In 1970, after finding early success as a musician, a twenty-five-year-old Neil Young purchased the Broken Arrow Ranch in Northern California. As part of the purchase, Mr. Young inherited two elderly employees, Louis Avila and his wife Clara, who lived on the ranch as caretakers. A fond relationship developed, and Mr. Young eventually wrote the song “Old Man” as a tribute to Mr. Avila. The lyrics of the song compare two men born decades apart by musing, “Old man, look at my life, I’m a lot like you were.”

Forty-eight years later, baby boomers who enjoyed this folk-rock tune are now finding themselves in situations more akin to Mr. Availa than Neil Young and are now the employees of younger owners and managers. Unfortunately, many of these employees are not inspiring soulful ballads. Instead, they are being treated poorly or forced out after years of dedicated employment.

Age Discrimination

The #MeToo movement, with its focus of preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault, has led to the passage of new California employment laws. Some of these laws are good for employers, some are bad, and some depend on your political outlook. Regardless of political affiliation, there is no doubt that the #MeToo movement has influenced California lawmakers into passing new legislation aimed at supporting the #MeToo movement. Here are a few laws that will take effect on January 1, 2019.

Freedom from Defamation

It is common practice for potential employers to call former employers for a reference on prospective employees. Currently, employers are permitted to inform another prospective employer whether the employer would rehire an employee. Such communications are deemed to be privileged and protected from a lawsuit for defamation — if done without malice.

The importance of an employee handbook cannot be understated. As long as the handbook is drafted properly, and the policies are followed, an employee handbook can be used as both a sword and shield to protect the employer liability.

shield-1412482-300x200As a shield, an employee handbook helps reduce potential liability. One of the greatest benefits of having an employee handbook is its potential to protect companies from employees’ legal claims. An employee handbook can be used to assist the employer in avoiding and defending against discrimination, harassment and wrongful discharge claims.

longsword-1422533-300x225As a sword, the employee handbook allows employers to be proactive. An employee handbook should articulate the employer’s expectations by clearly describing the employer’s policies and procedures. This includes the actions supervisors and employees should take in the event that an employee has a problem or grievance. Employers should not wait until a lawsuit is filed before learning about what occurs at the workplace. In addition, one of the goals of an employee handbook should be to promote fairness and evenhanded treatment of employees by establishing uniform standards that can be applied by all employees.

If you have been recently fired, you have come to the right place. Being fired is a terrible experience. Not only does it take away your livelihood, but it is often unfair and unjustified. But just because the termination is unfair, it does not mean it is unlawful.

I meet with recently terminated employees on a daily basis and they all want to know if they have a case for wrongful termination. Unfortunately, most of the time, I must tell them that they do not. This blog post explains the basics of wrongful termination.

  1. “At-Will” Employment

In California, covered employers are required to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees for certain family and medical reasons, such as an employee’s serious health condition. But what happens if the employee is unable to return to work after the protected leave expires? When can an employer hire someone else to fill that position?

Our firm gets this question often from employers who feel they are being “held hostage” by employees who are unable to return to work. Their business suffers from an insufficient workforce, but it will suffer more if accused of disability discrimination.

Under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and the California equivalent, the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”), an employer is only required to make an offer of equivalent employment. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and workers’ compensation laws create additional obligations to “reasonably accommodate” the employee’s disability.

The Independent Contractor classification may not be dead, but it is seriously wounded. The California Supreme Court recently announced a new test for determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor in the landmark decision of Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, No. S222732 (Cal. Sup. Ct. Apr. 30, 2018).

Under the new Dynamex decision, a hiring entity classifying an individual as an independent contractor now bears the burden of establishing that such a classification is proper under the “ABC test.” To do so, the entity must prove each of the following three factors:

(A)  that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact;

We’ve all heard the cliché saying, “It’s cheaper to keep her.” While it may be relevant in divorce, and a good reason to strive for a happy marriage, it may not be a good mantra for business. The greatness of American business is rooted in “Mom and Pop Shops” — small, family-owned, businesses with a minimum number of employees. The appeal of these small businesses are low start-up costs and exclusive control. However, exclusive control is just a facade as Mom and Pop still need to be compliant with the law.

California employment laws are expansive and evolving. According to the Department of Industrial Relations, thirty-two employment-related laws were amended in 2016, and in 2015, there were over 110 amendments or additions. In other words, unless Mom and Pop receive yearly training, they are already falling behind. This is the same for any company, but the difference is that larger companies can terminate their payroll personnel if a mistake is made. Pop can’t exactly fire Mom if she miscalculates overtime.

So, what is Pop to do? The answer is simple: get Mom some help so she doesn’t make a mistake. If a mistake is made, consult an attorney before it becomes a lawsuit. Here are three tips from an employment lawyer to help Mom and Pop avoid common obstacles in operating a business.