When Thomas Jefferson commissioned an expedition to explore the western frontier in 1803, he called upon two men who, among other things, were valiant record-keepers. Meriwether Lewis, a secretary, and William Clark, a cartographer, spent three years exploring and documenting an unknown territory. Some of the most important things to come from the Lewis and Clark Expedition were their personal journals, which contained invaluable information used by those who followed their trail westward.

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The value of record-keeping cannot be overstated. Advanced civilizations require written language, arts, sciences and government – which all begin with record-keeping. The same can be said about business. While all businesses keep records, there is a significant difference between a cave painting and the Great Library of Alexandria. Unfortunately, some business owners remaining in the stone age of record-keeping, which can create significant liability.

Both Federal and State law require employers to create and maintain employment records. This includes payroll records, employee’s name, address, occupation, hours worked each day and week, wages paid and date of payment, amounts earned as straight-time pay and overtime, and deductions. These records must be maintained for three years. [Lab.C. §§ 226(a), 1174(d), 29 CFR § 516.5]. Other records, such as time and earning cards and work schedules must be kept for two years. [29 CFR § 516.6].

In April 30, 2018, the world of employment law was shaken by the decision of the California Supreme Court to apply a stricter standard for determining whether a worker was an employee or independent contractor. The new standard, set forth in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, is known as the ABC Test.

Soon after the California Supreme Court published its landmark decision of Dynamex Operations W. v. Superior Court, (2018) 4 Cal. 5th 903, 962 (“Dynamex”), the law firm of Davis & Wojcik APLC experienced an influx of employer consultations at a rate never before experienced by a single court ruling. The immediate application of the ABC Test caught many employers by surprise, and they were eager to know how Dynamex would impact their business. Their concern was well-founded.

Immediately after the Dynamex decision was published, the employment world was left wondering whether the ABC Test would be applied retroactively. Thanks to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, we now have an answer.

In the classic novel The Scarlet Letter, author Nathanial Hawthorne depicts the story of a woman who was forced to wear a scarlet letter ‘A’ on her dress so the townspeople could publicly shame her for adultery. The major theme of The Scarlet Letter is the suffering of individuals from social stigmatizing – a vice that has only increased since the novel’s publication in 1850.

In recent years, the “Ban the Box” movement has sought to eliminate similar stigmatisms about convicted criminals who, after paying their debt to society, find it difficult to secure employment due to prejudice. The goal of this movement is to decrease discrimination against applicants who may have a criminal history. In 2015, President Obama “banned the box” on applications for federal government jobs. Currently, eleven states have mandated the removal of conviction history questions from job applications for private employers. In 2017, California passed multiple statutes that prohibit employers from considering expunged criminal records in hiring decisions.

Davis & Wojcik APLC recently settled an employment case against a major automotive company that withdrew its offer to hire a prospective employee after the corporation unlawfully investigated the employee’s expunged criminal record. The criminal conviction occurred more than ten years prior and was not the type of crime that affected the position.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that provides job security to an employee who is absent from work because of the employee’s own serious health condition or to care for specified family members with serious health conditions, as well as for the birth of a child and to care for a newborn child, or because of the placement for adoption or foster care of a child with the employee. 29 USC § 2601 et seq.

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is the California equivalent of FMLA and provides similar protections. Gov.C. § 12900 et seq. Under FMLA and CFRA, both the mother and father are entitled to leave to bond with the newborn even if the newborn does not have a serious health condition. See 29 CFR § 825.120(a)(2).

The New Parent Leave Act (NPLA), which became effective on January 1, 2018, applies to smaller employers with 20-49 employees. (FMLA and CFRA cover 50 or more employees). Gov. C. § 12945.6. The NPLA requires employers with at least 20 employees to provide up to 12 workweeks of parental leave for eligible employees to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement.

California law prohibits discrimination against job applicants and employees on the basis of age, race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and related medical conditions), national origin, ancestry, mental and physical disability (including HIV and AIDS), medical conditions (such as cancer and genetic characteristics), marital status, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity and gender expression), and military and veteran status.

In order to avoid the appearance of discrimination, employers should limit requests for information during the pre-employment process to those details essential to determining a person’s qualifications to do the job. The following are some general guidelines that employers and employees should know regarding the employment application process.

NAME: An employer should never ask questions about an individual’s name that require the applicant to disclose ancestry, national origin, race, religion or marital status, (i.e., asking for an applicant’s “maiden” name, or asking questions about the origin of a name, rather than simply asking if other names have been used). However, it is acceptable to ask an applicant’s name or previous name for purposes of checking their past work record.

Breaking up is hard to do. There can be many reasons why an employer finds it necessary to end the employment relationship. It could be for performance reasons, a reduction in force or realignment of duties. Under any of these circumstances, it is not to easy to tell an employee that they are unemployed. Administering the termination in a legally improper way will only make it worse. Here are a few legal tips for administering a termination.

Required Documents

After the decision has been made to terminate an employee, there are certain legal requirements that must be met. For example, federal law requires that all employers with 20 or more employees provide a Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) notice and election form to employees who are participating in the employer’s group health plan the day before the termination and to any of the terminating employee’s dependents on the plan. Cal-COBRA must be offered to both terminated employees of small employers (2-19 employees) and terminated employees covered under federal COBRA when their 18 months of federal COBRA coverage expires.

Here are some fun facts about lunch. The origin of the word lunch (luncheon) comes from the anglo-saxon word, “nuncheon,” meaning “noon drink.” In Spanish, the word for lunch is almuerzo. In German, lunch is mittagessen. Hobbits call it Elevenses. In California, however, lunch is called… mandatory.

The Basics

Under California law, employers must provide employees with no less than a thirty-minute meal period for shifts exceeding more than five hours. A second meal period is required if an employee works more than ten hours per day. Labor Code § 512. An employer is not required to police meal periods. However, an employer must do more than simply make meal periods available. The employer must relieve the employees of all duty, relinquish control over their activities and must not impede or discourage employees from taking a meal period.

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.