San Jose Business Lawyers Blog

Articles Posted in Employment

Hiring and retaining employees is critical to success in business. While successfully managing a workforce has many components to it, understanding the basic components of the employment relationship not only protects the company when hiring, but also helps to set the expectations for new and existing employees. Clearly articulating expectations – such as whether the employee is hired at-will or for a fixed term, identifying the main responsibilities of the employee in a clearly articulated job description, informing the employee on the processes and procedures involved in the review process and protecting the company’s intellectual property assets – ensures the employer sets the stage for a successful employment relationship.

Should my Employee be At-will or Fixed Term?stretta di mano per lavorare in un ufficio

Employees can be hired as either an at-will or fixed-term employee. Unless otherwise specified in a written agreement, all employment in the State of California is “at will,” meaning either the employer or the employee can terminate the relationship at any time with or without cause. While at-will employment gives employees more flexibility in controlling how long they continue to work with a particular company, at-will employment also grants businesses with a greater control in terminating employees. Businesses can fire at-will employees at any time, with or without cause. (Obviously, this is limited to instances in which the business is not committing discrimination.) This is true because no contractual obligation exists between the business and its at-will employee.

Reputation can help make or break a startup. Startups rely upon a positive reputation to grow, develop, and maintain a strong customer base. Glowing reviews help startups strengthen their brand equity; at the same time, they help support and influence a customer’s decision to use the startup’s product or service.


A startup that develops a negative reputation will not have the same luck. Customers that leave negative reviews weaken the perceived value of the startup’s product or service. Potential future customers may find themselves less inclined to use the product or service as a result of negative reviews. Too many potential reviews could spell a startup’s demise.

Startups want to succeed. Whether the ultimate goal is to grow and expand or to be bought out, startups want to ensure that their success is not derailed through customer disparagement. In order to combat potential negative reputation, some startups began including non-disparagement clauses in their purchase or licensing agreements.

Many business owners do not hire an experienced attorney for several reasons. Some believe they cannot afford it and others may believe there is no need for a lawyer unless a legal conflict arises. However, it is much more resource-effective (time, energy, and money) to have the guidance of a skilled business lawyer from the very start. Doing so can avoid costly litigation in the first place and will allow you to focus on your business operations and not on a legal case. The following are only some examples of how hiring a business attorney can help to avoid litigation.


Business contracts – Businesses involve many different kinds of contracts, whether they are with fellow owners, suppliers, clients, or any other party. You may not recognize that a particular contract has unfair or adverse provisions that may leave your business vulnerable to losses or liability. Every single contract you consider signing should be carefully drafted, reviewed, and negotiated by a knowledgeable lawyer to protect your interests and avoid legal liability.

Compliance with business laws – California has a great number of laws that are relevant to businesses, and compliance is essential to avoid costly fines or legal conflicts. Such laws can regulate business formation, licenses, permits, zoning, taxes, employees, and many other issues. As a business owner, it may be challenging for you to identify all relevant laws and to ensure that you comply with them. An experienced attorney will know what steps you need to take to comply with necessary laws.

Hiring employees can be exciting for a business owner though it comes with many legal responsibilities and requirements. You must report your new hires to the state, set up a payroll system, comply with tax and immigration laws, and more. With so many requirements, the last thing you may want to do is anything that is not expressly required by law.


One optional step that can be extremely important, however, is developing and regularly updating an employee handbook. Following are some reasons that a carefully drafted employee handbook can help you to avoid legal conflicts with employees.

Avoid employee miscommunication

Many startups in the tech sector are idea-rich and cash-poor, meaning that their most valuable (and often only) asset is their intellectual property that may have the potential to be worth a substantial amount of money. While some startups are able to move their ideas from concept to deployment with relatively little labor involved, many of these ideas require the assistance of developers, programmers, engineers, and marketers, all of whom are skilled professionals who can easily command salaries well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.


For this reason, many startups are faced with the issue of how to pay their employees during the development and launch phase, before they are generating any revenue. Of course, one option is to borrow the money or to seek investors – a solution that has significant pros and cons which should be considered. Another very popular option is to offer employees equity shares in a company in lieu of cash compensation. In some cases, this may take the form of equity for a lower salary than they would normally expect, while in others an equity share may be the only compensation they receive.

There are many issues that tech entrepreneurs and founders should consider when offering equity as compensation. These include the following:

Starting a business entity is a complicated issue that can be compounded by things such as founder’s stock and each founder’s respective contribution. Equity considerations can be extremely important in starting a business, especially when one founder contributes intellectual property (IP) rather than cash or labor.


What is Founder’s Stock?

Awarding a company founder stock is a relatively common practice in business formation, particularly in situations in which a startup is new and not yet generating income.  Doing so gives the contributing founder a measurable property interest in the newly formed entity. Typically, these stocks have a very low face value so that the founder receives a large amount of stock respective to his or her contribution.

Contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers have many tools at their disposal to protect their rights under construction contracts. While the mechanic’s lien is one of the most common ways a contractor or supplier can ensure full payment for their services, this type of legal tool can only be used for private construction projects against the private property owners. For this reason, many people who enter into government contracts may wonder what their options may be under the law to make sure they are properly compensated for their work. One of the most important tools under such circumstances is the payment bond.


What is a payment bond?

Payment bonds are common in many large-scale private construction projects and are further required in by California law for the following:

Enforceable contracts that accurately describe an agreement between the parties are essential to any business, regardless of industry. Contracts arise in many relationships, including with partners, businesses, suppliers, employees, and client or customers, and a company of even moderate size could easily have thousands of contracts with various parties. For this reason, implementing a system to manage contracts and ensure compliance can significantly improve efficiency, improve compliance, and reduce the risk of incurring legal liability that can arise from contract disputes. In addition, an effective contract management system can help automate certain tasks, significantly reducing the risk of human error resulting in a costly dispute. Below are 4 ways in which implementing a contract management system can help businesses in every aspect of the contract lifecycle management process.

  • Keep all contracts in a central repository – This benefit may seem simple, but consider the inefficiency involved in an employee searching through files upon files for a contract that may have been executed years ago. An effective contract management system can keep a copy of the contract itself while also summarizing key facts regarding the agreement in a way in which they are easily accessible to those searching.
  • Create a database of standard agreement and pre-approved substitutions – There is no need to reinvent the wheel every time your company enters into a new agreement. Creating a standardized contract for use in recurring situations as well as standard substitutions that are pre-approved for use can significantly improve efficiency in contract drafting and execution.

Too often, a contractor, subcontractor, laborer, or material supplier on a construction job does not receive the compensation they deserve for the work they have performed or supplies they provided for the project. Fortunately, California law provides a method by which contractors and others can pursue adequate payment. If the job is a private construction project, a primary tool for receiving payment is the mechanics lien. The following are some brief explanations for frequently asked questions amount mechanics liens in California.


What exactly is a mechanics lien?

A mechanics lien is a tool that creates a security interest in the property on which you worked. After a certain amount of time and if payment is not received from the property owner, you can then sue to foreclose on the lien to satisfy the lien amount.

More and more startups are issuing stock and other forms of equity as a form of compensation for work, especially in the early stages of a venture. This arrangement allows a business to recruit talent that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford and, if the company is successful, can result in a significant windfall for people who worked to get a company off the ground without a guarantee of compensation.toad-river-brown_3737_990x742

Generally speaking, when you are transferred equity in a company it is necessary to pay taxes on the fair market value of that equity as you would with any other type of income. In many cases, however, a grant of equity is subject to a vesting agreement, which means that the equity is not actually owned by the grantee until a certain period of time passes. As a result, at the time of the grant, nothing is actually owned, so there is no tax liability associated with the initial grant. When the stock vests, however, that income becomes realized, meaning that there may be significant tax liability, particularly if the company has done well.

83(b) elections can minimize tax liability associated with grants of equity