The Do’s and Don’ts of Interviewing and Hiring

The Dos And Don’ts Of Interviewing And Hiring All too often, the restaurant industry suffers from “warm body syndrome.” Due to the pressures of this business, food service operators are often too quick to offer a job to a person who is unqualified. However, today, there is no reluctance to enforce employee rights.  The courtroom…

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IRS’s Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program and its Implications for Individuals

The IRS to end Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program – Taxpayers with undisclosed foreign financial assets urged to enter program before it closes in September 2018. What is happening? The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) has announced that it will begin to ramp down the 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) and close the program later this…

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Fifteen New Housing Bills! The Quick Take for Cities and Developers (updated)

This is an updated version of this article, which was first published on October 19, 2017.  At a ceremony held at San Francisco’s Hunters Point, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law all fifteen bills encompassing the California legislature’s package aimed at addressing the State’s severe housing crisis. Whether the legislature would have the votes to…

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Flurry of Recent California Voting Rights Activity

Since the recent passage of Assembly Bill 350 in 2017, there have been a number of California cities either being sued or threatened with litigation under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). The CVRA essentially mandates that cities modify their at-large election systems to district based elections whenever “polarized voting” occurs in these jurisdictions. While…

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Employer Alert: What You Need to Know About AB 1221 and AB 1209

California Law Now Requires Alcohol Servers to Go Through Mandatory Trainings The sale and consumption of alcohol is for better or for worse an integral part of the hospitality industry.  While the morals of society change, there has been no indication that alcohol consumption, unlike tobacco use, will be banished from hospitality establishments.  Historically, courts…

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Two New San Francisco Ordinances Go Into Effect In 2018

For San Francisco employers, two new local ordinances relating to lactation accommodation and requests for salary history will go into effect in 2018. “Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance” Beginning January 1, 2018, San Francisco will increase existing protections for nursing mothers working within the geographical boundaries of the city.  The Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance…

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A Tale of Three Cities (and one State)

California has struggled for nearly forty years to address the housing crisis, which the State Supreme Court recently described as reaching “epic proportions.” Since the late 1970s, the legislature has enacted increasingly strict laws designed in part to limit local discretion from the housing entitlement process, yet the crisis has only exacerbated. In his article,…

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FBAR Deadline for All U.S. Persons to File is October 16, 2017

Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report (“FBAR”) is an annual report that provides the U.S. government with information regarding certain foreign financial accounts held by a U.S. person. Typically, a U.S. person who has a financial interest in or signature authority over at least one financial account located outside the United States and has an…

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Employer Alert: San Francisco Limits New Hire Questions

In 2018, Employers have more restrictions on the interview process if they are hiring or conducting business in San Francisco. San Francisco just enacted a law that prohibits employers from asking applicants about their salary history. The law will become effective July 1, 2018.  The “Parity in Pay Ordinance” prohibits San Francisco employers from using…

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Employer Alert: Transgender Employee Rights

In February we alerted you on the California State Legislature passing of AB 1732 here, which requires that, as of March 1, 2017, all single-user toilet facilities in any California business be identified as “all-gender.”  As of July 1, 2017, the Fair Employment and Housing Council (FEHC) regulations have expanded upon laws relating to gender identity…

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Important Issues to Consider in Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)

A well drafted Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) can be used to protect your business’s trade secrets and other confidential information in a variety of different business related contexts, ranging from a nascent stage of development (e.g., when products, inventions, or ideas are presented to investors) to the potential disclosure of financial information to a prospective buyer…

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Employers Mandated to Disclose Domestic Violence Leave Rights

The California Labor Code provides protected time off to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  However, according to a study by the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center, nearly 40% of survivors in the state reported being fired or fearing termination due to intimate partner violence.  Apparently, employees are not aware of their…

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A win for employers on the ‘Joint Employer’ Doctrine

The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced on June 7, 2017 that it is withdrawing its 2015 and 2016 informal guidance on the “joint employer” doctrine.  The joint employer doctrine is used to determine whether a business can be said to effectively control the workplace policies of another company, thereby creating liability for them with…

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New Addition to the State Density Bonus Law Extends Incentives to Commercial Developers

Throughout 2016, housing advocates, developers, and local municipalities closely monitored the progress and eventual demise of Jerry Brown’s ambitious proposal to streamline the local approval process for residential projects. The Governor’s proposal would have set aside $400 million for housing projects in exchange for providing “by right” ministerial approval for housing developments that comply with…

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Employer Alert: Effective March 1, California Businesses Must Gender-Neutralize Bathrooms

The laws affecting California businesses are ever changing and 2017 proves to be no different. Effective March 1, 2017, all California businesses will have to remove any labelling that designates a “single-user toilet facility” as either “male” or “female”.  The California State Legislature passing of AB 1732 established the nation’s most inclusive restroom access law.…

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Employer Alert: Are You Ready? New Federal Overtime Regulations Effective December 1, 2016

The new Federal Regulations require attention before year end. Effective December 1, 2016, the minimum salary threshold needed to qualify for exempt status will increase to $47,476 annually or $913 per week.  These new standards exceed the current California law requirements. Meaning that employers who are the minimum California requirements will be non-compliant as of December 1,…

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Assessing Employment Risks—Do I really need an Employment Law Audit?

Whether you employ five or five hundred people, employers need to periodically ensure that their policies and procedures comply with the law. Many employers use generic personnel policies that were written for larger workplaces, other industries, or even different states. However, California’s strict employment laws change annually, vary depending upon the number of employees, and…

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Employer Alert: New San Francisco Law Requires Fully Paid Parental Leave

On April 5, 2016, San Francisco became the first city in the United States to mandate that employers provide fully paid parental leave.  San Francisco will be enacting this gradually and by 2018, businesses with 20 or more employees will be required to comply. Effective January 1, 2017, San Francisco businesses with 50 or more…

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Employer Alert: Time to Update Your Harassment Prevention Policy

Employers have long been advised to maintain a written harassment prevention policy and to enforce it.  Such policies typically define and prohibit unlawful harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, explain the steps to prevent against this unlawful conduct, and include an internal complaint procedure.  But as of April 1, 2016, these written policies may no longer be…

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Hiring Caregivers: Legal and Financial Considerations (Updated 2015)

Introduction “There’s no place like home.” That time-honored adage summarizes the motivations of people who want their children cared for at home as well as people who want to face advancing age, illness or infirmity in familiar surroundings. In either circumstance, in-home help may be necessary. These materials provide guidelines for those who are hiring…

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Effective Counsel Must Understand Poorly-defined Trade Secrets Litigation Procedures

“When an employee leaves his or her employer to work for a competitor, or when a business venture dissolves or splinters under unhappy circumstances and one of the principals in the venture starts a competing venture, a lawsuit for misappropriation of trade secrets under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, codified in California at California Civil Code sections 3426,…

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Hospitality Law Alert: Restaurants and Hotels on Mandatory Water Restriction

On March 17, 2015 the California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) adopted and extended a set of emergency water conservation regulations. The regulations include a penalty to restaurants serving water to patrons unless it has been specifically requested. The Office of Administrative Law has 10 days to approve or deny the new regulations adopted by…

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That Dreaded Knock on the Door – Responding to a White-Collar Crime Investigation

“Embezzlement, money laundering, tax evasion and commercial bribery are common white-collar crimes that authorities regularly investigate.  Oftentimes these alleged crimes happen without executives even knowing someone in their organization is committing them.  However, ignorance does not count.  If and when authorities come knocking on your company’s door, how would you respond?  Facing a subpoena, search…

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Bay Area Commuter Benefits Required by September 30

The Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program, as a result of California SB 1339 (effective March 26, 2014), requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees to offer a commuter benefit by September 30, 2014, to their employees who work 20+ hours per week. Click here for the Employer Guide, which contains very helpful information.

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Taxing Issues: How to Handle Three Hot Issues for 2014

Tyler A. Shewey, Berliner Cohen attorney, recently authored an article in Smart Business Online, focusing on “Taxing Issues: How to Handle Three Hot Issues for 2014.” Smart Business spoke with Shewey about three tax issues that are receiving more attention in 2014 from the IRS: sales and use taxes, IRS Offer in Compromise, and foreign…

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Employment Law Alert: New Extended Deadlines for Compliance with ACA Employer Mandate

On February 10, 2014, the Treasury Department issued new rules that provide a grace period for all employers of over 50 full-time equivalent (“FTE”) employees to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s (“ACA”) “employer mandate.” Mid-size employers of 50-99 FTE employees have been given an extra year (until 2016) to provide health insurance to their…

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Estate Planning: Protection of Assets and Other Trends for 2014

While tax laws continue to affect estate plans, protection of assets has become an increasing priority as baby boomers age.  “There’s been a lot more conversation in the last five years about asset protection, not just about the client’s assets, but also about protecting the assets the children will eventually inherit,” says James P. Cashman,…

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California Employers Focus on Planning, Policies and Practices in 2014

In 2014, California employers should focus on planning, policies and practices and consider the following legal issues: Effective July 1, 2014, the California statewide minimum wage will increase to $9.00/hour, with a further increase to $10.00/hour on January 1, 2016.  As of July 1, all California employers will need to pay a fixed salary of not…

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Soft Roll-Out Code Enforcement for Hand Contact & Ready-To-Eat Foods

A new section of the California Retail Food Code scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2014, requiring foodservice workers to use disposable gloves or utensils when handling ready-to-eat foods will not be strictly enforced for the first six months of 2014. The change was included in AB 1252, which made several changes to the…

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Employment Law Alert: New Pregnancy Regulations Provide Guidance to Employers

Effective December 30, 2012, the Fair Employment and Housing Commission issued new pregnancy discrimination regulations.  These regulations provide guidance to employers about their obligations to pregnant employees and applicants. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) defines “sex” to include pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, and now also includes breastfeeding. …

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Employment Law Alert: Sexual Harassment Can Constitute a Hate Crime

A California Court of Appeal recently held that employees who experience sexual harassment in the workplace may sue their employer as well as the alleged harasser under the Ralph Civil Rights Act (California Civil Code §51.7).  Section 51.7 is a “hate crime” statute which provides recovery of damages, civil penalties, and attorney’s fees.  Unlike when…

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High Speed Rail Authority Industry Forum August 14, 2012

CALIFORNIA HIGH SPEED RAIL AUTHORITY  Industry Forum: August 14, 2012 CHSRA to highlight Central Valley Construction Packages 2, 3 & 4 The California High-Speed Rail Authority is hosting an Industry Forum on August 14, 2012 at the Save Mart Center on the California State University Fresno campus. The event will provide firms interested in pursuing High-Speed Rail…

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Berliner Cohen Attorneys Named to 2012 Super Lawyers

Seven Berliner Cohen partners and one of counsel again have been recognized by Law & Politics as 2012 Northern California Super Lawyers.  In addition, one partner and two associates have been named as 2012 Northern California Rising Stars.  These are lawyers recognized by the legal community as up-and-coming attorneys under 40. Berliner Cohen’s 2012 Northern California Super…

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Employment Law Alert – Supreme Court Rules Health Care Act Constitutional

On June 28, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court, in National Federation of Independent Business et al. v Sebelius, Secretary of Health & Human Services et al, 132 S.Ct. 2566 (2012), ruled that the Affordable Health Care Act (“ACHA”), implemented by President Obama in 2010, is constitutional. Many of the provisions of the ACHA should have already been implemented…

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California Supreme Court’s Long-Awaited Decision on Meal Periods & Rest Breaks

On April 12, 2012, the California Supreme Court decided Brinker Restaurant Corporation v. Superior Court of San Diego (Hohnbaum), the seminal case on meal periods and rest breaks for non-exempt employees in California. While leaving intact the ability of employees to file class actions or individual actions against employers that fail to provide meal or…

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Employment Law Alert – New California Law Requires Written Commission Agreements

Effective January 1, 2013, AB 1396 will require that all employers doing business in California provide employees with a written contract for commissions that comprise all or any part of the employee’s compensation. The agreement must state the method by which commissions will be computed, when they are deemed earned and how they will be…

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Employment Law Alert – CA Supreme Court Strikes Down Arbitration Agreement

In late February 2011, the California Supreme Court held that where an employee was required to sign an arbitration agreement with his employer, and the arbitration agreement stated that the employee waived his right to a hearing before the California Labor Commissioner regarding wage claims, the entire arbitration agreement was unenforceable. See Sonic-Calabasis A, Inc. v. Moreno.…

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Employment Law Alert – U.S. Supreme Court Expands Who Can Sue for Retaliation under Title VII

The United States Supreme Court recently expanded the scope of who is protected from workplace retaliation in the case of Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP.  Until 2003, both Eric Thompson and his fiancée, Miriam Regalado, were employed by North American Stainless (“NAS”).  In February 2003, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) notified NAS that Ms.…

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California Food Handler Law

All food handlers must have a California Food Handler Card on or before July 1, 2011. Employees hired after June 1, 2011 will have 30 days from the date of hire to acquire a food handler card. Download PDF

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Eminent Domain and High Speed Rail – How It Can Affect Your Property

Do you know your legal rights if an eminent domain action takes place as a consequence of the proposed California high speed rail system?  Information contained on this site will help familiarize you with the plans of the California High-Speed Rail Authority – the agency tasked with building the 800-mile system over the next decade. …

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Who Is Responsible When Uphill Stormwater Causes Downhill Damage?

Introduction Stormwater issues are not new to residents of hillside and mountain areas.  Because winter storms often bring voluminous amounts of rain, sometimes for weeks on end, it is important to know how and where all that stormwater is flowing through your property in order to protect structures from damage and to protect the land…

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Kathy Sherman Panelist: “Changing Careers after 40”

Kathy Sherman, Berliner Cohen attorney, was a panelist on the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Connections television program recorded on March 31, 2011.  The topic was “Changing Careers after 40.” Click here for presentation:  Click here for presentation:  YouTube: AAUW Connections Program, March 31, 2011. Topic: “Changing Careers after 40” Part 1 YouTube: AAUW Connections…

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2011 Berliner Cohen Employer Update

LEGISLATIVE DEVELOPMENTS Paid Leave for Organ and Marrow Donations SB 1304 adds a new provision to the California Labor Code, effective January 1, 2011, which extends to private employees a benefit formerly available only to public employees.  Previously, state workers who had exhausted available sick leave were permitted to take up to 30 days of…

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Take Advantage of Two-Year Window for Huge Estate Planning Opportunities

As you may know, the President signed into law the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (the “Act”) on December 17, 2010.  The legislation is a sweeping tax package which includes a number of substantial changes to the federal estate, gift and generation skipping tax laws.  However, the law only…

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California Employers Required to Post New Workers’ Comp Notice

In California, all employers are subject to mandatory workplace posting requirements. Effective October 8, 2010, all persons or entities that employ at least one person in the state are required by the California Department of Workers’ Compensation to revise and post the new “Notice to Employees – Injuries Caused by Work.” The notice must be…

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How An Alternative Workweek May Maximize Your Labor Costs

Hotels and restaurants often are faced with the tough dilemma of scheduling employees during “peak” hours. Alternative workweek schedules permit many employers to avoid paying daily overtime to employees who do not work more than 40 hours a week. Both employers and employees can benefit from such arrangements. The most common schedules are 4 –…

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Federal Menu Labeling Law Preempts State and Local Laws

Many provisions in the recently passed Health Care Reform Act will have an effect on the food service industry. Included among those, is a new Federal rule regulating menu labeling. The Federal requirement attempts to establish a uniform approach to nutrition labeling on menus, and is intended to preempt state and local laws different from…

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Workplace Crime: How to Detect and Prevent

Every year billions of dollars are lost by businesses nationwide to employee fraud and theft. Small businesses are especially vulnerable to occupational fraud and less able to absorb a loss than a larger business; in fact, it is not unusual for a small business to be bankrupted by theft committed by a single employee. This…

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Rules and Regulations Governing Employee Restructuring

In these lean economic times, words such as “furlough,” “regular day off,” and “reduced pay” are frequently bantered about. However, each of these terms carries with it specific rules and regulations that must be followed when implemented. Handled improperly, a downsizing or a reduction in pay can damage the public standing of both the organization…

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IRS Follows Up on Interim Due Diligence Guidance Required in Grantmaking to Other Nonprofits

Private foundations and donor advised funds face excise taxes for grants made to other non-profit organizations that turn out to be merely supporting organizations for other charities.  The Pension Protection Act of 2006 subjects payments made by private foundations and donor advised funds to excise taxes under IRC sections 4942, 4945, and 4966, if grants…

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How an Alternative Workweek May Maximize Your Labor Costs

Hotels and restaurants often are faced with the tough dilemma of scheduling employees during “peak” hours. Alternative workweek schedules permit many employers to avoid paying daily overtime to employees who do not work more than 40 hours a week. Both employers and employees can benefit from such arrangements. The most common schedules are 4 –…

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Employment Law Alert – IRS 409A’s Impact on Severance or Deferred Comp

Any employer who is including a severance provision in an offer letter to a prospective new hire, offering post-termination payments to a departing employee, or implementing any deferred compensation arrangement or severance plan or policy needs to carefully consider the impact of Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code. Congress enacted Section 409A in 2004…

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Berliner Cohen Attorneys Author “Volumes”

Berliner Cohen attorneys frequently author chapters, sections or articles, which appear in legal and other industry publications: Linda A. Callon, Partner League of California Cities, Contributing Editor, “The California Municipal Law Handbook” Robert L. Chortek, Partner 15 Pacific Legal Journal, 301, Comment: “Impeaching the Accused with Prior Convictions: Does Proposition 8 Put Beagle in the…

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Employment Law Alert – Upcoming ADAAA Changes & Potential Implications to California Employers

In the early 1990’s, Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) which prohibits discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities in employment, housing and public accommodations.  At the same time, the California legislature amended the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) to expand the scope of its protections against discrimination, harassment and retaliation…

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Employment Law Alert – CA Supreme Court Strikes Down Non-Competition Agreements

In August 2008, the California Supreme Court handed down its long-awaited decision in Edwards v. Arthur Andersen LLP.  The Court departed from prior decisions in the federal courts by determining that a provision in an employment agreement that even “partially” or “narrowly” restricts an employee from serving customers or competing with a former employer was invalid…

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Employment Law Alert – Supreme Court Grants Review of Brinker Case

On August 29, 2008, the California Supreme Court granted review of the Fourth District Court of Appeals’ decision in Brinker Restaurant Corporation v. Superior Court of San Diego (Hohnbaum).  The prior appellate court in the Brinker case held that employers have some flexibility in scheduling meal periods and rest breaks, and that while employers must provide meal periods,…

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Employment Law Alert – California Supreme Court’s Decision on Retaliation

In March, the California Supreme Court, in a 4-3 split decision, held that non-employer individuals cannot be personally liable for retaliation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).  This case reversed a trend among the California appellate courts, which allowed individual managers and supervisors to be sued for their decisions to discipline, demote or…

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OSHA Rules Require Employer To Pay For Personal Protective Equipment

As of February 15, 2008, OSHA requires the employer to pay for Personal Protective Equipment. The following are a few examples of the PPE required in the lodging industry: Face shields, visors, goggles, hard hats, reusable gloves; protective aprons, gowns and head cover for handling blood borne pathogens; air‐support face masks where chemicals such as…

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Dancing in a Minefield: The California Wage and Hour Law Tango

The adage “Everything old becomes new again” has particular meaning both for employers and for the lawyers who sue or represent them. California’s wage and hour laws were promulgated during the 1930s to implement such New Deal concepts as minimum wage, overtime and “one day’s rest in seven.” Over the ensuing decades, the California legislature…

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Stays Pending Appeal

Few areas of appellate procedure are as complex, or potentially significant, as the rules concerning stays pending appeal. The consequences of the failure to stay enforcement of a judgment or order pending appeal may be obvious. Absent a stay, for example, a successful appellant may be left with a mere right of action against an…

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Commercial Broker Not Liable For Metroscan Information

Commercial brokers can pass on widely used real estate database information with a disclaimer to a potential buyer without fear of liability, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Mary Jo Levinger ruled in a judgment entered on January 26, 2005 in favor of Cornish & Carey. In ruling in favor of Cornish & Carey on…

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