Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Very Real and Very Costly for Employers

150212-sexualharassment-stockWhile sexual harassment has been in everyone’s vocabulary since Dolly Parton’s Nine to Five graced screens in 1980, it has become a topic of increased importance and media coverage as more and more sexual harassment claims are brought against celebrities such as Bill Cosby, President-Elect Donald Trump, and former President Bill Clinton.  While you or your employees may not identify with these over-the-top personalities in positions of power, sexual harassment claims are very real and very expensive.

For example, a recent claim against the popular P.F. Chang’s China Bistro chain cost the company $1 million in response to two employees’ claims that they were repeatedly sexually harassed and were subjected to a hostile work environment. According to the arbitrator’s written order, both women said they were subjected to offensive comments and conduct from the male kitchen staff at the restaurants, including jokes about sex, remarks about female workers’ bodies, and kissing and whistling noises aimed at female employees as they walked by. In addition, one of the women said she saw a group of male kitchen employees watching a pornographic video on a smartphone, and she frequently heard the cooks singing sexually explicit songs in the rear of the restaurant in University City.  The reality is that these activities occur more often than you might think.

To continue reading about the risks of sexual harassment in the workplace and how to protect yourself as an employer, continue reading our article in the December issue of the California Employer’s Report. Continue reading

Advertisements

DOL Rule Increasing Minimum Salary Requirements for Exempt Employees Now on Hold Per Court Order

gavelLast month, we discussed how the Department of Labor (DOL) was scheduled to implement a new rule that would increase the minimum salary requirements for exempt employees.  The new rule published by the DOL would have doubled the minimum salary requirements for employees from $455/week to $913/week. This rule was supposed to take effect on December 1, 2016; however, employers can breathe easy for a bit longer.

On November 22, 2016 a federal judge from the United States District Court in Texas temporarily blocked implementation of the rule, in response to a request by 21 states and business groups.  This delay is temporary, while litigation continues and the court makes a determination as to whether the DOL has the authority to implement such a rule. Continue reading

L-1B Intracompany Transferee Visa for Employees With Specialized Knowledge

international-movers-and-packersThe L-1B visa permits a U.S. employer to transfer a professional employee with specialized knowledge from one of its foreign offices to one of its U.S. offices.  There is also the option for a foreign company that does not yet have an office in the U.S. to send an employee with specialized knowledge to the states to help establish a U.S. office.  Both the employer and employee must meet certain qualification requirements:

1. To qualify for L-1B classification in this category, the EMPLOYER must:

  • Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as qualifying organizations); and
  • Currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States as an L-1.  While the business must be viable, there is no requirement that it be engaged in international trade.

Doing business means the regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization and does not include the mere presence of an agent or office of the qualifying organization in the United States and abroad. Continue reading

Now is the Time to Start Preparing Your H-1B Visa Application

enter-usa-h1b-visaThe H-1B visa is one of the most popular ways for foreign professionals in specialty occupations to obtain a work visa, and even a Green Card in the United States.  A successful H-1B application requires sponsorship by the professional’s employer, and can be granted for three years, with one additional three-year renewal. The H-1B allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations, and requires a Bachelor’s Degree or its equivalent.

Although USCIS will not begin accepting H-1B applications until April 1, 2017, it is critical
to start preparing your application now, as the competition for this coveted visa is fierce.  The H-1B visa has an annual numerical limit, or cap, of 65,000 visas each fiscal year. However, the first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the cap.  In 2016, USCIS received 236,000 H-1B visa applications within the first five days of the application period. Once USCIS receives enough applications to satisfy the 65,000 quota, it implements a lottery.  The applications that are not selected in the lottery are returned to the sender, along with their filing fees.  In 2016, there was a 25% chance of an application making it through the lottery with a Bachelor’s Degree, and a one third chance with a Master’s Degree.  Continue reading

Take Action on Your Immigration Application Before Fees Increase 12/23 and a New Administration Takes Office in January

trumpIf you are planning to file an application for a visa, Green Card, or naturalization, we highly recommend you do so before the end of the year.  Filing fees will increase by an average of 21% on December 23, 2016.  In addition, due to the uncertainty of the transition to a new President and GOP-majority Congress, we recommend filing your application now so that it will be in the queue in the event programs are taken away, modified, or application wait times increase.

Fee Increase

money-bagsFor the first time in six years, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be increasing its filing fees to help cover the increasing costs of providing its services.  Some increases will be substantial, others less so, and overall, fees will increase by a weighted average of 21%.  Some more common and popular applications that will be affected include the following forms,  which are used for Green Card, work permit, and citizenship applications: I-90, I-130, I-140, I-485, I-765, and N-400, to name a few.  For more detailed information on each of these changes, and all other fee increases, check out our recent blog post here. Continue reading

How Will Legalized Marijuana Affect You and Your Business?

marijuana-leafOn November 8, 2016 California voters passed Proposition 64, “The Adult Use of Marijuana Act,” which legalized the recreational use and possession of marijuana for adults 21 and over in the state of California.  California is now the fifth state to legalize recreational marijuana, after being the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996.

As of November 9, 2016, adults 21 and over can now legally use and possess up to an ounce of marijuana buds, and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana.  However, such use must be done privately, as it is still illegal to smoke in public places, or on the grounds of a school, day care center, or youth care center while children are present.  Furthermore, it is still illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana or any other drug.

It is unlikely that residents will be able to walk into a dispensary to purchase marijuana without a medical card until January 1, 2018, the deadline for the state to set up a licensing system for dispensaries.

In the meantime, adults are permitted to grow up to six marijuana plants in their private home, inside or outside, as long as the plants are in an enclosed and secured space.  Residents can grow more than one ounce at a marijuana-illustrationtime, but any amount in excess of the statewide limits must remain in the home.  Growers are free however, to give away any excess marijuana they cultivate, as long as it is free of charge.

For Previously Convicted Individuals

Proposition 64 will also affect those with prior marijuana convictions, as it authorizes re-sentencing and deconstruction of records for old convictions that would now  be legal under the new law.

What does this new law mean for California employers?

For now at least, nothing changes.  Employers still have the right to maintain a drug-free workplace, and drug test prospective or current employees in keeping with the current law and their policies. This means that an employee can still be fired for testing positive for marijuana, even if their last use was off-work hours or because of a medical disability. However, employers should be cautious, as the latter could lead to disability discrimination claims.  This issues can be address in an Employee Handbook, which should be revised annually to reflect changes in California law.

Effective January 1, 2018, a 15 percent excise tax is imposed upon purchasers of all marijuana and marijuana products. Additionally, a tax on cultivators of marijuana is imposed as follows:

  • $9.25 per dry-weight ounce of marijuana flowers
  • $2.75 per dry-weight ounce of marijuana leaves

The new law is expected to bring in at least $1 billion in additional revenue to California annually, which will be deposited into a new California Marijuana Tax Fund, and allocated to drug research, treatment programs, and law enforcement.


  • JGrady Firm-Logo-2016The Grady Firm, P.C. attorneys specialize in helping businesses grow and succeed through employment, business, and immigration law advising for clients in California.  For California employers, they help perform personnel audits, train employers on employment law compliance, provide on-demand legal analysis for hiring and firing questions, provide leadership and sexual harassment training in English and Spanish, and answer any questions about changes in federal and state law.

To learn more about ensuring your business is compliant with state and local laws, schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with The Grady Firm’s attorneys; call +1 (323) 450-9010; or fill out a Contact Request Form.

*This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. This article does not make any guarantees as to the outcome of a particular matter, as each matter has its own set of circumstances and must be evaluated individually by a licensed attorney.

USCIS To Increase Filing Fees on December 23, 2016

uscis

For the first time in six years, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has increased its filing fees by a weighted average of 21% for numerous immigration applications and petitions.  USCIS announced the increase in a final rule published in the Federal Register, noting that the increase will go into effect on December 23, 2016.  The department explained that because USCIS is primarily funded by these fees, an increase was necessary in order to fully cover the costs of providing its services.

fee-increaseOne of the steepest increases is the fee for EB-5 applications, especially Form I-526 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Entrepreneur), which will increase from $1,500 to $3,675 – an almost 145% increase.  Furthermore, USCIS also added a $3,035 fee for the I-924A – Annual Certification of Regional Center, an essential form for EB-5 applicants applying through regional centers.

Other popular forms that will also increase include the popular I-90, I-130, I-140, I-485, I-765, N-400, which are used for Green Card, work permit, and citizenship applications.

For more information about these fee increases view the official USCIS announcement here.  If you plan on filing any of these forms within the next few months, you can save money on filing fees by filing before costs increase on December 23,2016.  Due to the uncertainty that will follow the recent political elections, we recommend filing your application before new officials take office in January 2017.

Below is a chart highlighting and comparing these major fee changes: Continue reading

New DOL Rule Increases Minimum Salary Requirements for Exempt Employees Starting 12/01/16

12/01/16: This Rule is currently on hold, per court order. Please read the latest article for news updates on this topic.

On May 23, 2016, the Department of Labor announced a new, final rule that will take effect on December 1, 2016. To the relief of employers, the new rule does not make any changes to the criteria for classifying employees as exempt. Employers can continue to classify employees as exempt or non-exempt under the same duties tests and criteria they used in the past. However, the principal change comes in the form of several heightened minimum salary requirements.

The DOL estimates that in the first year as many as 4.2 million workers would either need to: (1) be reclassified as non-exempt and paid overtime whenever they work more than 40 hours in a workweek; or (2) receive an increase in their salary to meet the new requirement.

exempt-well-maybeUnder the new rule, the minimum annual salary for exempt employees will more than double, from $23,660 ($455 per week) to $47,476 ($921 a week). The minimum annual salary for highly compensated employees will also increase from $100,000 to $134,004. Furthermore, these minimums will continue to automatically increase every three years.

In a new addition to the rule, employers will now be permitted to satisfy up to 10 percent of the annual salary level through non-discretionary bonus and incentive payments, including commissions. Payments to health insurance policies, however, may not be used to satisfy the salary requirement. Continue reading

Paid Time Off To Vote? California Law Provides Employees With Up To 2 Hours on Election Day

election-dayCalifornia Elections Code section 14000 mandates that if employees do not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote in a statewide election, then they may take up to 2 hours of paid time off to vote in-person.  An employee may choose to take more than two hours off, if his or her employer allows it, but only 2 hours will be paid.

California polls will be open from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. on election day.  However, be sure to check with your local polling place for their hours of operation, as some locations may have extended hours. Continue reading

The Grady Firm Attorneys Speak to Students at UCI Blackstone Launch Pad on business and visa options for graduate entrepreneurs

Group photo.jpgRecently, Jennifer Grady Esq. and Anthony Mance, Esq. of The Grady Firm, P.C. hosted an informative “Fireside Chat” about the various immigration options that are available to foreign students upon graduation from U.S. undergraduate or graduate programs. The event took place at the Blackstone Launchpad of University of California, Irvine. The program was recorded and is available for viewing by members of the international Blackstone Launchpad community. 

uci blackstoneThe esteemed UCI Blackstone Launchpad was founded in 2007 with the goal of inspiring global entrepreneurship, and is accessible to over 500,000 university students globally.  This university-based entrepreneurship program is designed to mentor students, staff, and alumni of all disciplines and experience levels. The Blackstone Launchpad is an initiative of The Blackstone Charitable Foundation, and offers one-on-one mentoring, online tools, and a international community that supports ideas from the idea stage to execution and investment. Continue reading

When and How Must an Employee Be Compensated for Travel Time?

businessman at the airport

There are various factors that influence whether an employee must be compensated for his or her travel time to a new work site, or for off-site employment activity. One of the main factors to consider is whether the employee is actually engaging in travel as part of the employer’s principal activity or, whether the employee is engaging in travel for the convenience of the employer.

At the federal level, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the primary law governing travel pay. The standard asks whether the employee’s time is spent primarily for the benefit of the employer. It also includes time spent, even if not doing work, but under the control of the employer, such as on-site, on-call time.

Pursuant to California’s Labor Code, the standard comes down to whether the employee is

subject to the control of the employer; the concept of “control” is narrower than federal standard. While the federal and state laws overlap, California’s Labor Code is of course generally more liberal and more protective of employees.

California Law

The definition of hours worked is found in the Industrial Welfare Commission Orders, and refers to the time during which the employee is subject to the control travel-timeof an employer, and includes all the time the employee is “suffered or permitted to work,” whether or not required to do so. State law does not distinguish between hours worked during the “normal” working hours, or hours worked outside “normal” working hours, nor does it distinguish between hours worked in connection with an overnight out-of-town assignment. Continue reading

“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like… Lawsuits This Holiday Season”

Although holiday parties may be an excellent opportunity for employees to socialize outside of the confines of the office, and to reward employees for their service, they can also give rise to employer liability in the absence of appropriate precautions. Before planning your next holiday soiree, review the potential pitfalls and solutions below so that your event can be full of cheer, rather than unpleasant lawsuits.

  1. Serving Alcohol at Company Functions

holiday-bar1

While having alcohol available may make typical water cooler conversations less awkward, it can lead to liability for employers in the form of vicarious liability, sexual harassment, social host liability, and other potential issues.

Even though refraining from serving alcohol altogether is the safest option, in the event that your company plans to serve alcohol at you next function, keep the following tips in mind: Continue reading

The Grady Firm Co-Sponsors event for Businesses Starting or Relocating Within California with LA Mayor’s and Governor’s Office

 

dsc00853

On September 27, 2016, The Grady Firm co-sponsored an event with the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce geared towards companies that are doing business in, or relocating to, California.  The event was attended by local business owners; members of the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce;  Jeff Malin, Senior Business Development Specialist at Governor Brown’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz); Eric Eide, Director of Mayor Garcetti’s Office of International Trade; and Jennifer Grady, Esq., business and immigration attorney at The Grady Firm, P.C. Continue reading

Immigrant Entrepreneurs May Be Able to Remain in the U.S. on Parole Under New Rule Proposed by DHS

entrepreneurship-10-books-every-budding-entrepreneur-must-read

On August 31, 2016 , the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed an amendment to its regulations in an effort to increase and enhance entrepreneurship, innovation, and job creation in the United States. The proposed rule would allow for the use of “parole” on a case-by-case basis for certain Startup entrepreneurs whose entry into the United States would provide a significant public benefit through “the substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation.”  Once the notice of proposed rulemaking is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 45 days from the date of publication to comment. To submit comments in support of this rule, follow the instructions in the notice.

The new “International Entrepreneur Rule” would expand the opportunity for international entrepreneurs, inventors, and startup founders to receive “parole”, which is temporary permission to be present in the United States.  “Parole” is not considered an admission to the United States, and does not confer any immigration status.  In addition, once a person is granted parole, the parolee’s stay in the U.S. is at DHS’s discretion and may be terminated at any time consistent with existing regulations.  DHS has broad discretion to grant parole and may do so on a case-by-case basis. Continue reading

Apply NOW for U.S. Citizenship: Vote in November Elections & Have Your Application Reviewed Before a New President Takes the White House

how-to-apply-for-american-citizenship-online

If you are a Legal Permanent Resident who has held off on applying for U.S. citizenship, now is the time to submit your application to USCIS so that it can be reviewed and approved before November 2016.

First, immigration will be a big ticket issue in the upcoming election, and the outcome and future of U.S. immigration policy could ride on your vote.  Click the links to read more about the immigration platforms of the current Democratic (Hillary Clinton) and Republican (Donald Trump) U.S. presidential candidates.

hillaryclinton.wikimediaSecond, as the new president and his or her cabinet may have a different vision of immigration reform than that held by the current administration, it’s prudent to apply for immigration relief before the powers in charge change.donaldtrump.wikimedia

Third, in anticipation of the upcoming election, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has reduced the processing period for naturalization and other immigration applications to between approximately three to six (3-6) months.

Even if you are not eligible for naturalization, you may be able to apply for legal immigration status under various other laws currently in effect.  But you must act now, as any of these laws could change based on the outcome of the November elections. Continue reading