Five Common Employment Law Mistakes Committed by California Employers

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Five Common Employment Law Mistakes Committed by California Employers

California employment law is among the most extensive and employee-friendly of any state in the union. Despite the great volume of legal requirements that apply, ignorance of the law is no excuse and failure to comply with the law could lead to disastrous consequences. The following are only a few of the most common legal mistakes committed by California employers:

  • Misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor: An employer’s duty towards an independent contractor is far less burdensome than his duty towards an employee. This also applies to third parties – an independent contractor’s negligence towards a third party is not automatically imputed to the employer, for example. Nevertheless, it is the courts that ultimately decide whether a laborer is an employee or an independent contractor.   

  • A lackadaisical attitude towards sexual harassment complaints: Sexual harassment complaints must be taken very seriously. In California, for companies with at least 50 employees, all supervisors must be compliant with AB1825. Your company must institute an anti-harassment policy along with a detailed mechanism for handling complaints.

  • Failure to regularly and appropriately revise the Employee Handbook: The most common mistakes in this regard are (i) failure to create an Employee Handbook in the first place, (ii) failure to update it at least once a year, and (iii) allowing an unqualified person to handle the drafting or revisions. Failure to create and maintain an Employee Handbook will give your employees (and ex-employees) a lot more leverage should a dispute break out between you.
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  • Insertion of a non-compete clause into an employment agreement (particularly without a severance clause): The temptation to insert a non-compete clause into an employment agreement that applies after separation of the employee from the company can be a great temptation, especially if your company is guarding valuable intellectual property.

    California courts are notoriously unfriendly to non-compete clauses, however, and including one in an employment agreement without a severance clause can result in the entire agreement being invalidated – with unpredictable results. Consult a California employment lawyer before you even consider inserting a non-compete clause into an employment agreement.

  • Inappropriate handling of employee disabilities (including pregnancy and psychiatric conditions):  Employers cannot unfairly discriminate in hiring people with disabilities. Hiring a disabled employee, however, triggers a host of legal requirements. Failure to take them seriously can result in lawsuits for astronomical damages.   

The foregoing is only the tip of the iceberg of potential California employment law violations. We have not even discussed many common violations such as failure to provide appropriate meal and break periods and requiring off-the-clock work. The services of a top-tier California employment lawyer become more and more necessary as your company grows.

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If you are concerned that your company may be in violation of California employment law or if you simply need some questions answered to remain in compliance, call our office at 909-980-1040 or complete our online contact form to schedule a conference with us. We serve clients from throughout the Rancho Cucamonga area, including Alta Loma, Etiwanda, Upland, Fontana, Ontario, Chino Hills, and Claremont.

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Issues to Resolve in a California Construction Contract: The Contractor’s Point of View

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Issues to Resolve in a California Construction Contract: The Contractor’s Point of View

Construction contracts can run hundreds of pages long. Despite all of this verbiage, however, the same problems seem to arise again and again in project after project. Many of these problems are completely avoidable. The following are just a few examples of common construction project problems along with some advice on how to deal with them at the contract negotiation stage.

Scope of Work

The scope of work provisions are perhaps the most important provisions in a construction contract and arguably some of the most overlooked. Typical problems that produce conflict in this area include: (i) inadequacies or incompleteness in the owner’s design documents, only later discovered, gives rise to a need to change the scope of work, and (ii) linguistic ambiguities in the construction contract are interpreted differently by the contractor and the owner.

The way to head off these problems before they arise is to secure a warranty from the owner that his design documents are complete, coordinated with each other, and free from defects; to spend time drafting the scope of work provisions with great care and foresight. A bit of extra care at the negotiation stages of the project might save millions of dollars down the road.  

Indemnification

Contractors almost always agree to indemnify the owner against any liability to a third party that arises as a result of their work – personal injury liability, for example, as well as property damage and even intellectual property infringement. A contractor should attempt to limit its indemnification liability to those liabilities it can insure against. The subcontractor should also ask the owner to indemnify it against third-party liability caused by design defects.

Warranties and Bonds

There is no way that a construction contractor for a major project can avoid providing a myriad of warranties and bonds for its various contractual duties. The trick at the negotiation stage is to limit your liability as much as possible. A contractor should generally insist on a general warranty of one year for materials and labor and demand precise commencement and ending dates for all warranties.

A contractor should also “flow down” its risk to subcontractors as much as possible by (i)

insisting on equal warranties from subcontractors, and (ii) having major subcontractors provide their own maintenance bonds. This approach should reduce your risk to a manageable level.

Project Delays

Project delays are perhaps the greatest liability a contractor faces. Naturally, the contract should include a carefully drafted force majeure clause that eliminates the contractor’s liability for delays that are not their fault. It should also provide for very specific compensation to the contractor when the delay is the fault of the owner. Ideally, acceleration of work requirements should be the owner’s sole remedy for most contractor-caused delays.

At CKB Vienna LLP, we can help you draft construction project contracts that keep you out of court or arbitration by heading off disputes before they arise. If your dispute has already begun (or seems inevitable), we can help you win while preserving your business relationships to the extent that you require.

Telephone us at 909-980-1040 or fill out our online contact form to learn how we can best assist you. We serve clients throughout the Rancho Cucamonga area, including Alta Loma, Etiwanda, Upland, Fontana, Ontario, Chino Hills, and Claremont.

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Boilerplate Provisions in California Business Contracts: What They Mean, Why They Are Important, and How They Prevent Litigation

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Boilerplate Provisions in California Business Contracts: What They Mean, Why They Are Important, and How They Prevent Litigation

Most people are at least a bit familiar with contract “boilerplate” clauses. They are the clauses that inevitably appear at the end of a contract that look suspiciously similar to clauses found at the end of other contracts that have very little else in common. The purpose of contract boilerplate clauses is not to add to the length of the contract so that the lawyer can pad his billable hours – each clause exists for a specific reason. The following are some examples:


Attorneys' fees: If a legal dispute arises, the losing party must pay the winning party’s legal fees. This raises the cost of litigation and lowers the parties’ willingness to engage in it.

  • Arbitration: All disputes must be resolved through arbitration rather than courtroom litigation. Arbitration rulings are typically non-appealable. This saves time and money but is dangerous because the losing party has no recourse to the courts.

  • Jurisdiction: This clause determines where a lawsuit can be filed (the specific county) to prevent “forum shopping” by parties seeking a home-court advantage. It is not the same as a choice of law clause (a California court can resolve a dispute under Louisiana law, for example).

  • Severability: What happens if a judge invalidates one clause of a contract (for example, California often strikes down non-compete clauses in employment agreements)? A severability clause allows the remainder of the contract to remain intact.

  • Merger: A “merger” or “entire agreement” clause asserts that the contract represents the entire agreement between the parties (at least with respect to subject matter relevant to the contract) on the date that the contract is signed. This prevents either party from asserting that a prior agreement, exchange of memos, or verbal assurance can be considered part of the agreement between the parties.

  • Force majeure: What happens if a hurricane destroys my warehouse? What happens if the product you ordered is declared illegal under local law? A force majeure clause excuses a party from performing their duties under the contract if an unforeseen event makes it impossible or highly impractical to do so.

  • Indemnity. In an indemnity clause, one party agrees to pay the costs of certain disputes asserted by third parties. In a classic example, I license software to you and a third party sues you for copyright infringement claiming that the algorithm actually belongs to him and not me.

  • Confidentiality. A confidentiality clause guarantees that neither party will disclose some or all of the information they learned during the course of negotiating or performing the contract.


The foregoing is only a sample of possible “boilerplate” clauses. It is critical to remember that you should never use a generic boilerplate clause that you find online or in another contract. Each contract is unique and should be treated as such. Your “boilerplate” should reflect your particular needs and concerns.


At CKB Vienna LLP, we can help you draft business contracts that avoid disputes and help you win disputes that have already arisen. Call us at 909-980-1040 or fill out our online contact form to learn how we can assist you. We serve clients from all over the Rancho Cucamonga area, including Alta Loma, Etiwanda, Upland, Fontana, Ontario, Chino Hills, and Claremont.

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