Wednesday, October 14, 2009

California Labor Law Tips for Small Business Owners

California's current economy, like the rest of the world's, is on shaky ground.  There is an eruption of employment-related claims in our state, coming from employees who are laid off, terminated for cause, or who are still working, but afraid of losing their jobs.  A significant source of complaints concern wage and hour issues - nonpayment, late payment, unpaid overtime, and other wage and working condition issues that affect employers regardless of size.

There are several key areas of wage and hour compliance issues from which most complaints arise.  If small employers (or any size company, for that matter) can avoid these common pitfalls, companies will be far ahead of the game when it comes to complaints, hearings, lawsuits, settlements and awards.

It is important to note that wage-related claims in California have up to a four-year statute of limitations, requiring back pay, interest and penalties. In other words, it is best to get the rules right in the first place and follow them.  It can be much more costly in the end if you try to cut corners.

Meal and Rest Periods

Unlike Federal law, California law requires rest and meal periods for non-exempt employees.  Generally, a non-exempt employee cannot work more than 5 hours without a 30-minute unpaid meal period (California Labor Code, Section 512).  Three exceptions exist.  Rest periods must be 10 minutes per every 4 hours worked or major fraction thereof.  They must be paid time and, if possible, be taken in the middle of the 4 hours (California Wage Orders).  If these periods are not given, the employer must self impose a wage/penalty payable to the employee of one-hour of pay at the "regular rate" (California Labor Code, Section 226.7).

The recent California Supreme Court ruling that these payments are a wage has led to a large increase in claims.  Plaintiffs' lawyers are seeking, in addition to the wage/penalty, penalties for failure to pay all wages due on paydays, as well as penalties for not reporting all wages on the required pay stub.

The bottom line is to make sure you know the Labor Laws and comply with them.  If you are not already working with a business lawyer, employment lawyer, or human resources consultant, you should seriously consider it.  It is well worth the investment in the long run. 

If you have any question or concerns regarding anything in this post, please feel free to contact me at email the outhouse general counsel or (714) 795-0930.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

So You Want To Expand Your Small Business Internationally

I recently came across a great blog called The Global Small Business Blog.  It is a great source of information for small businesses looking to expand internationally. I have had several clients contact me to draft international contracts and assist them with their international business aspirations.  I wish I had known about this blog while I was performing that work.

If you intend to do business in other countries, or you are a lawyer advising such a business, then you most certainly will need some help with international trade law. Again, I encourage all small business owners to consult with qualified business lawyers.  Depending on your international business aspirations, you may need to consult with an International Business Lawyer.

The Global Small Business Blog (GSBB) was founded on July 20, 2004 by Laurel Delaney for the purpose of helping entrepreneurs and small businesses expand their businesses internationally. She recently posted about a Compendium of Trade Law Summaries.  Produced by the member law firms of Lexwork International (network of independent law firms), this Compendium provides trade law summaries for over 30 jurisdictions prepared by law firms located there, including the most significant United States trading partners. This is a great resource for any small business looking to expand internationally.

This does not mean you don't need a good business lawyer with international experience or an International Business Law Specialist. Every global small business at some point needs a good business lawyer during rapid growth stage (or before if you're really smart about anticipating what's ahead). Your business lawyer will become one of your trusted advisors and an integral part of your global "dream team."  I would like to thank The Global Small Business Blog for this great post.

If you have any questions or concerns about anything in this post, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] or (714) 795-0930.