read together as one document. The employment agreement alone would violate California’s view of post-employment non-compete agreements as against public policy. However, in connection with the sale of the business, it could be enforceable. In this case, the shareholder/employee worked for the acquired company until the three year non-compete ran out, but then terminated his employment and went to work for the competition. The company claimed that the one year non-compete covenant in the employee’s employment agreement should restrict him from such competing employment. The employment agreement non-compete provision specifically prohibited him from making sales contacts or actual sales to any customer or potential customer of the company, working for or owning any business that competes with the company, and employing or soliciting for employment any of the company’s employees or consultants.

The court found that the two agreements should be considered integrated because the covenants were executed in connection with the sale or disposition of stock in the acquired company. In particular, they noted the integration clause in the documents, which stated that if there were any conflicts between the two documents, the stock purchase agreement would control. The court went on to consider whether the non-compete and non-solicitation covenants should be void and unenforceable, and found that they were because they were overly broad. In particular, the court noted the over-broad restriction against selling to potential customers of the company.

So what does this new case teach us? Non-competes are still extremely limited in California. And for me, as a business attorney in the Silicon Valley where mergers and acquisitions are either a way of life or an exit strategy for most businesses, this case reminds me how careful business lawyers have to be when drafting these provisions to make sure they are enforceable. Non-compete provisions should be clear that they are connected with the purchase and sale of a business, including any specific payment allocated to such non-compete covenant. And when drafting a non-compete, do not try to make it any broader than necessary to protect the goodwill being acquired.

There is another question that comes up often in my practice. After I am done explaining how most non-compete covenants are illegal and unenforceable in California, my small business clients almost always ask about whether they can include an employee non-solicitation agreement instead, to at least prevent the person leaving from taking key people with them. I really wish I could clearly and conclusively tell them that they can, but I am not so sure anymore. In the past, we could point to the Loral Corp. v. Moyes (1985) case which held that employee non-solicits are enforceable in California. However, the Arthur Andersen case and now the Fillpoint case make this position a lot less certain, even though they don’t specifically overturn Loral corp.

Where does this leave us? It seems like we say this every year, but it is time to revisit your employment agreements and independent contractor agreements. If you insist on keeping an employee non-solicitation covenant, make sure it is as narrow as possible and that your agreement has a severability clause to (hopefully) save the rest of the document in the event a court finds the restrictive covenant to be void and unenforceable.

The information appearing in this article does not constitute legal advice or opinion. Such advice and opinion are provided by the firm only upon engagement with respect to specific factual situations. Specific questions relating to this article should be addressed directly to the author.