AdobeStock_271469937-300x200In general, shareholders are protected from liability for the debts of the corporation. This is because the corporation is viewed as a separate legal entity with its own assets and liabilities. This “corporate veil” of protection can, however, be pierced in certain situations, and personal liability imposed on the shareholders. Creditors use this legal tactic strategically to be sure they can access funds for what they are owed. The experienced California business attorneys at the Structure Law Group can help advise creditors on how to effectively pierce the corporate veil in order to satisfy the debts they are owed.

Elements of Alter Ego Liability

In order to pierce the corporate veil, the plaintiff must prove “alter ego liability.” Alter ego literally translates to “other self.” In alter ego liability, the corporation has been treated as an extension of shareholders’ personal interests, so the courts find it fair to hold shareholders liable for the corporation’s debts, as well. Plaintiffs in California must establish: (1) that there is a unity of ownership and interest between the owners (or shareholders) and the corporation, and (2) that it would be unfair to only hold the corporation accountable for its debts in order to establish alter ego liability.

AdobeStock_392831851-300x200COVID-19 has created significant issues when it comes to workplace safety, and lawmakers are racing to implement rules based on changing circumstances of the pandemic while attempting to balance the interests of employers and employees. While Congress has engaged in protracted and fierce debate over economic relief packages, state and federal agencies have been much quicker to act on safety rules –  and to enact the emergency authority necessary to enforce these rules. Employers in California must be aware of these rules and the immediate actions they require. Here are some of the most basic safety rules that have been enacted to protect California employees from the spread of the coronavirus in the workplace:

What the New Rules Require

Cal/OSHA has adopted emergency rules that require employers to protect their employees from the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace. These rules require employers to:

AdobeStock_170059060-300x200Even with all the unexpected challenges of 2020, the California State Legislature still passed employment laws that will take effect in 2021. If employers do not change their employment practices to adhere to the new laws, they can face liability in an employment lawsuit or administrative sanctions from state agencies such as the Labor Commissioner. Learn more about some of the many changes that will take effect in 2021:

COVID-19 Laws

It should be no surprise that many of these new laws address the immediate safety concerns presented by the coronavirus pandemic. As noted by the California Chamber of Commerce, two bills took effect immediately upon signing in September 2020. The first expands supplemental paid sick leave for COVID-19-related reasons for certain employers not already covered by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The second creates a rebuttable workers’ compensation presumption for workers that contract COVID-19 under certain conditions. The law requires employers to report COVID-19 cases to their workers’ compensation carriers.

AdobeStock_252763744-300x200In November 2020, California voters approved what is arguably the most comprehensive privacy rights law in the nation. The California Privacy Rights Act does not take effect until January 1, 2023. But its requirements are far-reaching, and California business owners have a lot of work to do to prepare their businesses for compliance with the law before that date. Moreover, violations of the new Act prior to 2023 can cause bad public relations and potential liability in other areas. Business owners should meet with a California lawyer now to determine how the new law will affect their business, what steps must be taken, and the most efficient process for implementing these measures as soon as possible. The sooner these changes are integrated into a company’s practices and culture, the less likely it is the business will face liability under the Act.

Corporate Responsibilities Under the California Privacy Rights Act

The CPRA requires businesses to track an entirely new category of user data: “sensitive personal information.” This includes government-issued identifiers, finance information, biometric data, health status, precise geolocation, contents of emails or texts, and race or ethnic origin. Sensitive personal information is a subcategory of personal information that is protected under existing privacy laws. This means that it, too, must be de-identified or subject to an aggregation exception. The CPRA adds an additional requirement for businesses to implement “reasonable security measures” to protect personal information. What measures are “reasonable” will be determined by the type of information that is collected. Detailed financial or medical records will likely require higher levels of security than basic demographic information. Retention periods must also be updated to meet only what is reasonably necessary to perform the purposes for which the data was collected. This means that sensitive personal information might have a shorter retention policy than more general personal information.

AdobeStock_168271721-300x200Most business owners are aware that they must comply with minimum wage laws. However, what is less well known is that there can be different regulations made by a state, county, or even a municipal government. Even more confusing is that these regulations can change, and the changes can take effect at different times of the year. Working with a Silicon Valley business lawyer ensures your compliance with all current wage laws and prevents costly employment disputes in the future.

State Minimum Wage Changes

The California state legislature sets the state minimum wage. The wage policy is frequently reviewed, with annual changes generally taking effect on January 1 of the next calendar year. California’s statewide minimum wage is currently $13 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees and $12 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees. According to the Department of Industrial Relations, California law currently requires an increase in the minimum wage every year, making it important for employers to check every annual change in order to keep current with their legal obligations.

AdobeStock_314925095-300x200The Supreme Court of California recently issued an opinion with significant consequences for any business that enters into contracts. This opinion addresses liability for interfering with an at-will contract, as well as the limits of the few exceptions to the statutory ban on non-compete agreements in our state. It is essential for business owners to understand the implications of this ruling in order to enter into enforceable contracts that will not leave them liable for damages, court costs, and other costly expenses.

The Latest Supreme Court Ruling

On August 3, 2020, the Supreme Court of California issued an opinion that answered critical questions about how California law on tortious interference with business relations applies to an at-will contract. The Court ruled that companies are not liable for encouraging others to end an at-will contract unless there is “independent wrongfulness.” This analysis relied heavily on the uncertain nature of an at-will contract. While parties to a binding contract are negotiating for certainty in their future business relationship, there is no such certainty in an at-will contract. For this reason, legitimate business competition takes precedence over the terminable relationship in such a contract.

covid-court-300x200In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the State and Federal Court in California have become severely backlogged. For months, the courts were closed entirely, hearing only the most urgent cases (such as domestic violence, restraining orders and other protective order type cases). The courts have slowly expanded operations and started hearing other non-urgent matters by video conference. Unfortunately, jury tirals are still on hold and these limited operations have not begun to make a significant dent in the major backlog of cases to be heard. There is a reported backlog of over a thousand criminal trials in California courts. Criminal defendants have the right to a speedy trial, so these cases must generally be given priority over civil matters.

California Statutes That Create Civil Trial Preferences

Without any relief, the current backlog means that it could be months or even years before a civil case is scheduled for trial on a normal court docket. That being said, the California Code of Civil Procedure does create specific categories that allow a civil case to be given preference in trial scheduling. An experienced civil litigator can explain which, if any, of the following circumstances apply to an individual’s case:

AdobeStock_359775405-300x200Tenants across America have faced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the eviction moratoriums have focused on residential leases, in order to keep Californians home and healthy during these dangerous times. Small business owners have also been granted some eviction protections. Regardless of your business size, you might be surprised to learn just how much leverage you have in your commercial lease. Below are three critical strategies that can help your business try to remain financially healthy during and in the wake of the coronavirus.

Renew Your Current Lease

Businesses that are on relatively strong financial footing, and whose leases are expiring in the next six to eighteen months, may find themselves with greater leverage to negotiate renewal terms. Landlords are hesitant to lease to new tenants (who they may not be able to evict). With the U.S. economy is in downturn and the economic future uncertain, landlords are also worried about their future rental prospects. In such conditions, commercial tenants who have remained in good financial health and standing with their current landlord will be well-positioned to negotiate lease renewals with favorable terms.

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The coronavirus pandemic has drastically affected the American workplace. Throughout the country, employees are working from home, and companies are radically changing the way they get business done. Many of these creative solutions are changing California businesses for the better. Existing employment laws still apply to the new workplace. As an employer, you need to be aware of certain issues that could expose you to liability.

Scheduling Changes

Many companies have been forced to lay off workers or reduce hours to stay in business. Before you make any decisions about firing or layoffs, you should be aware of the potential legal consequences of doing so. Employees who have a written employment contract or are part of a union may have protections against these actions, even in the unprecedented circumstances of a global pandemic. Even changing shifts or job responsibilities could trigger the provisions of such a contract. Consult with an employment lawyer before implementing changes that could expose your business to liability.

AdobeStock_336124038-300x200The coronavirus pandemic has caused drastic changes in almost every facet of life in California. For instance, federal, state, and local courts are all facing a major backlog. Many courts were shut down entirely for months, open to only the most urgent cases (such as restraining orders). Now courts have reopened, but many are operating at reduced capacity, meaning they have been making slow progress through the serious backlog of cases. Litigants should be aware of how this backlog will affect their legal claims.

The Incentive to Settle

Parties have the option of settling their claims out of court before trial. Whether they choose to do so depends on a wide range of factors, including: