Startup Genome Report Reveals Top 20 Startup Ecosystems in the World- Los Angeles and Silicon Valley Retain Top Spots

by Jennifer A. Grady, Esq.

TodWorld webay, Compass revealed the 2015 Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking.  With this report, Compass hopes to “accelerate the development of startup ecosystems around the world by answering critical questions for entrepreneurs, investors, and policy makers that are difficult to answer without the data [it has] gathered and analyzed in this report, as well as to raise the general populace’s awareness of the increasing socioeconomic importance of startup ecosystems.” The index is produced by ranking ecosystems along five major components: Performance, Funding, Talent, Market Reach, and Startup Experience. Continue reading

Changes to California Paid Sick Leave Requirements on July 13, 2015

sick leaveBy Jennifer A. Grady, Esq. and Gayane Khechoomian, Esq.

The new Paid Sick Leave law that went into effect in California on July 1, 2015 was already amended less than two weeks after it took effect on July 1, 2105. This means that employers may have to revisit, and most likely update their paid leave policies and Employee Handbooks.

An employer must individually notify all employees hired prior to January 1, 2015 of changes to terms and conditions of employment that relate to paid sick leave within 7 days of the actual change. Information concerning any new or previously existing paid sick leave program that includes information required to be given to each employee by Labor Code section 2810.5(a), must be provided to all employees. A revised DLSE notice form may be used for providing individual notice to these existing employees unless the employer chooses an authorized alternative method. Continue reading

July 2015 Updates to California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and Posting Requirements

By Jennifer A. Grady, Esq. and Gayane Khechoomian, Esq.

On July 1, 2015, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing made significant amendments to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). Now, all private employers with 50 or more employees in at least 20 workweeks in a year and within a 75-mile radius will have to update their leave policies and posted notices, as well as train supervisors and managers in order to comply with the regulations. Employers also include government entities and joint employers or successor in interest to a covered employer.

The purpose of the amendments is to incorporate those of the federal regulations in the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), but there are still some differences in the state law. Continue reading

July Ushers in New Paid Sick Leave Requirements for California Employers

By Jennifer A. Grady, Esq. and Gayane Khechoomian, Esq.

sick leaveOn July 1, 2015, a new law affecting millions of Californians went into effect requiring that employers – both public and private – provide paid sick leave to all their employees. Under the new law, employers will have to modify or update existing paid sick leave or time off policies, as well as payroll, recordkeeping, and employee notice procedures.

The “Healthy, Workplace, Healthy Families Act” (AB-1522) signed into effect by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. applies to all employees who work in California for thirty (30) or more days in a year. The law defines “employer” as any person employing another under any appointment or contract of hire” regardless of how many (or few) employees they have, and covers employees whether they are full-time, part-time, seasonal, or temporary. Specifically, the new provision provides that employees who work thirty (30) or more days within a year from commencement of their employment will earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every thirty (30) hours worked.

Employees become entitled to their sick leave beginning on the ninetieth (90th) date of employment. However, an employer may limit an employee’s use of paid sick days to 24 hours—or three (3) days—in each year of employment, which results in no carryover requirements. Click HERE for the full text of the new law.

New posting, notice, and recordkeeping requirements

A new poster detailing paid sick leave will be prepared by the California Labor Commissioner that employers are required to post at the workplace. In addition, the Wage Theft Prevention Act’s New Hire Notice is amended to include information about paid sick leave.  Employers will also be required to provide written notice of the amount of paid sick leave or PTO available to the employee each pay day – a requirement that can be satisfied by including the accrued hours on employees’ itemized wage statements. Records documenting the hours worked and paid sick days accrued and used by an employee must be kept for at least three years, and made available to employees upon request, pursuant to the California Labor Code.

Some of the key provisions of the law include: 

  • Employers may provide paid leave by either accrual under the new law, or by granting paid sick days in advance.  An employer that already has a Paid Time Off (PTO) policy in place that provides leave for the same purposes, and under the same conditions as specified in the law, is not required to provide additional paid sick days.
  • Paid sick leave accrues and carries over to the following year, but employers may cap the sick leave to forty-eight (48) hours, or (6) days in that year. Additionally, no carryover leave is required if employers provide twenty-four (24) hours or three (3) days of paid sick leave up front in the beginning of the year. With one important exception, accrued sick leave carries over to the following year of employment.
  • Unused and accrued sick leave does not get cashed out at termination. However, a terminated employee who is rehired within one year is entitled to reinstatement of their sick leave for immediate use.
  • Employers with existing PTO policies that combine vacation and paid sick leave are required to pay out accrued, unused PTO at termination of employment.
  • Employers may set a “reasonable” minimum increment for sick leave as long as it does not exceed two (2) hours.
  • Employers must pay out sick leave pay no later than the payday for the next regular payroll period, and it must be paid at the employee’s regular hourly wage.
  • Certain types of “employees” are exempt from the law, as determined in California Labor Code § 245.5. An employee who is exempt from overtime requirements as an administrative, executive, or professional employee under a wage order of the Industrial Welfare Commission is deemed to work 40 hours per workweek for the purposes of this section, unless the employee’s normal workweek is less than 40 hours, in which case the employee shall accrue paid sick days based upon that normal workweek.
  • The law does not amend California’s kincare law, which requires that an employer permit employees to use half of any paid leave each year that they may use for their own illness to care for a family member. For example, an employer that provides 6 days of sick leave to employees, must still allow employees to use half of those days (3) to care for certain family members. The family members under the kin care law are different from those under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014.

The reasoning behind the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014

The public policy rationale behind this new law is to ensure that California’s workers are able to address their health needs by taking paid time off for sick leave, and as a result, this early treatment and prevention should have the effect of decreasing health care costs statewide. Employee sick days may be used for “diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition of, or preventive care for, an employee or an employee’s family member,” including children, parents, spouses, domestic partners, siblings, grandchildren and grandparents; they may also be used for an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking to obtain relief, including medical attention and psychological counseling. The law also provides that employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against an employee who requests paid sick days and prohibits an employer from denying the right to use available sick leave.  Adverse action taken within thirty (30) days of a request may be deemed retaliation, subjecting the employer to liability

Ambiguities and consequences of non-compliance 

Employers should probably treat the 24 hours, or three (3) days of paid sick time requirement as protected and given up front at the beginning of the year. Even if an employee works less than 8 hours a day, employer should provide the full 24 hours of paid sick time. Unfortunately, the law leaves several questions unanswered, including whether or not an employer may require a doctor’s note, or other proof required in order to prove that the time off was taken for a qualified reason, thus warranting pay.

Another issue is that while the law is silent on the matter of overtime, these hours will likely count towards paid sick days. Despite the ambiguities in the legislation, it is clear is that employers may not deny their employees the right to use available sick leave. Because the law went into effect on July 1, 2015, employers should update their employment policies as soon as possible in order to avoid penalties, lawsuits, and other remedies that may be brEmployeeHandbook_Pop_6467ought under the new law.

The law provides the Labor Commissioner authority to impose specified administrative fines for violations. It also authorizes the commissioner or the Attorney General to recover specified civil penalties, as well as attorney’s fees, costs, and interest, against an offender who violates these provisions on behalf of the aggrieved.

To ensure that your business remains compliant with this new law, consult a licensed California employment attorney. Employee Handbooks should be updated annually in order to keep up with the changes in California employment law.

To schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with The Grady Firm’s employment attorneys, call (323) 450-9010, or fill out a Contact Request Form.  The Grady Firm attorneys can update your business’ company policies/Employee Handbook, create new policies, prepare employment forms, and explain the detailed nuances of the new law.

Cal/OSHA Heat Illness Prevention Changes for “Outdoor Places of Employment” in Effect May 1, 2015

waterBy Jennifer A. Grady, Esq. and Gayane Khechoomian, Esq.

Employers with potential heat-related exposures are reminded that Cal/OSHA Heat Illness Prevention Standards were changed effective May 1, 2015. California employers at “all outdoor places of employment” are required to take steps to prevent heat illness in relation to training, water, shade, and planning in their business practices. There are additional requirements for certain industries during periods of high heat (over 95°F or above).

What changes can I expect?

The changes include policies regarding water, shade, employee/supervisor training, emergency response procedures, weather monitoring and acclimatization, and high heat requirements. Employers must amend or revise their employment policies to accommodate the additional safeguards provided by the new standards.

  1. Water

Water provided must be at no charge to employees, and must be fresh, pure, suitably cool, and fit to drink. It must also be as close as practicable to where the employers are working. Water containers cannot be refilled from non-potable water sources (e.g. irrigation wells, sprinkler or firefighting systems) and care must be taken to prevent contamination of the drinking water supplied to the workers. Water containers must be located as close as practicable given the working conditions and layout of the work site.

  1. Shade

Employers must provide access to shade at temperatures over 80 degrees at all times and as close to the work site as practical, and encourage employees to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least 5 minutes. Employees should not wait until they feel sick to cool down. Enough shade to accommodate the number of employees on meal and rest periods must be provided. Employers must also monitor employees on “cool down” rests and ask them if they’re experiencing symptoms of heat illness.

  1. Training

Employers must train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention, signs and symptoms, and appropriate responses. They must also know about their company’s heat illness prevention procedures, including, but not limited to, the employer’s responsibility to provide water, shade, cool-down rests, and access to first aid, as well as the employees’ right to exercise their rights under this standard without retaliation.

Supervisors must be trained on the heat standard requirements, the procedures they must follow to implement the requirements, procedures to follow when a worker exhibits or reports symptoms consistent with possible heat illness, including emergency response procedures and first aid and how to monitor weather reports and respond to hot weather advisories.

  1. Emergency Response Procedures

Emergency response procedures must include effective communication, response to signs and symptoms of heat illness, and procedures for contacting emergency responders to help stricken workers. Additionally, employers must offer onsite emergency medical services.

  1. Weather Monitoring and Acclimatization

Employers are responsible for the working conditions of their employees, and must act effectively when conditions result in sudden exposure to heat that workers are not used to. Employees newly assigned to high heat areas (which is defined as 80 degrees and above) shall be closely observed by a supervisor or designee for the first 14 days of employment.

Employers must instruct supervisors to track the weather of the job site by monitoring predicted temperature highs and periodically using a thermometer. They must also determine, and instruct supervisors on how weather information will be used to modify work schedule as needed, and increase number of water and rest breaks or cease work early if necessary.

  1. High-heat Procedures (95 degrees and above)

The industries covered in this section include Agriculture, Construction, Landscaping, Oil and Gas Extraction, and Transportation or delivery of agricultural, construction materials or other heavy materials. When the temperature equals or exceeds 95 degrees, employers in these industries must implement additional preventive measures. This includes “effective” observation and monitoring, including a mandatory buddy system and regular communication with employees working by themselves. During high-heat periods, employees must be provided with a minimum 10-minute cool-down period every two hours.

Stay Compliant with Cal/OSHA regulations

These are some of the steps employers can take to ensure that they are complying with the Cal/OSHA standards and their updates.

  • Assure a written copy of the Heat Illness Prevention Manual is available at the work site to employees and representatives of Cal/OSHA. The plan should be in both English and the language must be understoEmployeeHandbook_Pop_6467od by the majority of the employees.
  • Review current heat illness and prevention plans and procedures for monitoring employees and amend it so that it reflects the new requirements.
  • Review your Employee Handbook for cool-down rest periods and make sure it is consistent with the new regulations.
  • Review current emergency preparedness plans to make sure they designate an individual who can call for emergency services when needed.
  • Work with a California licensed attorney to ensure that these new updated are included in your company procedures and Employee Handbook, or to create new procedures from scratch.

Employee Handbooks should be updated annually in order to keep up with the changes in California employment law.

To schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with The Grady Firm’s employment attorneys, call (323) 450-9010, or fill out a Contact Request Form.  The Grady Firm attorneys can update your business’ company policies/Employee Handbook, create new policies, prepare employment forms, and explain the detailed nuances of the new law.

Should I Marry My Foreign Fiancé(e) in the US or Abroad?

by Anthony Mance, Esq.

marriageA frequent concern among couples applying for a fiancé(e) visa is whether there is a preference within immigration law when it comes to when and where a marriage between a U.S. citizen and a foreign fiancé(e) should take place. Specifically, couples may wonder whether it is more advantageous to get married outside the United States and then apply as the spouse of a United States citizen (IR1, CR1, or K-3 visa), or to apply as a fiancé(e) (K-1 visa) and get married in the United States.  The answer depends on several factors, which we describe in detail below. Continue reading

Webinar 4/29: How to Bring Your Business to the Largest Consumer Economy in the World

Presenting to Startup Chile

The original presentation at Startup Chile in Santiago, Chile

On April 29, 2015 at 11 am PST, The Grady Firm attorneys will be presenting a webinar on how foreign entrepreneurs can do business in the United States, from a corporate and immigration law perspective.

Today, A.T. Kearney released its 15th annual Foreign Direct Investment Confidence Index, which ranks countries based on how changes in their political, economic, and regulatory systems are likely to affect foreign direct investment inflows in the coming yearsThe Index ranks the United States as #1 for the third year in a row.  Learn how to be a part of that investment trend during the following presentation:

HOW TO BRING YOUR BUSINESS TO THE LARGEST CONSUMER ECONOMY IN THE WORLD Continue reading

H-1B Cap Reached by April 7, 2015 for Fiscal Year 2016

American Visa (XL)by Jennifer Grady, Esq.

On April 7, 2105, USCIS announced that it reached the congressionally mandated H-1B cap for fiscal year (FY) 2016.  USCIS received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree exemption, and more than the 65,000 “regular cap” limit for applicants without a Master’s Degree.  U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as engineering, science, and computer programming. 

In the meantime, USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap, and who still retain their cap number, will also not be counted toward the congressionally mandated FY 2016 H-1B cap. 

Continue reading

SEC Rules Everyday Citizens (Non-Accredited Investors) Can Now Participate in Equity Crowdfunding & Invest in Startups

by Jennifer Grady, Esq.

CrowfundingFinally, after three years the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has ruled that investments in businesses with less than $50 million no longer require that an investor be an “accredited investor.”  This means that everyday citizens can now invest in Startups and small businesses as an investor on Crowdfunding platforms.  The long-awaited decision to democratize small business and Startup funding comes from Title IV of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, and will done initially through what are called Regulation A+ investment offerings. Continue reading

Looking for Path to a Green Card? Try the EB-5 Investor Visa

by Jennifer A. Grady, Esq.

For foreign investors wishing to obtain a visa to live, work, and attend university in the United States with in-state tuition rates, there are two options available through the E-2 and EB-5 investor visa programs.  The E-2 Visa requires less startup capital and is the fastest way to obtain a visa, although it is not a path to Legal Permanent Residency (Green Card).  The EB-5 Visa requires an initial investment of USD $500,000 to $1 million, and comes with Legal Permanent Residency (Green Card), and ultimately, US citizenship.  This article will discuss the EB-5 “million dollar visa” option.  What may be surprising is that an investor can be eligible for this visa with only a $500,000 investment in a rural or targeted employment area. Continue reading

What is the E-2 “Entrepreneur Investor” Visa, and Who Qualifies for this Visa?

by Jennifer A. Grady, Esq.

Dolla billFor foreign investors wishing to obtain a visa to live, work, and attend university in the United States with in-state tuition rates, there are two options available through the E-2 and EB-5 investor visa programs.  The E-2 Visa requires less startup capital and is the fastest way to obtain a visa, although it is not a path to Legal Permanent Residency (Green Card).  The EB-5 Visa requires an initial investment of USD $500,000 to $1 million, and comes with Legal Permanent Residency (Green Card), and ultimately, US citizenship.  This article will discuss the details of the E-2 “Entrepreneur Investor Visa.”                     Continue reading

The Grady Firm, P.C. Celebrates Its Third Anniversary With Expansion Across California and Latin America

cropped-logo-with-landscape-photo.jpg

On March 19, 2015, The Grady Firm, P.C. celebrates its third anniversary. Founded in 2012 by Jennifer Grady, Esq. as a one-woman firm dedicated to serving the legal and business counseling needs of entrepreneurs, the firm has evolved into a one-stop shop for business owners with a team of eight attorneys specializing in business, employment, litigation, immigration, and international business law.

The Los Angeles office located at 5900 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036.

The Los Angeles office in Miracle Mile

The firm has offices throughout California, in its Los Angeles Headquarters in the museum district of Miracle Mile; the Financial District of San Francisco; and the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego. Most recently, The Grady Firm will be partnering with a law firm in Guadalajara, Mexico, in order to establish a link between businesses in the United States and Mexico, and open its first office abroad.

Presenting to Startup Chile

Ms. Grady speaking to entrepreneurs at Start-up Chile

This year, the firm expanded globally by pursuing international business opportunities in Chile, Argentina, and Mexico by acting as the liaison for international Startups wishing to expand their market reach to the United States. To that end, Ms. Grady attended the IIUSA EB-5 Conference in San Francisco in October; gave a presentation to a community of international entrepreneurs at Start-up Chile, a government-funded incubator in Santiago de Chile; and established relationships with Argentinian, Mexican, and Swedish investors intending to open new businesses in the United States.

Ambassador Locke

With Ambassador Locke, former US Ambassador to China, at the IIUSA EB-5 Conference in San Francisco

Continue reading

President Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration on Hold Pending Further Legal Action

by Jennifer A. Grady, Esq. and Anthony Mance, Esq.

Statue of LibertyOn November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions to crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

However, on February 16, 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas issued a ruling that has led to the temporary suspension of President Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration. The ruling prevents the Obama administration from implementing the proposed expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) until the constitutionality of the executive actions can be determined. Continue reading

Santiago, Chile Named to Top 5 Emerging Startup Hubs by Inc. Magazine

By Jennifer A. Grady, Esq.

Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile

The March 2015 issue of Inc. Magazine named Santiago de Chile one of the top five emerging Startup hubs for opportunities to launch or expand internationally.  According to Inc. Magazine, one of the top draws to Santiago, a city of  6.3 million inhabitants, is Start-up Chile, the government-sponsored incubator program that attracts top international talent with a one-year visa, free workspace, and $33,000 in seed money that does not have to be repaid. Over 16,000 applicants applied to the program, and 1,000 companies from 75 countries have been selected to date.  According to its website, Start-up Chile’s goal is “to hasten the occurrence of customer-validated and scalable companies that will leave a lasting impact on the Latin American ecosystem”. Continue reading