Deadline Changed on Time to Comply with California Anti-Harassment Training

On September 3, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 778 to extend the deadline for employers to complete their Sexual Harassment Prevention Training. The deadline has been extended by a full year, from January 1, 2020 to January 1, 2021. The new bill also allows covered employers who have provided anti-harassment training in 2019 to wait two full years before providing refresher training.

The purpose of the bill is to give employers sufficient time to provide these trainings in a manner that values their importance and provides a greater impact towards improving equality in the workplace. A recent professional association survey found that over 80% of Human Resources and Operations Managers are aware of the new training requirements, but had not booked the training for their employees nine months into 2019.

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Jennifer Grady Navigates Tricky Legal Situations in the Workplace on AutoVitals Digital Shoptalk Radio

On September 4, 2019,  Jennifer Grady, Esq. was featured on episode 31 “Legally Speaking: Handling Tough Legal Situations” of The AutoVitals Digital ShopTalk Radio, with host Tom Dorsey, to discuss a myriad of legal situations that can arise in a workplace from Sexual Harassment to record-keeping and what new business owners and employers need to know to be successful.

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Jennifer Grady Discusses How to Prevent Sexual Harassment Lawsuits “Remarkable Results Radio”

On August 9, 2019, Jennifer Grady, Esq. was featured on episode 456 of The Remarkable Results Radio, with host Carm Capriotto, to discuss Sexual Harassment in the workplace and what employers can do to prevent it.

Key Talking Points

During the radio show, Jennifer and Carm discussed important points on sexual harassment in the workplace including:

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Truck Driver Shortages May be Solved by Green Cards for Unskilled Workers (EB-3)

For the past 15 years, the United States has been experiencing a severe shortage of available and qualified truck drivers. According to a recent report by the nation’s largest trucking industry group, the American Trucking Associations (ATA), by the end of 2018, the industry was short 60,800 driver positions. The ATA predicts that this trend will only get worse, with the shortage potentially expanding to 160,000 positions by 2028. The report warns that if the industry cannot hire 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade, the nation’s freight demands may not be able to be met. However, for employers that are having difficulty recruiting and retaining truck drivers, sponsoring a foreign truck driver for a Green Card based on employment may be a viable solution.

Trucking Industry Recruitment Struggles

 According to the ATA report, the main issue surrounding driver shortage is one of “quality over quantity.” Reports show that while there are plenty of people applying for truck driving job, unfortunately, not nearly enough of those applicants meet the stringent standards associated with the trucking industry.  A 2015 ATA study found that 88% of trucking companies indicated that they were receiving sufficient numbers of applicants, but that many were simply not qualified for the jobs to which they applied.

Another issue faced by the trucking industry is driver age. According to the ATA report, the current average age of a driver is 46 and the average age of a new driver in training is 35.  Recruiting younger drivers is vital to maintaining a long-lasting and stable workforce within the industry as many drivers approach the age of retirement. Without a consistent pool of qualified applicants, the industry faces an aging out that will further exasperate the shortages.

Finally, the industry is also facing challenges with regard to turnover and job-hopping. The ATA report notes that driver turnover is a serious issue facing the industry with as much as 89% of drivers changing jobs at large trucking companies in 2018. This means that trucking companies are finding it increasingly difficult to retain long-term employees, thus reducing incentives to invest in vital training and development for those employees. As the driver shortages increase over the next decade this turnover rate will likely increase as well.

Legal Immigration as a Solution

One possible solution to help alleviate some of the driver shortages is to bring qualified foreign workers to the U.S. to cover these jobs. While applying for any immigration benefit to the United States is a complex and potentially long process, the benefits can nonetheless be worth the effort. This is especially true in an environment where a severe shortage of qualified workers means a potentially devastating loss in business opportunities.

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Client’s Corner: How I Got a Green Card Based on My Employment as a Skilled Worker (EB-3)

One of the ways to obtain a Green Card based on employment is through the EB-3 Immigrant Visa. The following is an overview of the process by one of our clients, Reza Moghtaderi Esfahani, who received his Green Card based on employment.

“My application for Adjustment of Status was based on the EB-3 employment category. I was among the few cases of F-1 students who were lucky enough to have met an employer that agreed to sponsor their Green Card without requiring them to go through the H1-B process. Even though I had a fully-funded acceptance letter to a Master’s Degree program in Computer Science, I wanted to continue working in the professional world after receiving my Bachelor’s Degree, so I discussed this issue with my employer towards the end of the first year of my Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Reza Moghtaderi Esfahani

Once I found The Grady Firm and they prepared my application with information provided by me and my employer, my attorneys filed an Application for Prevailing Wage Determination with the Department of Labor in February 2017. Then my employer began the recruitment process for US workers by posting job ads in local newspapers and online as part of the PERM process. After a few months of running the ads, and when no US citizen or Permanent Resident applied for the position, we obtained an approved LCA and filed a form I-140 with USCIS in December 2017. The I-140 was approved in January 2018. We then submitted my I-485 application to Adjust Status to that of a Permanent Resident in February 2018.

Soon after, I received my Employment Authorization Card (EAD) and travel document (Advance Parole) in April 2018. I was now able to work after the expiration of my OPT, and was eligible to travel outside of the United States while my Adjustment of Status application was pending.

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Sexual Harassment Training Requirements by State

As the #MeToo movement has grown over the past two years, and claims against powerful individuals continue to surface in the media and on social media, employers and companies need to adjust their response polices as one thing is clear: sexual claims are very real, very expensive, and very destructive.

The following cases are real-world examples of how sexual harassment claims can cost employers in terms of time, money, and employee morale, and can cause pain and distress to employees.

  • 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.
  • Two female employees at a California winery were subject to repeated sexual harassment by the winery’s general manager and then subsequently retaliated against by the company. A Los Angeles jury awarded $11 million dollars to the two women. Each woman received $1 million for past emotional distress; $1.5 million for future emotional distress and $3 million in punitive damages. In addition to the $11 million dollars to the women, their attorneys will also receive their attorney’s fees.
  • Ford announced it would pay up to $10.1 million to settle a racial- and sexual-harassment investigation at two Chicago plants. 
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12 Cities in California to Raise Minimum Wage Again on July 1, 2019

It’s that time to update your payroll again! Twelve cities and counties throughout the state of California will again be updating their minimum wage. Until December 31, 2019, the current state-wide California minimum wage is $11.00 per hour for companies with 25 or fewer employees, and $12.00 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees. You can find the most updated information about California minimum wage on the Department of Industrial Relations website. The minimum wage shall be adjusted on a yearly basis through 2023 according to the pre-set schedule shown on the DIR website.

The following cities will be updating their minimum wage to reflect the following hourly rates below. Of note, some cities have different wages based on the number of employees they have–25 or less, or 26 or more:

  • Alameda – $13.50
  • Berkeley – $15.59
  • Emeryville – $16.30
  • Fremont (26 or more employees) – $13.50
  • City of Los Angeles (25 or fewer employees) – $13.25
  • City of Los Angeles (26 or more employees) – $14.25
  • Unincorporated Los Angeles County (25 or fewer) – $13.25 (Unincorporated LA County generally mirrors the minimum wage rates in the City of Los Angeles)
  • Unincorporated Los Angeles County (26 or more) – $14.25
  • Malibu (25 or fewer employees) – $13.25
  • Malibu (26 or more employees) – $14.25
  • Milpitas – $15.00
  • Pasadena (25 or fewer employees) – $13.25
  • Pasadena (26 or more) – $14.25
  • San Francisco – $15.59
  • San Leandro – $14.00
  • Santa Monica (25 or fewer employees) – $13.25
  • Santa Monica (26 or more employees) – $14.25

Be sure to inform your payroll company or and accounting department of these changes. In addition, changes in minimum wage may affect an employee’s exempt or non-exempt status, so it’s important to review how the change in minimum wage may affect this classification.

It’s always a good idea to provide your employees with an updated Notice to Employee form that reflects their change in wages. This form must be distributed to employees by California Labor Code section 2810.5. Please check your employees’ personnel files to ensure this form has been provided to them, and reflects the company’s up-to-date Paid Sick Leave and worker’s compensation information.

For more information on California minimum wage, or to review your current employment law policies and documentation, contact The Grady Firm.

About The Grady Firm. P.C.

JGrady Firm-Logo-2016

The Grady Firm, P.C. attorneys provide our clients with the tools to arm themselves and minimize risk with general employment law counseling; I-9 audits, custom Employee Handbooks; assistance with hiring, firing, discipline, leave, and termination; personnel file forms and audits; and sexual harassment and leadership training in English and Spanish. In addition, by combining years of experience as legal counsel for both U.S. and international companies, The Grady Firm acts as the outsourced Global Mobility Department for multi-national corporations seeking to move personnel across borders with visas and Green Cards based on employment, investment, and family relations.

Click here to 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.

Don’t Wait Until Q4! Book Your Sexual Harassment Prevention Training by May 20 and Receive a Discount

California employment law now requires that employers with 5 or more employees provide one (1) hour of training to employees at least once every two years; and two (2) hours of training to managers within six months of hire or promotion, and every two years thereafter. This training must be completed by January 1, 2020, even if employees were just trained in 2018. A recent professional association survey found that over 80% of Human Resources and Operations Managers are aware of the new training requirements, but have not booked training for their employees. This means that there will likely be a rush to find suitable training options in November or December, and training professionals may already be booked for the end of the year.

To avoid the Fourth Quarter rush, The Grady Firm has a solution. Now through May 20th, The Grady Firm is offering $150 off our full-day, and $50 off our half-day, on-site Sexual Harassment Prevention Training program*.

The Grady Firm provides on-site, classroom-style training in
English and Spanish, and includes custom-drafted materials, such as our
Proprietary Power Point Presentation, Certificates of Participation, Quizzes, and Anti-Harassment Policy. Don’t let your employees fall asleep or tune-out with traditional online training!

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How to Obtain Temporary Training or Employment in the United States as a Foreign Physician

Foreign physicians looking to advance their specialized careers in the United States can gain valuable experience and connections by working a physicians or fellows.

Generally, there are two visa classification options available to foreign physicians seeking temporary employment or training in the United States: (1) the J-1 Exchange Visitor Physician Program, and (2) the H-1B Specialty Occupation classification. Each of these classifications has unique requirements and benefits, but both require that the applicant demonstrate that he or she has obtained the required licenses and training necessary to practice in both the United States and the specific state of intended practice.

  1. J-1 EXCHANGE VISITOR PHYSICIAN PROGRAM

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Physician Program permits foreign physicians and medical graduates to participate in U.S. graduate medical education programs or training at accredited U.S. schools of medicine.  However, the J-1 classification does not permit full employment as a physician in the United States because the program focuses on providing graduate medical education or training in a specialty or sub-specialty occupation. Therefore, the J-1 is best suited to a foreign physician or medical graduate that wishes to gain additional education or clinical training at a United States-based institution.

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Is Your Company Prepared for an I-9 Audit? What to Expect During and After a Visit from ICE or DHS

ICE auditWhile immigration enforcement and oversight have occurred under the purview of all past presidents, the Trump Administration has publicly made them a leading policy priority.  Immigration raids and detentions at the border are the most visible aspects of this policy, but administrative oversight of employment documentation has also increased and will likely have the greatest impact on the majority of employers. One area where this is especially true is with Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s oversight of employer’s I-9 forms.

Worksite immigration enforcement rose drastically in the fiscal year 2018 compared to the previous year, following a commitment made by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in late 2017 to step up its worksite enforcement efforts across the country.

All worksite enforcement categories surged by 300 to 750% over the previous fiscal year. Here are some surprising numbers:

• 6,848 worksite investigations in 2018 compared to 1,691 in 2017;
• 5,981 I-9 audits in 2018 compared to 1,360 in 2017;
• 779 criminal arrests compared to 139 in 2017 (including arrests and indictments of managers); and
• 1,525 administrative worksite-related arrests compared to 172 in 2017.

What is an I-9 Form?

i-9The I-9 Form is an instrumental part of the new employee on-boarding process, and should be completed within the first 3 days of hire.  This form is used to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States. All U.S. employers must ensure proper completion of Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States, including both citizens and non-citizens. Failure to maintain proper I-9s can lead to a variety of monetary fines or even criminal penalties if an employer intentionally misrepresents I-9 information.

What Can Go Wrong? During an Audit

On its face, the I-9 form appears to be a fairly simple and straightforward document. However, many employers fail to accurately input all required documentation, fail to obtain proper employee documentation, or fail to properly store and maintain I-9 records. Any of these oversights can lead to potentially costly fines in the event of an audit. Our clients who have been officially audited told us that ICE reviewed every line of an I-9 form for accuracy and will issue fines for every entry that is inaccurate. Therefore, it is vital that employees responsible for handling I-9 documentation be fully trained with respect to I-9 procedures. For a detailed overview of the I-9 process, see our previous article, 6 Tips for Avoiding Costly I-9 Mistakes. Continue reading

The Grady Firm, P.C. Speaks at the 40th Annual California Landscape Contractors Association Landscape Industry Show

ODSC09291n February 7, 2019, Jennifer Grady, Esq. and Anthony Mance, Esq. of the Grady Firm spoke to landscape company owners and operators at the 40th Annual California Landscape Contractors Association Landscape Industry Show in Ontario, California.

Jennifer and Anthony addressed what do to in the event of an immigration-related site visit by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and/or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They discussed real-world examples with the audience, and provided recommendations on how to create a site visit plan and train company staff on how to best respond in the event of a site visit.

In addition, they discussed procedures and tips for applying for the highly coveted H-2B temporary non-agricultural visas, which are used for employers who need additional workers on a temporary seasonal or peak-load need over a period of nine months.  These visas are commonly used by landscape contractors, hotels, amusement parks, ski resorts, fishermen, and other industries with a  seasonal or short-term need.

landscape contractorThis was the firm’s second time presenting at this show, and Jennifer and Anthony have provided numerous webinars for the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) over the last few years on immigration and employment law topics. Continue reading

H-2B Visas for Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers

landscape contractorThe H-2B visa permits US employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States for the purposes of filling temporary, non-agricultural jobs.  It is commonly used for occupations in the hospitality (hotels, ski resorts), retail, and service industries (landscape contractors).

Congress has set a numerical limit, or “cap” on the number of H-2B visas to be issued on an annual basis, currently set at 66,000 per fiscal year.  The cap is split into two parts: 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the first half of the fiscal year (October 1 – March 31) and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 – December 31). H-2B visas are valid for a period of 9 months.

Who May Qualify for H-2B Classification?

ski instructorTo qualify for H-2B nonimmigrant classification, the petitioner must establish that:

  • There are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work.
  • Employing H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
  • Its need for the prospective worker’s services or labor is temporary, regardless of whether the underlying job can be described as temporary.  The employer’s need is considered temporary if it is a(n):
  • Its need for the prospective worker’s services or labor is temporary, regardless of whether the underlying job can be described as temporary.  The employer’s need is considered temporary if it is a(n):

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All California Employers with 5+ Employees Must Provide Sexual Harassment Training in 2019, Even if Trained in 2018

HARASSMENTOn September 30, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law S.B. 1343, which now requires that employers with 5 or more employees in California provide 1 hour of sexual harassment and abusive conduct training to non-managerial employees, and 2 hours for managerial employees once every two years. Managerial employees must receive training within 6 months of hire or promotion.

BY WHAT DATE MUST EMPLOYEES BE TRAINED?

calendarAll managerial and non-managerial employees must receive training by January 1, 2020. After January 1, 2020, employees must be retrained once every two years. That means that all employees statewide must be retrained again by January 1, 2022.

WHAT IF MY EMPLOYEES WERE TRAINED BETWEEN JANUARY 1 AND DECEMBER 31, 2018?

The law requires that employees be trained during calendar year 2019. According to the recently released DFEH FAQsemployees who were trained in 2018 or before will need to be retrained.

S.B. 1343 requires that the California Department of Employment and Fair Housing (DFEH) make online training courses available on the prevention of sexual harassment and abusive conduct in the workplace. However, DFEH does not expect to have such trainings available until late 2019. Therefore, in order to ensure that your employees receive the required training by January 1, 2020, it is best to schedule training now to secure the availability of a trainer, account for any employee make-up sessions, and to train in multiple sessions to stagger the number of employees who are taken away from work to attend training. Continue reading

When Is the Best Time to Apply for an H-1B Employee Visa?

H-1B visaThe most highly anticipated visa of the year begins its application season in Q1 2019. The coveted H-1B visa allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in jobs that are “specialty occupation” positions, which involve the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge.  H-1B visa holders often possess STEM degrees, such as jobs in fields such as science, engineering, logistics, and information technology.  To apply for an H-1B visa, the applicant must have a bona fide job offer from a U.S. employer, a Bachelor’s Degree or higher in their specific specialty or its equivalent, and meet the other requirements of the visa.

The H-1B visa is valid for three years, with an optional three-year extension, and provides the employee with the opportunity to apply for a Green Card if sponsored by the employer.  Accordingly, because the H-1B visa can last for 6 years (and even longer under some circumstances), the H-1B visa is one of the most popular ways for foreign professionals obtain a work visa, and ultimately, a Green Card in the United States. 

US FlagAs H-1B applications require a third-party academic credential evaluation of foreign degrees and the processing of a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor before an applicant is eligible to file an H-1B application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), H-1B applications can take 2-4 months to prepare.  Therefore, a prudent applicant will begin his or her application preparation in December or January because it can take several months to get documentation prepared and signed by the employer, obtain important documents from third parties, and have the application prepared by an attorney. Continue reading

New Year, New Company Policies

business partnersAs companies grow and evolve over time, it soon becomes clear that they will outgrow their employee and operations policies–that is, if they even had any in the first place!  The best time for a CEO, COO, CFO, and Human Resources Department is to reassess these policies is at the end of the year, and to roll out new policies at the start of a new year.  Every January, there are changes that will take place anyway (such as updated IRS mileage reimbursement rates and local minimum wage rates), so it’s a good time to include policy updates when you provide this information to employees all at once.  There are numerous policies you can begin revising now to issue to your staff in January. Read further to begin your end of year action plan:

1. Employee Handbook

EmployeeHandbook_Pop_6467.jpgThe first item that should be addressed is the company Employee Handbook. If your company does not have one, or has not updated an existing one in more than a year, it’s time to speak with an attorney about creating or updating your Handbook.  In fact, for companies that have more than 5 employees, a Handbook is a no-brainer because it will have clauses in it that you are required to provide to employees (for example, Pregnancy Disability Leave is available for employees at companies with 5 or more employees, and the Employee Handbook is the best place to provide this information to employees).  Besides using the Handbook as the opportunity to explain all of the California mandatory leave-laws, paid sick leave time, and cell phone reimbursement policy, you can use this as a forum to explain the company’s social media, use of technology, dress code, tardiness, absentee, and drug/alcohol use policies. You can also outline which behaviors will result in discipline or termination. Continue reading