California’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, “WARN” for short, obligates employers of 75 or more employees to follow certain procedures when downsizing the workforce.   The WARN Act does not apply to a few layoffs. Rather, the WARN Act applies to what is known as a “mass layoff,” in which the business lays off 50 or more employees during a 30-day period.  Businesses considering downsizing their workforce must be wary of the consequences of failing to comply with the WARN Act. Failure could cost the employer a significant amount of money in back pay and other compensation. Consulting with an experienced Silicon Valley Employment Lawyer at Structure Law Group, LLP will help you avoid the pitfalls associated with downsizing your workforce.

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Owners of “covered establishments,” that is, businesses employing 75 or more employees in a 12-month period, must give proper notice of a mass layoff. The employer must give notice to its employees 60 days in advance of the layoff order. “Layoff” means cessation of employment because of insufficient money or an insufficient amount of work. The term “layoff” does not apply to seasonal employment or employees in certain industries including logging and motion pictures. The WARN Act also applies to mass relocations and when an employer’s business closes down. To qualify for the WARN Act’s protection, an employee must be employed by the company for 6 of the preceding 12 months.

In addition to giving notice to the affected employees, the employer must also give written notice to several state and local agencies.  These notices must include the following:

Public policy in California dictates that businesses should be free to compete against each other in the marketplace. Competition among businesses greatly benefits consumers. At the same time, competition engenders higher quality goods and higher service quality at price points advantageous to the consumer. Toward that end, California’s antitrust law, known as the “Cartwright Act,” prohibits a wide variety of conduct designed to restrain competition in the marketplace.

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The San Jose business lawyers at Structure Law Group, LLP dedicate their practice to helping business owners grow their company while insulating them from harm.  Unfair competition has a negative effect on consumers and businesses. Business entities should avoid structuring agreements which arguably cause unfair competition. Failure to do so could subject those businesses to lengthy and costly litigation and expose them to potential damages.

According to California business, trusts are unlawful and against public policy. California law defines a trust as a “combination of capital, skills, or acts by two or more persons” to:

The exchange of cash for payment for a goods or services is rare these days. We have certainly become a digital society. Business make advances daily to make transactions more efficient and convenient. However, businesses engaging in e-commerce must not compromise security for expediency. Additionally, businesses store infinite amounts of personal data about their customers. These businesses, such as health care providers and health insurance companies, not only must safeguard their electronic transactions but must also secure sensitive information and proactively combat data breaches. Failure to do so can lead to a huge economic loss for the customers and the company. The savvy business attorneys at Structure Law Group, LLP advise businesses on the best practices to prevent data breaches and counsel them on the necessary steps to take if such an unfortunate event occurs.

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In California, people have a constitutional right to the safety and integrity of their personal information. California’s information security act defines personal information as any information that could identify or describe a person. Personal information is also an individual’s name, address, social security number, license number, medical information, and the like. A business in possession of such information must take reasonable steps to prevent disclosure of private information. California law obligates businesses to implement security measures reasonably designed to protect the integrity of the private information. Every business entity, from a sole proprietorship to a multi-national corporation is subject to the information security act.

California law broadly defines “data breach.” Data breach includes any “unauthorized acquisition of computerized data that compromises the security, confidentiality, or integrity of personal information maintained by the person or business.” The information may be used in good faith for the benefit of the person whose information is disclosed, provided that such disclosure is authorized.

A “fraudulent,” or more accurately “voidable” transfer, is a transfer by a party (the “debtor”) of some interest in property with the goal or effect of preventing a creditor or creditors from reaching the transferred interest to satisfy their claim or claims.

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What Law Governs “Fraudulent” or “Voidable” Conveyances/Transfers?

Fraudulent conveyances are governed primarily by the Uniform Voidable Transactions Act (UVTA), which replaced the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (UFTA) in California as of January 1, 2016.  The UVTA applies to transfers made or obligations incurred after January 1, 2016.  The UFTA will continue to apply to transfers made or obligations incurred prior to January 1, 2016.  One of the most noticeable changes made in the UVTA is the removal of the word “fraudulent” from the title and body of the act. This change emphasizes that a transfer may be, and often is, voidable even in the absence of any sort of improper intent by the debtor or the transferees.

Businesses must endeavor to guard their trade secrets jealously. Failure to do so can wreak havoc upon development and growth. It will also give competitors a leg-up in the marketplace. Knowing and understanding California’s trade secret law is therefore critically important. Implementing multiple safeguards to prevent trade secret disclosure is necessary. If a business fails to implement reasonable safeguards to prevent trade secret misappropriation, then the business may be without recourse in court. Working closely with experienced business attorneys to develop the appropriate security measures to prevent trade secret theft could prevent disaster from striking. The San Jose San Jose business attorneys at Structure Law Group, LLP (in San Jose and Oakland) have extensive experience counseling businesses on how to best protect their trade secrets and defending businesses against trade secret misappropriation in court.

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California’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“UTSA”), which follows the Uniform Trade Secrets Act adopted in 48 states, defines a “trade secret” as “information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that: (1) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to the public or to other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and (2) is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.” (Ca. Civil Code §3426.1.)

In order to assert a claim for misappropriation of trade secret information, the owner of the trade secret information must identify its trade secret with sufficient specificity so that the information is separate from areas of general knowledge. For example, customer lists, marketing plans or pricing concessions are examples of broad categories of trade secret information. Or, the trade secret can be highly specific, such as a newly designed manufacturing process or the recipe for some sugary carbonated beverage, such as the recipe for Coca-Cola.

When you enter a contract with a provider, a client, or another business setting forth the terms of your business deal, you expect the other party to abide by the terms of the contract. If the other party fails to adhere to the terms of your business agreement, it can cost you time and money and can be infuriating, especially if you have performed your obligations under the contract or the breach of contract costs you money or future business. Business owners harmed by another party’s breach of contract often want to immediately march into court and file a lawsuit against the breaching party. However, this is often not the best or most advantageous course of action and often may even constituted a breach of contract by you. If you believe that a contract has been breached, consider promptly consulting with a qualified attorney to evaluate the contract and assess rights and legal options.should-you-take-your-contract-dispute-to-court-300x200

Have Your Attorney Negotiate with the Other Party

Often, a party may not realize that they have violated or are not in compliance with the terms of a contract and may not understand the potential liability they face for having breached or being in non-compliance with the agreement. Many times these issues can be remedied, putting the aggrieved party in a much stronger legal and negotiating position. It may then make sense for your attorney to reach out to the other party to attempt to resolve the dispute prior to commencing a lawsuit.

Everyone knows what they say about real estate: location, location, location. This same axiom is definitely true for many businesses too. While some businesses may operate out of homes and employ their workforce remotely, many operations require a physical location to which workers and customers go on a daily basis. For example, stores, restaurants, and other locally-serving businesses always want to have a prime location with lots of foot traffic and easy access in town. Others, such as manufacturers, need large warehouses with affordable rent and room for all their equipment. While many business owners choose to own their building, many others do not have means to do so, or may not want to commit to one location long-term. For these reasons and more, many business owners lease their commercial spaces.

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For any type of lease agreement or contract, you want to be sure that all of the provisions are fair and reasonable. A proper lease will set out your rights as a tenant, and you want to be sure it does so adequately. A commercial lease will also designate your responsibilities as a business tenant, and you should be aware of any terms that require unreasonable or difficult responsibilities from you. Because each of these lease types can be complex documents with confusing legal language, you should always have any potential leases reviewed by a highly experienced business attorney prior to signing.

Of course, you will want to make sure the length of the lease and rent requirements suit your needs. The following are some additional terms your attorney will consider and review:

A partnership is created whenever two or more people agree to do business together for a profit. Additionally, partnerships should ensure that they follow sound business practices once they begin their new venture.

Steps in Forming a Partnership

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The first step to forming a partnership is choosing its name.  In California, a partnership may use the last names of the individual partners or any fictitious names. If a fictitious name is used, it must be distinguishable from the name of any business name that is currently on record.  Before choosing the name, a search should be run in the following databases such as California Secretary of State or The United States Patent & Trademark Office.   If a fictitious name is used, the state of California requires that a fictitious business name statement is filed in the office of the county clerk where the partnership intends to do business.  The fictitious business name must also be published in the county newspaper for four weeks.

California law requires employers to take reasonable steps to prevent and address alleged discriminatory and harassing conduct, to provide a government-issued brochure on sexual harassment to all employees, and to conduct sexual harassment prevention trainings if the employer has 50 or more employees.  As of April 1, 2016, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has enacted regulations that will require employers to develop written anti-discrimination and harassment policies with certain content requirements.

Under the new regulations, the anti-discrimination/harassment policy must be in writing, and must at a minimum:

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  1. List all of the protected categories under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, which currently include race, creed, color, national origin, age, ancestry, physical and/or mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, and military and/or veteran status,

Contracts are an integral part of conducting business and the necessity for certain contracts can arise from the very start of your company. The following are only some examples of important contracts for startups in California.

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Founders’ Agreement — If you are going into business with one or more people, having a comprehensive and clear founders’ agreement is imperative. This agreement can be likened to a premarital agreement: it foresees and addresses potential issues that may arise and sets guidelines for dealing with those issues. A solid and enforceable founders’ agreement can prevent a lot of legal conflict and costs down the road.

Nondisclosure Agreements — If you have the idea or formula for a unique product or process, you want to keep information confidential so others do not try to misappropriate your idea. However, it will be necessary to share information with co-founders, employees, investors, contract developers, and others involved in the project. In such cases, you may have others sign a nondisclosure agreement to ensure they will not disclose confidential information to other parties.