New Independent Contractor Test Could be Game Changer

The California Supreme Court recently published an opinion that describes a new independent contractor test that is broader than the current independent contractor test.  The “Borello” multi-factor test has been applied for decades, and this new test makes it harder for businesses to properly classify a worker as an independent contractor. This opinion will affect many businesses that hire independent contractors within the State of California. The main take away from this opinion, Dynamex Operations W. v. Super. Ct., Cal. is this: There is a new independent contractor test for purposes of the obligations imposed by a wage order. Here is a breakdown to help understand the preceding statement: What are wage orders? In California, employment laws are spelled out in different places, including statutes, case law, and wage orders. This case specifically addresses the obligations that are imposed on employers by the wage orders that apply to different industries. These wage orders address issues such as the payment of wages (minimum wage), regulating meal and rest breaks, and the number of hours worked (overtime pay), for example. Since these wage … Continue reading

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Non-Compete Agreements in California

Non-compete agreements are void in California except in certain limited circumstances.  More specifically, California’s Business & Professions Code § 16600 states: “Except as provided in this chapter, every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.” This means that non-competition clauses in employment agreements that purport to prohibit an employee from working for a competitor or starting a competing business after the employee leaves are void.  This is true in California, even if the prohibition is limited to a certain geographic area or for a limited period of time.  This is because California fiercely protects a person’s right to work and to engage in the profession of his or her choice, including working for a competitor or starting a competing business. Under what circumstances are non-compete agreements valid in California? Although the general rule is that agreements that prohibits someone from competing or engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business is void, there are specific circumstances where a court will uphold a non-compete agreement.  … Continue reading

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Equal Pay Act Litigation – Salary History May Not Justify Wage Differential

In an Equal Pay Act opinion that is significant for employers in California, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, and Hawaii, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, held: “prior salary alone or in combination with other factors cannot justify a wage differential. To hold otherwise – to allow employers to capitalize on the persistence of the wage gap and perpetuate that gap ad infinitum – would be contrary to the text and history of the Equal Pay Act, and would vitiate the very purpose for which the Act stands.” This decision came just one day before Equal Pay Day. April 10, 2018, this year’s Equal Pay Day, is the symbolic date to which an average woman working full time had to work to earn what her male counter-part earned in 2017 – an extra 99 days. Case Facts In Rizo v. Yovino, a female employee, Aileen Rizo, sued her employer, Fresno County Office of Education, when she learned that male colleagues who were hired into similar positions were placed in higher salary steps. This pay disparity was not because … Continue reading

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Tip Pools – Law Changes (Again)

Two years ago, the Ninth Circuit held that employers may not share tips from tip pools to back of the house staff who aren’t in the “chain of service.”  Last month, this rule was revised by federal law.  This means that California employers in the restaurant, hotel, and other service industries where tips are common place, may now distribute tips to those who were previously excluded, such as cooks and dishwashers.  This is a welcome change that many of my clients who own restaurants and hotels believe is the fairer rule. Below is a recap on what this means for California employers: Tip pooling policies may now provide that back of the house employees can share in  tip pools. This means that tip pooling policies may now require tip pools to be distributed not only to bussers but also to cooks and dishwashers, for example.  This practice was prohibited in the last 2 years. Certain employees are still prohibited from being paid from tip pools. Owners, managers, or supervisors of the business may not share in tip pools.  Employers should … Continue reading

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Overtime Pay and Flat Rate Bonuses

Unpaid overtime is one of the most common wage and hour claims against employers and proper calculation of overtime pay can be extremely confusing. Employers often want to incentivize employees with bonuses, but unwittingly create increased exposure for failure to correctly pay overtime. An example of how incentivizing employees could blow up in an employer’s face is the recent Supreme Court decision in Alvarado v. Dart Container Corporation of California. Defendant Dart Container is a manufacturer of food service products. Plaintiff Hector Alvarado was employed as a warehouse associate who was paid on an hourly basis and who, in addition to his normal hourly wages, received an “attendance bonus” of $15 per day that he was scheduled to, and did work, on a weekend day. He received the $15 flat rate bonus regardless of whether he merely completed the shift or exceeded the shift and worked overtime hours. The gist of the dispute was this: How to calculate the regular rate of pay for purposes of calculating the overtime pay rate (generally, 1.5 times the regular rate of pay)? The … Continue reading

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Severance Pay – 3 Things to Know

I’ve been on both sides of the negotiation table when it comes to severance pay.  I have drafted and negotiated them on behalf of companies as well as reviewed and negotiated them on behalf of departing employees.  This experience allowed me to understand the value of providing an employee with severance pay from both perspectives. Below are the top 3 things you should understand about severance pay.  This information is applicable to both an employer who may want to offer severance pay to an employee at termination as well as an employee who was offered severance pay along with a multi-page agreement to sign, The law does not require payment of severance unless there is a contractual obligation. At the time of employment, employers sometimes promise to give an executive level or other key employee severance pay should the employment relationship end, usually without cause, and under certain circumstances.  These circumstances may be the business’s closing or change in ownership, reductions in force, etc.  The promise of severance pay is usually offered as an extra incentive to entice top talent.  … Continue reading

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End of Year Checklist

We are fast-approaching the end of the year, which is when most businesses evaluate the successes and challenges of the past year and make plans for improvements in the coming year.  Just like Santa goes over his list at this time of year, here is a checklist to help your business close out the year and prepare for 2018. Employee Pay Pay Audit – If your company has not performed a pay audit, this is the perfect time to do it since determining whether each employee should receive a raise and how much will require you to review each employee’s pay.  Extend that review to an analysis of whether a pay discrepancy exists between employees in the same or similar positions.  This will help mitigate your company’s risk of Equal Pay violation claims in the future.  If you discover pay discrepancies, this is the time to address those discrepancies and provide raises and bonuses where appropriate. Bonus – As you determine employee bonuses, make sure to review your written policies related to bonuses to ensure that you are meeting the … Continue reading

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New Law 2018 – Parental Leave Requirement Expanded to Smaller Employers

If your business employees 20 to 49 employees, you must prepare for a significant change that many small businesses deem a significant burden – job-protected parental leave.  On October 12, 2017, Governor Brown approved SB 63, which expands the leave requirements of the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to employers who employ at least 20 employees within a 75 miles (down from the threshold of 50 employees).  If your company does not have a parental leave policy, or has one that does not meet the requirements of the new law, the next couple of months is the perfect time to create one, updated your employee handbook, and establish a contingency plan on how you will cover for employees who may take anywhere between 3 to 7 months of leave. Here is a short outline of the new Government Code Section 12945.6’s requirements: Employers with at least 20 employees within 75 miles of the worksite must now do the following: 1. Provide up to 12 weeks of parental leave to an employee who has worked for the employer for more than 12 … Continue reading

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New Law 2018 –Immigration Enforcement

Immigration was a hot topic this year and starting January 1, 2018, employers will see increased obligations as they relate to employees’ immigration status.  Earlier this month, Governor Brown signed AB 450 into law. Beginning January 1, 2018, employers will have the following obligations as they relate to immigration enforcement agents and the workplace: 1. No access without a warrant: Employers, and others acting on their behalf, may not voluntarily consent to immigration enforcement agents entering nonpublic areas of a place of labor without a warrant. For example, if you own a restaurant, immigration enforcement agents are free to enter the dining room but may not enter the kitchen or back office without a warrant permitting them to do so. Penalties for violating this requirement are $2,000 to $5,000 for the first violating incident and $5,000 to $10,000 for each subsequent violation. 2. No inspection of records without warrant or subpoena: Employers, and others acting on their behalf, may not voluntarily provide immigration enforcement agents the ability to access, review, or obtain the employer’s employee records without a subpoena or … Continue reading

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New Law 2018 – Pay Privacy

“What did you make at your last job?” will be an illegal question when asked of a job candidate in 2018.  California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed AB-168, the salary privacy bill, into law on October 12, 2017.  The law goes into effect on January 1, 2018, and applies to all California employers regardless of size and whether they are in the private or public sector. There are three main parts to the new Section 432.3 of the California Labor Code: An employer shall not rely on an applicant’s salary history as a factor in determining whether to offer employment to an applicant or what salary to offer an applicant. An employer shall not, in any way, either directly or indirectly through third parties, seek an applicant’s salary history information (compensation and benefits). An employer, upon reasonable request, shall provide the pay scale for a position to an applicant applying for employment. However, employment applicants may voluntarily disclose their prior salary history (without prompting), in which case, the employer may use the voluntarily provided salary history in determining that applicant’s salary.  … Continue reading

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