Steve Jobs Tribute

The design by Jonathan Mak Picture: jmak.tumblr.com Steve Jobs’s passing yesterday at the age of 56 deeply affected me.  Here was a man who dropped out of college, pursued what inspired him, and changed the world. I felt a tremendous sense of loss.  But on the other hand, I hope that as his story and personal journey is told and retold, it will inspire others to take chances and follow their passions.  I know that I have been inspired.      

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Update to Right to Unionize Posting Requirement

The effective date of National Labor Relations Board‘s (NLRB) new requirement that employers post a notice of employees’ right to unionize has been extended to January 31, 2012, instead of the original November 14, 2011 date.  The NLRB states that the postponement was to “allow for enhanced education and outreach to employers, particularly those who operate small and medium sized businesses.” The new requirement has met with much resistance from the business community which fears that the posting requirement will promote unionization among employees.

In: Employment Law, New Laws | 1 Comment

Do I need to file in small claims court? – Anatomy of a Lawsuit Part II

This series applies to California lawsuits only. For rules regarding your state’s small claims procedure, visit the website for your state’s judicial branch. So you’ve figured out the Statute of Limitations issue.  Now where to file your lawsuit – small claims or civil court? What is small claims court? Small claims court is a civil court lite to deal with dispute amounts (claims) that are relatively small. The disputes are resolved quickly, informally, without a jury or lawyers.  However, even though you are not allowed to have a lawyer represent you at the small claims hearing, you could get a lawyer’s help before or after the hearing. What is the claim limit in small claims? Individuals – Generally, you may not ask for more than $7,500. Corporations or other entities – Generally, you may not ask for more than $5,000 What are the types of Claims you can file in small claims? Some common types of small claims cases are related to: • Property damage or personal injury from a car accident; • Landlord/tenant security deposits; • Damage to your … Continue reading

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Exempt vs Non-Exempt Employee – $17 million Suit for Misclassifying Employees

On September 26, 2011, the California Labor Commissioner filed a $17 million suit against ZipRealty for violations of minimum wage and overtime pay of its real estate agents. The premise for lawsuit is that ZipRealty misclassified its agents as exempt “outside salespersons” when they were in fact non-exempt employees.  The significant fact here is the allegation that the real estate agents spend less than 50% of their time away from the office. If the ZipRealty loses, it would be liable for 4 years of unpaid wages, meal and rest break premiums, unpaid overtime, plus other penalties and interests. Yikes. What is the difference between exempt vs non-exempt employees? We’ll take a look at who qualifies as an exempt outside salesperson. According to Wage Order Nos. 1-2001-16-2001, §2, an outside salesperson is a person age 18 or older who customarily and regularly spends more than half of his or her working time away from the employer’s place of business selling tangible or intangible items or obtaining orders or contracts for products, services, or use of facilities. What the lawyers will spend a … Continue reading

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Disability Accommodation – The Interactive Process

What is the interactive process and why should I care? If you are a disabled employee, you should care because unless your disability is obvious, it is incumbent upon you to initiate the conversation with your employer regarding your limitations and necessary accommodations. As an employer, California law requires you engage in this thing called the “interactive process” with your disabled employees and failure to do so subjects you to liability separate from the failure to reasonably accommodate itself. Now on to the nitty gritty. The law Both the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) require employers to engage in a “timely, good faith, interactive process” to determine effective reasonable accommodations with an individual who has a known disability or medical condition and requests accommodation.  However, liability exists only if a reasonable accommodation is in fact possible. Since California generally afford employees more protection than federal law, under California law, an employer’s duty to engage in the interactive process with and reasonably accommodate extends to employees and applicants who do not actually … Continue reading

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Guest Blogger – Things to Think About When Considering Bankruptcy

As the economy continues to move sluggishly and unemployment rates remain high, business owners and employees alike have asked “should I file for bankruptcy”?  Since I have no idea where the nearest bankruptcy court is, I enlisted the help of Irvine bankruptcy attorney Jeffrey Hsu to guest blog here today. “When should an individual file for bankruptcy?  That is a difficult question to answer because the decision to file for bankruptcy is specific to the individual contemplating bankruptcy relief. The decision to file bankruptcy should always be one of last resort.  That means other options should always be completely exhausted before one decides to file bankruptcy.   Most importantly, filing bankruptcy is fact specific and depends on the issues a person is facing. The most common factors for those filing bankruptcy include issues related to credit card debts, lawsuits, wage garnishments, or tax liabilities.  When an individual faces such issues, the likelihood of filing for bankruptcy is still not certain.  Factors that can influence the decision to file for bankruptcy include, but are not limited to: Property the individual may lose as non-exempt … Continue reading

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Anatomy of a Lawsuit – California Statute of Limitations

This is the first post in a new series called “Anatomy of a Lawsuit” where I will explain the process, some legal terms, and considerations that go into a lawsuit.  Comments and questions are appreciated so that I can provide information that is most useful to readers. We’ll start with “when to file a lawsuit?” Today’s topic is the statute of limitations (SOL), which is a fancy word for deadline to file a lawsuit. It’s a simple equation.  Missing the SOL = you’re SOL. Different types of lawsuits have different deadlines to file a lawsuit (statute of limitations).  If you blow this deadline, you could forever lose your right to sue. Below is a non-exclusive list of the deadlines to file some of the most common types of lawsuits in California.  You should confirm with counsel what category your dispute falls under and whether there are special statutes of limitations that apply to your case. What if I want to sue a public entity such as a city, county, school district, or state university? There are additional requirements for suing … Continue reading

In: Anatomy of a Lawsuit, California Civil Litigation | 1 Comment

Hostile Work Environment – Lessons from Project Runway

Let’s do something fun today. Today’s post will discuss 3 reasons why cliquish work environments cost businesses money using last week’s episode of Project Runway appropriately titled “Can’t We All Get Along” as a practical example. The 3 reasons are: 1. Drop in Productivity – Employees who are excluded from the group at large or not considered part of the “in-crowd” at work generally dread coming to work, are less likely to contribute to the company, and the presence of cliques divides the company into groups that usually don’t work well together. This causes a drop in productivity and the company to miss out on some great ideas that excluded employees may have shared otherwise. 2. Individual stress to employees – The cost here is two pronged: a. Employees who are excluded at work generally suffer from stress-related issues such as headaches, hypertension, and other physical manifestations of stress (real or imagined) that lead them to call in sick. Which circles back to the drop in productivity discussed above. b. Should the cliquish work environment rise to one that is … Continue reading

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Cancer as a Disability – $846,000 Award for Failure to Accommodate Employee During Cancer Recovery

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) today announced its largest-ever administrative award of $846,300 against electrical supplier Acme Electric Corporation for firing an employee who was recovering from cancer. Charles Richard Wideman worked for Acme Electric as western regional sales manager overseeing sales operations in the company’s largest territory from February 2004 to March 2008.   He developed kidney cancer in 2006 and prostate cancer in 2007, which required two surgeries and numerous cancer-related outpatient appointments. Although the company immediately granted his two requests for time off for  surgery and recuperative leave, they failed to grant his request for further accommodation for the travel limitation his cancers caused from June 2006 through April 2007.  Instead, Mr. Wideman’s supervisor gave him an unfavorable performance evaluation that criticized him for insufficient travel.  On February 28, 2008, Mr. Wideman was fired. After a three-day hearing, the State’s Fair Employment and Housing Commission found Acme Electric violated the FEHA by failing to accommodate Mr. Wideman’s known travel limitation due to his cancers, failing to engage in a good faith interactive process, discriminating … Continue reading

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5 Things A New Parent or Young Family Should Consider

There is a baby boom among my friends and family.  As we discuss pregnancy and new births, I noticed that conversations with new parents often oscillate between elation and anxiety, especially for first-time parents.  Along with the joy of bringing a new life into this world comes the immense responsibility of caring for and raising this other person who is totally dependent on you. In response to a personal request from a college friend who is expecting, below is a list of 5 things new parents or young families should consider to ease their anxiety and plan for the care of their little ones should something unexpected happen. 1.  Will It is extremely difficult to confront our mortality and make contingency plans for our death.  However, when you have young children, it is essential to face those fears and plan for your children’s future should something happen to you. Contrary to popular belief, a will does not only provide your wishes and instructions regarding who gets your house, furniture, jewelry, and antique book collection should something happen to you. A … Continue reading

In: Estate Planning | 2 Comments