Articles Posted in Employment

When multiple individuals begin conducting business together, they may have effectively created a partnership, even if they didn’t intend to do so.  Thus, even though partnerships can be formed without the partners actually signing a partnership agreement, the partnership and its partners become subject to state laws governing partnerships.  The California business attorneys at Structure Law Group, LLP understand the laws and mechanics required to build a strong foundation for a partnership.  Being careful and meticulous about the partnership formation process can also help to prevent litigation if and when a dispute arises between and among business partners.

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Partnership Agreements

 Although not required under California law, as discussed above, entering into a partnership agreement when forming a partnership is highly recommended.  A partnership agreement is a legally binding contract that, among other things, dictates the roles of the partners and establishes guidelines for management of the partnership.  In addition, partnership agreements set out how potential legal disputes will be resolved.

If your business employs at least one person, you should always be aware of the ever-changing wage and hour laws in California and your particular city. In addition, if your company has locations and employees in multiple states or cities, you need to be in compliance with the laws of those jurisdictions, as well. One important aspect of employment law is that many states and cities are raising the required minimum hourly wage. Ignorance of the changes to minimum wage laws is not a valid defense to violating those laws and noncompliance can be costly. Contact the California employment attorneys at Structure Law Group, LLP to stay up-to-date on the latest employment law.  The following is a brief overview of the recent updates to minimum wage in California and increases in other parts of the United States.

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 California Minimum Wage Adjustments

 California has a legislative plan in effect that aims to raise the minimum wage across the state to $15.00 per hour by the start of 2022 for most businesses and by 2023 for smaller businesses. There is one set of guidelines for companies that employ 26 or more individuals and another set for companies with 25 or fewer, so it is important to know which set of guidelines applies to your business.  However, depending on where you conduct your business, a higher minimum wage may apply than what has been enacted by the California legislature, as many cities across the state have increased the minimum wage on their own.  For example, San Francisco raised its minimum wage to $13.64, which will increase to $14.00 per hour on July 1, 2017.  San Jose’s minimum wage is currently $10.50 for all employers and will increase to $12.00 per hour on July 1, 2017.  It is critical to know what the local and state minimum wage is in order to ensure compliance and the employment attorneys at SLG can help.

As the owner of a corporation, LLC, or other business, you want employees on your team who improve efficiency and increase profits. However, as cautious as you may be during the hiring process, there is always the chance that an employee may become a problem. In some cases, talking to an employee and discussing an issue can result in them changing their behavior for the better. In other cases, behavior may get worse. You may be getting complaints from your customers, vendors or even other employees. In such cases, it may be best to terminate the employment relationship.

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 Often, the problem is that not many people take getting fired lightly.  While California is an “at-will” employment state, meaning employees can be fired for any legal reason (e.g., non-discriminatory) or no reason at all, many people get angry and look for a reason to hold the business accountable for their job loss, even if it did nothing wrong. For example, if you excuse a male employee for being late regularly yet fire a female employee for tardiness, you may be accused of sex discrimination. Allegations of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination can be made. Even if such allegations are unfounded, you could have to spend valuable time, energy, and money defending against these claims.

The experienced employment law attorneys at Structure Law Group, LLP can help you establish employment practices and employee handbooks that will allow the employment process to run more smoothly.  The following are some things to consider when firing a problem employee:

Last year, the Department of Labor (DOL) set forth a new “Final Rule” on overtime requirements that gave millions of Americans the right to time-and-a-half overtime pay. The law in place for years gave automatic overtime rights to non-exempt individuals who earned $455 per week ($23,660 annually). The new rule approximately doubled this threshold to $913 per week and was set to go into effect December 1, 2016.

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On November 22, 2016, a judge in a Texas federal district court issued a preliminary injunction on the overtime rule, which halted it from taking effect. The DOL initially sought an expedited appeal of the matter and all of the briefs in the appeal of the injunction were to have been filed by January 31st. However, the litigation is on-going so what will happen to the law is still very much uncertain.

The change of administration only complicates the matter further, as the Trump administration opposes the rule. In reality, the new leadership of the DOL could drop the appeal and simply let the injunction remain permanently.  Having an experienced employment lawyer who is up-to-date with these laws can help you understand the rules and mold your business accordingly.

Many people will say that your business is only as good as your best employees. In fact, you may have one or more top employees who are absolutely integral in building and maintaining the success of your company. While having talented employees is a benefit to any business owner, it also tends to draw the attention of your competitors.

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Your company may have some employees who could leave with only minimal interruptions to your business operations. On the other hand, there may be a select few whose absence may substantially harm your bottom line. Identify the top performers in your company through performance reviews and other tools and focus on keeping them satisfied. After all, your competitors will not be actively seeking your “benchwarmer” employees – they will be looking to take your Stephen Curry.

What is an Agency Relationship?

“Agency” is a term that defines a legal relationship between two parties: the principal and the agent.  An agency relationship is established once the agent has the legal authority to act as the legal representative on behalf of the principal, which may be an entity or a person. The agent will only have legal authority to act on behalf of the principal so long both parties are in agreement to create the agency relationship and the principal must have the necessary legal capacity (must be of legal age and of sound mind, etc.) to enter into a contract.

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How Do Agency Relationships Affect Workplace Settings?

The United States Department of Labor recently announced a new rule on white collar overtime exemption regulations. This new rule will affect an estimated 4.2 million white collar workers who will no longer be exempt from Fair Standards Labor Act guidelines and must be paid for overtime work. The new rule will go into effect on December 1, 2016. The employment lawyers at Structure Law Group, LLP are experienced in ensuring that their clients follow all federal and California employment rules and regulations.

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Previously, qualifying employees with an annual salary of more than $23,660 (or $455 per week) were generally exempt from the federal requirement that employees are entitled to overtime if they work over forty hours in one week. Under the new law, the minimum salary threshold for exemption has been raised to $47,476 annually, or $913 per week. This amount will be automatically revised every three years by a formula that takes into account wages across the country.

Owners of businesses with at least one employee should stay fully apprised of all federal and California state laws that relate to the treatment of employees. For example, there are various state and federal laws related to wage and hour matters, discrimination, and insurance and taxes. Laws can change and courts regularly issue new interpretations of existing laws.  Accordingly, it can be difficult for you to know whether you are truly in compliance with the most up-to-the-minute versions of employment laws. After all, your focus is on your business and not the latest court opinions. However, a skilled business attorney makes it their job to know new developments in any laws that would be applicable to your business and your employees.

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California Court Ruling on Employee Seating Requirements

Earlier this year, the California Supreme Court issued a decision on a class action case that involved an employer who forced its employees to stand during their work and subjected those employees to potential discipline for sitting down. This discipline occurred even though their job duties did not require standing. Even if some employees were not actually prohibited from sitting down during work hours, they were not provided with chairs, stools, or adequate seating by their employer. While employee seating may not seem like a hot-button issue to you, it is important to many employees who experience foot pain, back pain, or other ailments from standing for long hours unnecessarily.

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:

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,