Why You Want to Know an Attorney Before You Need One

Author: Annie Smiddy

Annie recently presented with a panel of attorneys on “Why You Want to Know an Attorney Before You Need One.”

From large companies to individuals, litigation is a highly emotional experience for anyone involved. Choosing an attorney at that time can be difficult.  At Ad Astra, we have experienced attorneys involved in a broad range of litigation, covering multiple practice areas. We also can help with minimizing the risk of litigation with our consultation services.

Annie and other local attorneys spoke to local entrepreneurs at the Hera Hub Business Accelerator Exposition on why it is a good idea to know an attorney before you need one. Topics included referral networks, litigation prevention, timing considerations in litigation, and the “ideal client” to keep costs down. There are many benefits to consulting with an attorney before a lawsuit is filed, so get to know us before you need us!

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California Trial Courts Are Still Chronically Underfunded, Which Delays the Public from Getting their Day in Court

Author: Wendy Hillger

Have you wondered why it takes so long to have your matter heard by a judge in California?

Unfortunately, the trial courts are not being properly funded.  As a result, there are reduced hours of operation, reduced services, and fewer workers to staff the courts.   California Supreme Court’s Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye noted that chronic under-funding of the courts, “unfairly affects members of the public seeking their day in court.”

In 2008, the San Francisco Court’s budget was $90.5 million.   At the time, the Court employed nearly 600 non-judicial staff.  However,  because of the subsequent Recession, California’s trial courts saw severe budget reductions.

While the economy has improved, the funding has not been substantially restored.

In July, 2017, San Francisco trial courts saw their budget further reduced by 9% for the fiscal year 2017-2018.   The court has a budget deficit of over $5.2 million dollars.  Today, the Court’s budget amounts to just $51.7 million, with a staff of approximately 430.

To help save money, San Francisco announced that court staff are being furloughed without pay for one day a month.   In addition, the clerk’s office will close early on Fridays.  Alameda County also has experienced a similar shortfall and has been on reduced staff hours and services for a few years now.

The July 2, 2017 news release of the San Francisco court is linked here. Here  is the County of Alameda public notice from November, 2016.

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Cannabis Industry Employment Numbers on the Rise: Misclassification Claims to Follow?

Author: Katy M. Young

In a recent article in Marijuana Business Daily , author Eli McVey posited that the cannabis industry now employs 165,000 to 230,000 workers, which is more than the number of employees who are dental hygienists, bakers, or massage therapists.  At the NCIA’s Business Expo  in Oakland, I was a speaker on a panel discussing how cannabis business owners need to be mindful of employment classification issues.

Here at Ad Astra, we predict (along with many other experienced attorneys) that employment misclassification claims are going to be the next big wave of litigation in the cannabis industry.

As an example, I came upon a cannabis grower who operated as a sole proprietor.  When I asked if she had any employees, the owner responded: “No, just my boyfriend who works with me and we split profits 50/50, then a few people [her trimmers] who come and go.”   She must have seen the reaction on my face, because she then asked what it was that she said. I explained that in a business context, anyone working with you is either your business partner/co-owner, your employee, or your independent contractor. She said that her boyfriend is NOT her partner, though I was sure she called him her “partner” earlier in the conversation.

Additionally, this owner insisted that her trimmers were independent contractors.  She obviously was unaware that there is a multi-factor test for determining whether one is truly an independent contractor.  California’s default is that a person is an employee, and so it is far more likely that the trimmers are really misclassified employees. It came as a shock to her that there were no in-betweens, and that at any moment, one of those people she considers friends could go to the EDD and complain that they were misclassified as independent contractors when they are really employees.

If there are 165,000 employees we know of, how many “independent contractors” are there? How many potential claims does that translate to? Many!  Please do not fall into this trap.

If you are a business owner in the cannabis space, it is imperative that you understand the difference between employees and independent contractors; and, partners or co-owners.   Employees are further subdivided into “exempt” and “non-exempt” (non-exempt are entitled to meal and rest breaks, and paid overtime- this is a whole different topic).

 

In sum, please contact us for a review of your employment and ownership practices.  An ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure here!

 

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San Francisco Protects Caregiver Employees

Author: Annie Smiddy

The City of San Francisco has recognized the need for protections for caregiver employees, and in particular working parents, by enacting two ordinances providing employees the right to request flexible working schedules and paid family leave for bonding time with a new child. The changes to demographics of the modern workplace have resulted in: (1) more flexible work arrangements regarding the time or place where work is conducted, and (2) more mothers and fathers wanting time to bond with their new children. However, many employees are concerned about requesting flexible work arrangements, or taking time off after the birth of a new child, due to the stigma associated with these additional family responsibilities. These protections extend to employees who have caregiving responsibilities, such as pregnant women, mothers and fathers of young children, and employees with aging parents.

Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance
In 2013 (operative January 1, 2014), the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance (“FFWO”) was enacted to provide employees the protected right to request a flexible work schedule. The FFWO states that caregiver status is a protected class, and places notice and record keeping requirements on covered employers. The FFWO prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who attempts to exercise of rights under the ordinance, or makes a claim or complaint pursuant to the ordinance. The Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement (“OLSE”) is authorized to investigate possible violations of the FFWO, and the agency will impose an administrative penalty up to $50.00 requiring the employer to pay to each employee or person whose rights under the ordinance were violated for each day or portion thereof that the violation occurred or continued. In addition, the City may bring a civil action for reinstatement; back pay; the payment of benefits or pay unlawfully withheld; the payment of an additional sum as liquidated damages in the amount of $50.00 to each employee or person whose rights were violated for each day such violation continued or was permitted to continue; appropriate injunctive relief; and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

Paid Parental Leave for Bonding with New Child Ordinance
In 2016, the City further expanded protections for parents by enacting the Paid Parental Leave for Bonding with New Child Ordinance (“PPLO”), which requires employers who have employees working in San Francisco to provide Supplemental Compensation to employees who are receiving California Paid Family Leave benefits to bond with a new child, so that the employees receive up to 100% of their normal weekly wages during 6 weeks of parental leave. The PPLO takes effect on January 1, 2017 for San Francisco employers with 50 or more employees; on July 1, 2017 for employers with 35 or more employees; and on January 1, 2018 for employers with 20 or more employees. The ordinance places notice, posting and record keeping requirements on employers. The ordinance prohibits against retaliation for an employee’s exercise of rights provided by the ordinance. The OLSE may investigate any possible violations of the ordinance by an employer and bring an administrative enforcement or a civil action against an employer. In addition, the City may bring a civil action in court against an employer for violations of the ordinance. A person or entity may also bring a civil action against an employer after he/she/it provides the OLSE and the City Attorney with written notice and more than 90 days have passed without the City Attorney filing suit or the OLSE providing notice of its intent to bring an administrative enforcement action or a determination that no violation has occurred. The employee may be entitled to reinstatement; backpay; payment of any Supplemental Compensation unlawfully withheld or the amount of Supplemental Compensation unlawfully withheld from the employee multiplied by three, or $250.00, whichever is greater; $50.00 for each employee or person whose rights were violated for each day that violation occurred; injunctive relief; attorneys’ fees and costs.

In sum, San Francisco has expanded protections for employees with greater caregiving responsibilities. If you would like to hear more about these ordinances, Ad Astra Law Group LLP is available to help.
For a link to the text of the ordinances, as well as FAQs, please visit the following websites:

FFWO – http://sfgov.org/olse/family-friendly-workplace-ordinance-ffwo
PPLO – http://sfgov.org/olse/paid-parental-leave-ordinance

 

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