SCV Chamber, local attorneys provide employment law updates

Attorney Brian Koegle of Poole & Shaffery Attorneys at Law explains the new harassment laws at the 2019 Employment Law Update event presented by the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal
With state laws constantly changing, the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce gathered local business leaders Thursday to highlight everything they need to know to be in compliance in 2019 at the annual Employment Law Update luncheon. The event, held at the Hyatt Regency in Valencia, included a thorough presentation by attorneys Brian Koegle and David Poole of Poole & Shaffery, LLP, and a brief summary of a survey conducted by the SCV Economic Development Corp., revealing how local businesses are responding to employment laws. Here’s a breakdown of some topics discussed: #MeToo “There’s an employment issue that’s on the front page of the paper almost every day,” said Poole. “How is #MeToo continuing to impact the California employers?” Sexual harassment cases have taken a complete turn and Los Angeles County is the No. 1 community within the state for related cases, said Koegle. This year alone, companies will have to comply with four new pieces of legislation, including Senate Bill 1343. This law requires employers with five or more employees to offer at least two hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisory workers and at least one hour to all nonsupervisory workers by Jan. 1, 2020, and once every two years thereafter. Under SB 1300, evidence of a single incident, or single comment, can be sufficient for a claim to proceed to trial. Defining the different types of sexual harassment is vital, said Koegle. The three types he mentioned were quid pro quo, or an exchange of favors; hostile work environment and bullying. Timekeeping One of the hardest things for employers to stay on top of is time-related tasks such as rest periods, the SCVEDC survey showed. Under the Augustus v. ABM Security court ruling, employers must “relieve their employees of all duties” during breaks and “relinquish any control over how employees spend their break time.” This means employees can leave the premises during their time off. But what happens if, for example, a worker drives to a coffee shop and hits a pedestrian? Because the employee is on the clock, “they are in the scope of their employment,” exposing the employer to liability. To address this, Koegle suggests workers clock out and then credit back the break time. Timekeeping-related issues are among the most frequent ones Poole & Shaffery attorneys assist businesses with, said Poole. While the task is often tedious, employers must document all time information to avoid what Koegle called a “credibility battle” or a “he said, she said” situation. “It is now essential to go back and look at our timekeeping, take a look at our policies and procedures to make sure that we are compensating our folks for all time they [work],” he said.
Attendees follow along with the slides during the 2019 Employment Law Update event presented by the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Thursday.
Dan Watson/The Signal
Independent contractors In April 2018, under Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of L.A., the state Supreme Court established updated rules for defining who is considered an independent contractor. “The presumption of the Legislature is to protect the worker, not the business,” said Koegle. The state wants individuals who perform work in California to be deemed non-exempt employees with paid overtime, rest periods, benefits, etc. To classify someone as an independent contractor, businesses must show the following:
  1. Worker must be free from control and direction of the hirer.
  2. Worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.
  3. Worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.
Best practices To protect one’s employees and business, attorneys Poole and Koegle suggest the following:
  • Perform an annual audit of employment practices, policies and procedures.
  • Update the employee handbook to reflect law changes.
  • Maintain written job descriptions for every category of employment.
  • Update wage claim release language.
  • Obtain employment practices liability insurance coverage.

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About the author

Tammy Murga

Tammy Murga

Tammy Murga covers city hall and business for The Signal. She joined in the summer of 2018, previously working in Northern California as an assistant editor and reporter for the Lake County Record-Bee. In 2016, she graduated from Mount Saint Mary's University, Los Angeles. Have a story tip? Message her on Twitter or at [email protected]