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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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

Has Your Company Been Reimbursing its Employees for Personal Cell Phone Use on the Job?

by Jennifer A. Grady, Esq.

cell phone 2Since January 1, 2016, California employers must reimburse employees for use of their personal cell phones for mandatory business purposes.  (Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Service, Inc). This ruling affects millions of employers who must update their company policies in order to stay compliant with the new law.  While this law has been on the books for over two years now, it appears as though many companies have not addressed this law or made it part of their employee reimbursement practices.  Is your company reimbursing its employees for their cell phone call and data usage?  Read below for policy suggestions.

What does this mean for employers?

According to Cochran, California employers must indemnify employees for all “necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer.” Unfortunately, even four years after this case was decided, the exact measure of reimbursement is still somewhat unclear.  While the court in Cochran determined that employers must consistently reimburse employees a “reasonable percentage,” it did not define what is reasonable. Furthermore, the employer must reimburse the employee even if the employee does not incur any additional expense on his or her cell phone/data plan as the result of using the device for work-related purposes (i.e. if the client has unlimited talk, text, and data plans).

This law is now reflected in California Labor Code section 2082: Continue reading

Updates to California Labor Law Posters

CapitolStay up to date with recent changes to California labor law posters!  In order for your business to stay in compliance with these recent changes, the updated posting(s) must be downloaded, printed, and then posted next to your current labor law poster. Remember, labor law posters must be posted in a conspicuous location so that all employees may see them.

1. EDD- Unemployment Insurance, Disability Insurance, Paid Family Leave:

The California Employment Development Department (EDD) has updated its EDD notice regarding Unemployment Insurance, Disability Insurance, and Paid Family Leave. The updated notice reflects a change to the online application platform, as well as formatting changes. The department recommends maintaining updated information, however, this update will not be mandatory until January 1, 2019. The poster revision date is August 8, 2018.

Continue reading

Additional Employer Requirements Under San Francisco Paid Parental Leave Ordinance

San FranciscoIn California, employees can apply for paid family leave (PFL) benefits administered through the California’s Employment Development Department (EDD).  These PFL benefits are funded through employee-paid payroll taxes, and provide eligible employees with six (6) weeks of partial wage replacement.  No state-wide law requires that employers offer paid parental leave.

San Francisco, however, has enacted a local ordinance, the San Francisco Paid Parental Leave Ordinance (SFPPLO), which requires that covered employers supplement an employee’s PFL benefits.  As of January 1, 2018, the SFPPLO applies to any San Francisco-based employer with 20 or more employees worldwide.  Thus, any employer with more than 20 employees would need to offer eligible employees who work in San Francisco with fully paid leave that complies with the SFPPLO and would need to revise its parental policy accordingly. Continue reading

What Can Employers Learn From the Harvey Weinstein Scandal? Tips from an Employment Lawyer on Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

by Jennifer A. Grady, Esq.*

Harvey WeinsteinAs Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual harassment in the work place dominates the headlines on the heels of other scandals involving Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, President Trump, Billy Bush, and former President Bill Clinton, it is time to explore ways that we all can take tangible action to help make sexual harassment and violence extinct, whether it is through awareness, outreach, personal restraint/responsibility, and/or formal training.  While claims against powerful individuals continue to surface in the media and on social media, and companies adjust their response polices, one thing is clear: sexual claims are very real, very expensive, and very destructive.

In fact, one in three women have experienced sexual harassment in the work place, and employers have doled out over $40.7 million in settlements (not including cases that went to trial) were reported by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2016.  In addition, California Government Code Section 12940(k) requires that all employers “take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring.” Continue reading

Plaintiffs Given Broad Access to Discovery in PAGA Suits by California Supreme Court

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by Grace Lim-Ayres, Esq.

On July 13, 2017, the California Supreme Court in Williams v. Superior Court (Marshalls of CA, LLC) issued an opinion addressing the scope of discovery in representative actions brought under PAGA (Private Attorneys General Act of 2004, codified in Cal. Lab. Code § 2698 et seq.).  The Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) authorizes aggrieved employees to file lawsuits to recover civil penalties on behalf of themselves, other employees, and the State of California for Labor Code violations.

The Williams Court unanimously reversed the trial court’s discovery order denying plaintiff access to statewide contact information for fellow employees of other Marshalls stores.  It held that plaintiffs in PAGA actions have access to a broad scope of discovery similar to discoverable information in a class action.  The plaintiff is entitled to statewide contact information at the onset of the case to determine which cause of action to plead, and whether a broader representative action is warranted.

In what could be considered another blow to employers in an already employee-friendly state, given the relatively low threshold for pleading, employees may now bring more PAGA claims that are in fact “fishing expeditions”, which will in turn require employers to spend more time defending against them.  In addition, it is clear that statewide contact information is relevant and discoverable in a PAGA claim at the outset of the case. Continue reading

How to Comply With E-Verify Requirements

712fv2lM04L.pngby Jennifer Grady, Esq.

On November 2, 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice increased monetary penalties substantially for employers who knowingly employ an unauthorized worker. Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), it is unlawful for an employer to hire or continue to employ a person knowing that the person is not authorized to work in the United States. This law requires that employers verify employment eligibility of all employees by completing a Form I-9.  Failure to comply with these rules subjects employers to substantial penalties. Continue reading

IRS Mileage Reimbursement Rates Decrease in 2017

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© Jennifer Grady

Beginning January 1, 2017, the standard mileage rates designated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are the following:

  1. 53.5 cents per mile for the use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck for business miles driven (down from 54 cents in 2016).
  2. 17 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes (down from 19 cents in 2016).
  3. 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations (unchanged).

The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs. Continue reading

Online filing with the EDD will be mandatory for Companies with 10+ Employees in 2017

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Beginning Sunday, January 1, 2017, employers with 10 or more employees will be required to electronically submit employment tax returns, wage reports, and payroll tax deposits to the Employment Development Department (EDD). Employees with fewer than 10 employees will be subject to this requirement beginning January 1, 2018.

This mandate also applies to out-of-state employers who report payroll taxes to the EDD.

The e-file and e-pay mandate requires the following returns, reports, and payments to be electronically submitted: Continue reading

Increased Minimum Wage for Employers with 26+ Employees Starting Jan 1, 2017

fee-increaseThe California minimum wage law has been modified so that the wages will gradually increase to $15.00 per hour by 2022.

For the first time, the increases are grouped by employer size.  Employers with 26 or more employees will need to increase the minimum wage from $10.00 per hour to $10.50 per hour on January 1, 2017.  Employers with 25 or fewer employees will have another year until the minimum wage increases by fifty cents for their employees.

The schedule for the California minimum wage increases for large employers is as follows: Continue reading

New I-9 Form Must be Used by Jan 21, 2017

I-9The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that an updated Form I-9 has been approved. While the current form had a revision date of 03/08/2013 N and expired in March this year, is is acceptable for continued use until January 17, 2017.

On August 25, 2016, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved a revised Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. USCIS must publish a revised form by November 22, 2016. After January 21, 2017, all previous versions of Form I-9 will be invalid. Make sure you are always using the most current, acceptable version of the Form I-9, and ensure that the I-9 is completed by all new employees within three days of hire.

For more information on self-audits and other Form I-9 issues, see the “Handbook for Employers” https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/m-274.pdf issued by USCIS. Find the latest version of the I-9 form here.

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.  They help perform personnel audits, train employers on employment law compliance, provide on-demand legal analysis for hiring and firing questions, and provide leadership and sexual harassment training in English and Spanish.

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.