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Wednesday
Jan252017

“Way Mo” Autonomous Cars Coming Fast

Personal InjuryPersonal Injury Attorney

 

 

by Andrew L. Shapiro

(818) 907-3230

 

It’s a race to beat all races:  several car makers, including Ford, General Motors, Volvo, BMW and Tesla are promising fully autonomous vehicles within the next five years. Not far behind the pack, Google recently renamed its own autonomous contender the “Waymo”, according to Bloomberg Tech. And Nissan is big in Japan with plans to have commercial, driverless vehicles up and running on its home turf by 2020.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that 10 sites across the nation were chosen for the testing of artificially intelligent (AI) vehicles. Two of these are right here in California – at the Contra Costa Transportation Authority in Walnut Creek, and the San Diego Association of Governments.

So what does all of this mean for driver safety?

It’s still too early to tell. For now, the general public can rest assured that the DOT’s designated test sites are meant to be just that – test sites. Automakers running cars at these locations are expected to share test results and tech knowledge per a Federal Automated Vehicles Policy released in September.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx explained:

This group will openly share best practices for the safe conduct of testing and operations as they are developed, enabling the participants and the general public to learn at a faster rate and accelerating the pace of safe deployment. 

Autonomous Vehicle Safety

Last May a driver was killed in Florida when his autonomously driven Tesla crashed into a truck. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration though, recently concluded that Tesla was not at fault. NHTSA said driver-assist software for the vehicle performed “as designed”, and that drivers should still pay attention when behind the wheels of AI vehicles.

The feds investigated other AI crashes and found that many of these were because of “driver behavior factors”.

Overall, even the insurance industry is gearing up for safer highways and streets. Once autonomous vehicles really get rolling, the industry expects a decline in driver insurance premiums, though it also expects an increase in product liability revenue. The reason?

Drivers involved in crashes will sue each other less and less, and will instead turn to car makers to satisfy injury claims.

 

Andrew L. Shapiro is the Chair of our Personal Injury Practice Group.

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Tuesday
Jan032017

Prop 65 Update: The Rules They Are a Changin'

Litigation AttorneyEnvironmental Litigation

 

Stephen T. Holzer

818.907.3299

 

Proposition 65, known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, among other things requires businesses employing ten or more people to warn consumers if the business’ products contain a chemical scientifically shown to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.

Prop 65 LawyerThe State maintains a list of such chemicals. Such warnings are delivered by placing “clear and reasonable” warning statements on the products, on product packaging, or on signs at retail establishments selling the products. Historically, the warnings were usually sufficient even if they were somewhat generic – e.g., “This product contains a chemical [our emphasis, for illustrative purposes only] known to the State of California to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.”

New Prop 65 Rules

After 30 years of living under regulations implementing Proposition 65, the Office of Emergency Health Hazard Assessment (“OEHHA”) has promulgated a whole new set of regulations re clear and reasonable warnings designed in part to “make warnings more meaningful to the public.” 

The new regulations require, among other things, the warning specifically to identify the chemical(s) in question – e.g., “This product can expose you to lead [our emphasis] which is known to the State of California to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.” The new regulations also provide for specialized warnings for certain industries. The specific warning language listed in the new regulations need not be used if affected businesses can show other language provides a “clear and reasonable” warning; but the safest thing for a business to do is to adopt the language in the regulations.

Businesses have until August 30, 2018 until the new regulations become effective but can operate under the new regulations immediately if desired.

Enforcement Actions

Proposition 65 can be enforced by the government, but if the state chooses not to take action after being notified that adequate warnings were not given, individuals may do so by acting as “private attorneys generals.” Businesses in violation of the warning requirements may face a civil penalty of up to $2,500 a day for the period of violation. Typically though, settlements are much smaller than this draconian amount.

A Prop 65 claim is a particularly difficult claim for a business to defend. The most common defense is to show that people exposed during a course of a lifetime to the chemical(s) at issue would not become ill because the levels of the chemical(s) are too low to do any harm. It is expensive to mount such a scientific defense, requiring the testimony of experts. Small to medium-sized businesses generally choose to settle because the financial burden of litigation is too great.

Although case law suggested that a litigation settlement would protect a party from further Prop 65 claims re the same products and associated chemicals placed at issue by the claim, the law was arguably not completely settled in this regard. The new regulations specify that court-approved warnings will shield the businesses involved in a particular claim from future claims over the same issues.

OEHHA provides extensive information about Proposition 65. Additionally, you can contact us with any questions.

Stephen T. Holzer is the Chair of our Environmental Practice Group and a business litigation attorney. 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Thursday
Dec292016

Employer Responsibilities re Mental Health Conditions

Wage and Hour Defense Attorney

 

by Sue M. Bendavid & Tal Burnovski Yeyni

 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently issued a “User-Friendly Document” explaining the rights of job applicants and employees with mental health conditions. In doing so, the EEOC has confirmed that individuals with such conditions are protected from discrimination and harassment.

Employment Law Mental Health Disability

As noted, employers cannot fire, deny a job, deny a promotion or force an employee to take leave because of a mental health condition (there are exceptions when employees pose a “direct threat” to safety or cannot perform their jobs). The guidelines remind employers of the obligation to provide reasonable accommodations that would enable employees perform their jobs.

In our work advising and counseling employers, we often encounter employers who struggle with how to properly respond to disabled employees.

Whether it is an employee’s injury, mental health condition or stress, employers face confusion as to their legal obligations. Since failure to communicate and/or accommodate may sometimes result in costly litigation, we are providing a few basic guidelines to assist employers when facing similar issues.

Do not discriminate against employees with a mental or physical health condition:

Employers do not have to hire or retain employees in jobs they cannot perform, or employ people who pose a “direct threat” to safety (based on objective evidence, not merely myths and stereotypes). However, firing an employee or rejecting an applicant with a disability (whether physical or mental) is prohibited, unless the employee or applicant cannot perform the job with reasonable accommodation.

For example: Jane notified her employer she was depressed and needed two weeks off. Her employer believed depression was not a “real disease” and rejected Jane’s request without further discussion. When Jane failed to show up because of her condition, her employer fired her for unpermitted absence.

The employer’s actions in this scenario were potentially unlawful. When Jane gave notice of her mental condition and asked for accommodations in the form of time off, her employer was required to engage in an “interactive dialogue” (explained below) rather than rejecting her request for time off and then terminating her employment.

Even if you don’t believe an employee’s health condition and request for accommodation are legitimate, you must at least engage in an interactive dialogue. Under some circumstances (e.g., if the need for an accommodation is not obvious), you can ask the employee to provide reasonable medical documentation to confirm the existence of the disability and the need for reasonable accommodation.

Timely engage in “interactive dialogue” with the employee, even if the employee does not “officially” ask for accommodations:

This can be tricky. Under California law, an employer is required to initiate the interactive process when: (1) the employee requests an accommodation; or (2) the employer otherwise becomes aware of the need for an accommodation through a third party or by observation.

For example: Robert was cleaning a window when he fell off a ladder and hurt his hand. Emily, Robert’s supervisor, witnessed the incident. The next day, Robert came back to work with bandages on his hand. Robert never asked for an accommodation but was struggling with his usual manual tasks. As Robert never asked for an accommodation, Emily assumed Robert did not require one.

Emily assumed wrong. Since Emily witnessed the incident and saw Robert’s bandages she was on notice regarding his possible need for accommodations. Even if Robert did not need accommodations, it was Emily’s duty, as the employer, to engage in the interactive process with Robert to determine whether accommodations could be provided.

Even if the employee is not eligible for protected time off under the Family Medical Leave Act or California Family Rights Act, consider time off as reasonable accommodation:

Family and medical leave laws generally cover employers with 50 or more employees. However, even if you are not a covered employer, you may be large enough and must consider whether protected time off can be provided as a reasonable accommodation (See also 2 CCR 11065(p)(2)(M)).

Don’t rely on the undue hardship defense:

Generally, employers are not required to accommodate a disabled employee or applicant if the accommodation would cause an “undue hardship” to the employer. The term “undue hardship” generally means an accommodation that is unduly costly, extensive or substantial, or that would fundamentally alter the nature of the business’s operation. (See definition and factors to consider in 2 CCR 2 11065(r))

However, employers are advised to use the “undue hardship” defense narrowly and only when the accommodations might place extensive financial burden or would prevent the ongoing operation of the business. Further, employers should engage in the interactive dialogue before concluding an undue hardship exists.

For example, an applicant with a severe vision impairment applies for employment with a small market that has only four other employees. The applicant requires assistance to work the register by having another employee present at all times. The business in question would not have to provide the accommodation if, for example, it could not afford the cost of the additional staff or could not afford the cost of remodeling to accommodate two employees at the same time. (From California Department of Fair Employment Housing guidelines).

Keep an employee’s mental or physical health condition confidential:

Medical information that employers obtain regarding the medical or mental conditions or history of an employee or applicant must be maintained in separate medical files and kept confidential. The employee’s medical information may be discussed only under the following circumstances:

1. Supervisors and managers may be informed of restriction(s) on the work or duties of employees with disabilities and necessary reasonable accommodations; and

2. First aid and safety personnel may be informed, where appropriate, that the condition may require emergency treatment; and

3. Government officials investigating compliance are to be provided relevant information on request. (See 2 CCR 11069(g))

Document, Document, Document:

We cannot emphasize this enough. A little documentation can go a long way.

When you meet with an employee as part of the interactive process, prepare a written summary of the meeting and indicate the reasonable accommodation options discussed. If you decide to grant the employee’s request, document that as well. If you deny the employee’s request because of undue hardship, put that in writing and explain the reasons for the denial. You should invite the individual to further engage in the interactive process and keep the door open to other options. In fact, any change in accommodations should be in writing.

Bottom line:

A little communication and documentation can go a long way and prevent costly litigation. Don’t rely on stereotypes or your personal knowledge and beliefs when an employee requests accommodations or gives notice of medical or psychological conditions. Meet with the employee, discuss his/her restrictions and discuss possible accommodations, if necessary.

As always, if you have questions or concerns regarding your obligations as an employer, contact an attorney in our Employment Practice Group: 818-990-2120.

Sue M. Bendavid and Tal Burnovski Yeyni are  Employer Defense Attorneys at our Firm. 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Tuesday
Dec202016

California Employer Compliance 2017

Lawyers for Employers

by: Lewitt Hackman's Employment Practice Group

818-990-2120

 

There have been significant changes to state and federal laws in 2016 affecting employers of all sizes and in many industries. We'd like to help our clients stay apprised of some of the more critical changes by reminding all of the important dates below. Except where otherwise indicated, new laws and regulations go into effect as of January 1, 2017.

 

Federal Minimum Salary Threshold

A federal court blocked the Department of Labor's Final Rule with an injunction in late November. As a result, the minimum salary threshold required for overtime exemptions that was to be met December 1, 2016 no longer applies. This may be a temporary reprieve for employers, as the DOL recently filed a Notice of Appeal.

In the meantime, employers should ensure they meet all state and local overtime exemption requirements.


Affordable Care Act

IRS Affordable Care ActUnder the Affordable Care Act, employers must provide employees forms 1094-B (Health Coverage) and 1094-C (Employer-provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage to Employees) by March 2, 2017.

Information reporting via Forms 1094 and 1095 with the IRS is February 28, 2017 (hard copies) or March 31, 2017 (electronic filing). 

 

New I-9 and Immigration Protections

Employment I-9A new I-9 Form (Employment Eligibility Verification) was released in November. Employers must begin using the new form for new hires by January 22, 2017

Federal law prohibits employers from asking for additional documents other than those required by the I-9. A new California law (Senate Bill 1001) prohibits this practice as well -- violations may incur penalties of up to $10,000. 


California Fair Pay Act

Fair Pay EthnicityThe Fair Pay Act prohibits employers from paying employees of opposite sex different wages for substantially similar work. Any pay differentials must be based on seniority, merit system, quantity or quality of production, or other bona fide factors such as education or experience. Additionally:

Senate Bill 1063 amends and expands the different rates of pay prohibitions to employees of another race or ethnicity.

Assembly Bill 1676 clarifies that prior salary history cannot justify compensation disparities. 


Criminal Background Checks

Background Checks in CaliforniaCalifornia: Employers are prohibited from asking about arrests or detentions that did not result in a conviction, or about those incidents that have been judicially sealed or dismissed. Assembly Bill 1843 expands protections to protect job applicants with juvenile criminal histories as well. 

Los Angeles: Ban the Box, or the Second Chance Initiative, prohibits employers with ten or more employees from including questions about criminal history on job applications. Employers may ask about criminal history AFTER a conditional offer of employment is made to the applicant. There is a process involved regarding the consideration of such information, written notices, maintaining records; and notifications that must be included on all job posts. Read our Ban the Box blog for more information. 


Payroll, Wage Statements & Notices

Employee NoticesCurrently, employers cannot discriminate or retaliate against employees who are victims of domestic violence, sex assault or stalking – and cannot prohibit employees from taking time off to seek treatment or legal actions for these crimes. Assembly Bill 2337 now requires employers to provide written notice of their employment rights should they become victims of these crimes to all new hires and to other employees as requested. Employers are required to comply with the notice requirements when the Labor Commissioner develops a form notice, on or before July 1, 2017.

Employers who must notify employees of eligibility for federal Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs) must also notify employees of California EITCs per Assembly Bill 1847.

Employers are not required to track hours worked for exempt employees on itemized wage statements. The clarification comes under Assembly Bill 2535.

Employees of Temporary Staffing Agencies must be paid weekly. Assembly Bill 1311 makes this law applicable to security personnel employed by private patrol operators who are also temp service employers, as of July 2016.


Single User Restroom Facilities

Restroom LawAs of March 1, 2017, single-occupant toilet facilities in any business or public building must be identified as "all gender" facilities with signage compliant with Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations. Single-occupant bathrooms have no more than one stall and one urinal. See Assembly Bill 1732.

 

Minimum Wage Hikes

Minimum Wage HikeCalifornia: Businesses with 26 or more employees must pay a minimum wage of $10.50 per hour as of January 1, 2017. Employers with 25 or fewer employers must raise minimum wages to this rate on January 1, 2018

Local Ordinances: In unincorporated Los Angeles County, Los Angeles City, Pasadena and Santa Monica, employers with 25 or fewer employees must begin paying minimums of $10.50 per hour as of July 1, 2017. Employers with 26 or more employees were required to start paying a rate of $10.50 per hour as of July 1, 2016; and will be required to pay $12.00 per hour as of July 1, 2017. (Click: Cty and County Wage Rates for more specific information.) 

 

Sick Time

Sick Leave CaliforniaCalifornia: As of 2015, employers in California must provide 24 hours of paid leave per year for employees who work at least 30 days per year. 

Local Ordinances: In Los Angeles County, employers must provide 48 hours of paid sick leave annually. The time can be front-loaded every 12 months or accrued at the rate of one hour paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. This requirement is part of the Los Angeles Minimum Wage Ordinance, and went into effect last July for employers with 26 or more employees. For employers with 25 or fewer employees, the requirements must be implemented as of July 1, 2017


Arbitration Clauses

Senate Bill 1241 prohibits employers from requiring employees, as a prerequisite of employment, to arbitrate employment disputes under the laws of another state or in another state. This protection applies to all employees who primarily live and work in California. 

An exception to the new law applies to employees represented by an attorney when negotiating terms of an employment contract, including those containing forum selection and choice of law provisions. 


New California Employment Laws: Industry Specific Legislation

 

Janitorial Services

Janitor LawPer Assembly Bill 1978, employers of property service workers (janitorial) must keep records of all employees to include: employee names and addresses; start/stop times and all hours worked; wage rates for each pay period; ages of any minor employees; and conditions of employment – for three years. The law applies to janitorial employees, independent contractors and franchisees. 

Employers in this industry must register with the Labor Commissioner each year as of July 1, 2018. Cost of registration is $500.00.

The new legislation also requires janitorial staff and supervisors to undergo sexual violence and harassment prevention training every two years as of January 1, 2019


Agricultural Workers

Farm Worker LawAssembly Bill 1066 eliminates the one day of rest per seven days worked exemption for California's agricultural industry. Employers cannot require agricultural employees to work more than six days per week.

As of January 1, 2019, agricultural employers must provide overtime wages for more than 9.5 hours worked (or more than 8 hours starting January 2022); meal breaks; and meet other wage and working condition requirements.

Employers with 25 or fewer employees have an additional three years to comply with the criteria above. 


Private Education

Private School Minimum Salary ThresholdAssembly Bill 2230 requires a new minimum earnings test for private school teachers to be exempt from overtime:  salaries for these employees must be comparable to those offered to public schools in the same district or county. The new test is effective as of July 1, 2017

 

 

Salon Services

Salon Worker LawBusinesses licensed by the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology (BBC) are required to post notices regarding wage and hour laws and workplace rights as of July 1, 2017, under Assembly Bill 2437.

Another new law (Assembly Bill 2025) will require BBC schools to provide basic labor law education to license applicants.

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Monday
Dec052016

Criminal Background Checks: Banning the Box in Los Angeles

Lawyer for EmployersEmployer Compliance Attorney

Employer Update 02.09.17

The City updated its website with further information and resources for both Private Employers and City Contractors, including official notices for applicants and employees, sample letters and rules for implementing the Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring Ordinance.

Please visit this City of Los Angeles webpage to access these: Ban the Box resources.

 

 

by Tal Burnovski Yeyni

818-907-3224

 

Los Angeles City is on its way to approve a new Ordinance prohibiting employers with 10 or more employees from including on any application for employment any question that seeks the disclosure of an applicant’s criminal history. The Ordinance was approved on Wednesday, November 30, 2016 and is rescheduled for a second reading on December 7, 2016 (commentators say this second hearing is merely a formality).

Los Angeles' Ban the Box

More commonly known as the Ban the Box or Fair Chance Initiative, the Ordinance aims to reduce recidivism by providing more job opportunities to those with a criminal history, from relapsing into criminal behavior.

Ban the Box’s Primary Parameters

Who May Be Held Liable? The Ordinance defines “Employer” as any “individual, firm, corporation” etc., that is located or doing business in the City and that employs 10 or more employees. The definition also includes owners, management, supervisors and employment agencies.

No Inquiry Permitted Until a Conditional Offer of Employment is Made. An employer may not, at any time or by any means, inquire about or require disclosure of an applicant’s criminal history unless and until a conditional offer of employment has been made to the applicant.

Notice to Employee before an Adverse Action Is Required. If an applicant provides information/documents regarding criminal history, any decision to withdraw or cancel the conditional offer of employment may not be made until the employer complies with specific notice requirements and allows the applicant an opportunity to provide information regarding the accuracy of his/her criminal history or information regarding other factors that should be considered.

These include mitigating factors or evidence of rehabilitation. The notice requirements also include preparation of written assessment and reassessment by the employer that links the aspects of the criminal history with risks inherent in the duties of the position.  

Hiring and FiringNotice Requirements in Job Posts. Any job posts or employment ads must include a statement that the employer will consider for employment qualified applicants with criminal histories in a manner consistent with the requirements of  the Los Angeles Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring.  

Additionally, employers are required to post a notice informing applicants of the provisions of the Ordinance in a conspicuous place at every workplace, job site or other location in the City under the employer’s control visited by applicants.  

Duty to Maintain Records for a Period of Three Years. Employers are required to retain all records and documents related to applicants’ employment applications and the written assessment and reassessment for a period of three years following the receipt of an applicant’s employment application.  

Exceptions. The criminal history inquiry prohibition, the assessment and reassessment requirements, and the duty to give notice to applicants in all solicitations or advertisements seeking applicants do not apply if: (1) the employer is required by law to obtain information regarding conviction; (2) the position requires possession or use of a firearm; (3) an individual who has been convicted of a crime is prohibited by law from holding the position sought by the Applicant, and; (4) an employer is prohibited by law from hiring an applicant who has been convicted of a crime.  

Fines for Failure to Comply Will Be Imposed This Summer. As of July 1, 2017 the City may impose fines of up to $500 for failure to (1) provide notice to applicants in solicitations or advertisements; (2) post notice in a conspicuous place; or (3) retain records as required. For any other violation of the Ordinance, the City may impose a fine of up to $500 for the first violation; up to $1,000 for the second violation and; up to $2,000 for the third and subsequent violation.  Administrative fines paid by the employer may be awarded to the applicant or employee, up to a maximum of $500 per violation.  

Approximately half of America's states have Ban the Box laws, though most, including California, currently apply only to public employers.

Tal Burnovski Yeyni is an attorney in our Employment Practice Group

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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LEWITT HACKMAN | 16633 Ventura Boulevard, Eleventh Floor, Encino, California 91436-1865 | 818.990.2120