what to expect from EEOC investigationEEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and DFEH (Department of Fair Employment and Housing) are two main administrative agencies charged with address workplace discrimination. EEOC is federal agency, while DFEH is its California counterpart. These agencies pursue a very small number of cases that they pick from all the many inquiries they receive every year. EEOC investigation can take anywhere between 4-6 months and up to a year or longer, depending upon how busy your local EEOC branch is, the nature of allegations and the degree of cooperation of the employer with the process. A charge of discrimination must be filed within one year of the most recent discriminatory event. Obviously, if you believe you were terminated for discriminatory reasons, your termination would be that most recent event.

Most complaints received by these agencies result in no findings, and and issuance of a right to sue letter many months after a complaint is submitted. This is in part because these agencies have limited resources, and in part because many inquiries are either very hard to investigate or they simply have no merit. However, obtaining a right-to-sue letter is a requirement before a lawsuit for discrimination can be filed in California.

In some cases, allowing those agencies to investigate your discrimination allegations is a good idea. In other situations, especially if you have a strong case, it’s better to obtain an immediate right-to-sue letter, which can be done online through an attorney, and file a lawsuit without delay. This is especially important if there is a concern that with time evidence will “disappear” and witnesses will become unavailable.

employee compensation at start-upsIt’s common for start-ups in the Bay Area that are low on funding to compensate their employees by granting equity only and without providing any actual salary or hourly pay. This is a mistake that entitles any such employee in California to make a claim for unpaid wages, interest, and possibly penalties. Many start-up owners assume that just because they themselves are only compensated with equity, and their company doesn’t have the money to pay their employees, it’s fair to pay their employees with stock options only. It might or might not be the fair thing to do, but in California it’s definitely not legal.

California labor code is very clear on this – an employee should be paid for every hour of work. Stock options are not pay because they don’t have have immediate (liquid) value. The law does not exempt employers from paying wages to their employees just because they don’t have the money to pay or just because the owner doesn’t draw salary, so this is not a valid defense in a potential claim or a lawsuit for unpaid wages.

Although laws in other states allows company not to pay those employees who who hold a certain % of ownership / stock in the company, this is not the case in California – at least not yet. Therefore, start-ups should at least pay their employees minimum wage to avoid liability for non-payment of wages, regardless of whether these employees also receive stock options.

computer professional exemptionOn October 5, 2016, the Division of Labor Statistics and Research (DLSR) has announced a slight increase in the salary requirements for exempt employees under computer professional exemption. The increase is 1.3% as per California Consumer Price Index.

Thus, effective January 1, 2017, the computer software employee’s minimum hourly rate of pay (to be properly exempt) increases from $41.85 to $42.39. The minimum monthly salary exemption will increase from $7,265.43 to $7,359.88, and the minimum annual salary will increase from $87,185.14 to $88,381.55.

It’s easy to see how not complying with the above requirement can become quite costly to an employer. Here is an example to illustrate this point. Suppose the employer pays the purportedly exempt computer professional $88,000 a year instead of the required $88,381.55, and that employee worked 12 hour workday for 100 days. Arguably, exemption won’t apply because of non-compliance with the pay rate. Therefore, the employer will be liable to pay that employee as follows:

fair chance ordinanceThe City of San Francisco has enacted this Ordinance to limit the employers’ ability to inquire into and consider an employee or applicant’s criminal history in hiring and employment decisions. The goal is to help individuals with past conviction to return to work force and be productive members of society, rather than suffer the consequences of prior criminal acts after they have already been convicted / served time.  The full text of SF Fair Chance Ordinance can be found here. However, the key things to know about this Ordinance for both employers and employees are:

I. Covered Employers
This law covers all employers who employ 20 or more employees.

mandatory cellphone use at workIn the opening line of Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. (2014) the court says: “We hold that when employees must use their personal cell phones for work-related calls, Labor Code section 2802 requires the employer to reimburse them. Whether the employees have cell phone plans with unlimited minutes or limited minutes, the reimbursement owed is a reasonable percentage of their cell phone bills.”

The above holding is an important reminder to both employees and employers that employees are entitled to reimbursement of at least part or their cellphone bill when they must use their personal cellphone for work. This is true even if they are on an unlimited plan with their carrier, and the amount of calls their make does not make a difference to that bill.

The following was posted in advance of the launch of Toptal Scholarships for Female Developers. To support scholarship applicants, Toptal has also published a guide to making your first open source contribution.

Women are underrepresented in tech. This realization is nothing new. Just look at numbers released by FacebookGoogleIntelSlack, and many, many more. But the numbers might be even worse than these reports imply.

At a recent tech event, I overheard a side conversation about the lack of gender diversity in tech. The small group was discussing the fact that even though women make up about 30% of the workforce in tech, higher level engineering teams rarely have more than a few women.

criminal juvenile informationCalifornia recently amended its existing law governing inquiries into and the use of juvenile criminal information. Effective January 1, 2017 employers will be restricted from asking about, seeking, or using a California applicant/employee’s juvenile criminal history in the employment context. This is a very important protection for all those job seekers who have been arrested and / or convicted of crimes during their younger years, as this law will help them return or continue to remain part of the workforce without suffering the consequences of their juvenile years mistakes.

Summary

Assembly Bill No. 1843 amends California Labor Code § 432.7, the law that sets forth many of the California prohibitions on employment-related inquiries into and use of an applicant/employee’s criminal history, by establishing a number of new restrictions related to juvenile criminal history information. Specifically, the new law prohibits employers from:

intern california lawThe distinction between an internship and employee / employer relationship has been subject to much debate and litigation all over the country during the past few years. However, in California the existing law states that a worker can be classified as an intern (and not be paid) only if all of the following six requirements are satisfied:

Factor 1: Training similar to that provided at a vocational school.  

Training should be closely tied to the intern’s educational goals.  This factor is more easily met if the employer’s office or facilities provide resources not necessarily available to the intern outside of an industrial or professional setting. For instance, in once case the interns – trainees learned how to operate trains in the rail yard. The DSLE’s Opinion Letter found this factor to be satisfied when “an intern’s use of the employer’s computers, network systems, and tools to perform tasks” was “directly related to training and the educational and vocational objectives of the program.”

San Francisco sick leave lawIn addition to California law, San Francisco sick leave law applies to all employees who are employed within the geographic boundaries of the City and County of San Francisco by an employer. Every employee, whether exempt or non-exempt, full time or part time, permanent or temporary, who is employed in California for thirty days or longer will be entitled to accrued paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay. There is a limited number of exceptions to this coverage. The main exception is those employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement (union agreement) that specifically provides for accrual of sick leave.

Sick Leave Accrual 

Sick leave accrues at a rate of not less than one hour per every 30 hours worked, counting from the first day of employment. Exempt employees are deemed to work 40 hours per week, unless the employee’s normal workweek is less than 40 hours.