Category Archives: General

It’s Time to Update Your Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination Policy: Big Changes to FEHA Regulations Take Effect April 1

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Beginning on April 1, 2016, new regulatory amendments will apply to California restaurants, bars, and other employers of five or more full or part-time employees, since such employers are subject to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA,” Cal. Govt. Code § 12900, et seq.). The FEHA prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of various protected characteristics, including gender, race, age, religion, and disability. For employees with disabilities, the FEHA requires employers to engage in the interactive process to determine a reasonable accommodation and to accommodate the employee. It also prohibits retaliation against employees who engage in activities that are legally protected.

If you don’t have a written policy against discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, now is the time to work with a lawyer on one. Notably, one of the many changes is that the amended FEHA regulations require every California employer to develop a harassment, discrimination, and retaliation prevention policy that: Continue reading It’s Time to Update Your Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination Policy: Big Changes to FEHA Regulations Take Effect April 1

Firing Staff Who Call the Boss an “A*#hole” or “Like” Such Criticism on Facebook

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Image credit: Facebook

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently decided that a sports bar in Connecticut violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) when it terminated two workers for commenting on and “liking” a Facebook post. Specifically, an employee posted a derogatory “status update” noting that the owners of the bar “can’t even do tax paperwork correctly,” since employees owed more in state income taxes than they expected due to a tax withholding error. The post initiated a series of comments which the boss was called an “asshole.” The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found, and the Second Circuit affirmed, that terminating the employees due to their Facebook activity was unlawful. (Three D LLC v. NLRB (2d. Cir. 10/21/15) Case #14-3284, appealed from 2014 NLRB LEXIS 656 (8/22/2014).) Continue reading Firing Staff Who Call the Boss an “A*#hole” or “Like” Such Criticism on Facebook

Is It Okay to Hire Cooks To Match the Cuisine? (Part I)

Soy Sauce and ChopsticksWe’ve all noticed it: why do many ethnic restaurants seem to have servers and wait staff matching that ethnicity? Why do some customers feel that ethnic food served by staff of a different ethnicity is less “authentic”? Does it bother you when you peek behind the kitchen door at, say, a Chinese restaurant, and see that the people making the food are clearly not Asian?

Although it’s not clear whether customers actually do prefer food served by people of matching ethnicity, it does seem, at least anecdotally, to be a real social phenomenon. But what does the law have to say?

Continue reading Is It Okay to Hire Cooks To Match the Cuisine? (Part I)

New California Paid Sick Leave Law Now in Effect

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As of last week, California law now requires mandatory, paid sick leave for most employees – including part-time, temporary and seasonal employees.  This means restaurants in the Golden State now must provide paid sick leave, whether they have in the past or not.  Employees are now guaranteed up to 24 hours (three days)  of annual sick leave – there is no exception for small employers.  Some of the key details of California’s new law – Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014 (AB 1522) – are as follows:

  1. To be eligible, employees must have worked in California for 30 days and for their current employer for 90 days.
  2. Sick leave must accrue at no less than one hour for every 30 hours worked but employers may provide eligible workers 24 hours up front.
  3. Employers must track accrual and use.
  4. While accrued sick leave need to be paid out on separation, those who are rehired within a year get their accrued sick leave reinstated.

Restaurants in California are required to put up new posters displaying information on paid sick leave.  Restaurants also must inform employees of their rights upon hiring new employees and then keep sick leave records for at least three years.  There are a number of other uses allowed for sick time, such as caring for a sick relative, coping with domestic abuse, and of course, actually being sick.

Continue reading New California Paid Sick Leave Law Now in Effect

Newly Proposed Federal Overtime Regulations Draw Opposition From The National Restaurant Association

Update (7/6/2015): Duane Morris has a detailed analysis  of the proposed new rules, as well as information about an upcoming July 15th webinar,  here.

On Tuesday June 30th, the Department of Labor released its long-awaited proposed overhaul to overtime regulations, further to President Obama’s goal of raising wages for more low and middle-income workers. Soon after the announcement, the National Restaurant Association (“NRA”) announced its opposition.

Under the current federal minimum wage rules, employers generally do not have to pay overtime to certain employees earning more than $455 per week, or $23,660 per year. Under the proposed new rules, the overtime exemption threshold would increase to $970 per week, or $50,440 per year. The proposed changes are open for public comment, and will not be finalized for a while.

The NRA’s statement says, in part:

While we are still reviewing the Department of Labor’s proposed overtime regulations, at first sign, it seems as if these proposed rules have the potential to radically change industry standards and negatively impact our workforce. As with previous policies put forth by this Administration, we are deeply concerned with the outcome this process will have on the employer community and our employees.
Supporters of these regulations say they want to increase Americans’ take-home pay, but these sweeping changes to the rules could mean anything but. More than 80% of restaurant owners and 97% of restaurant managers start their careers in non-managerial positions and move up with new, performance-based incentives. If these regulations stand, that mobility and adaptability of employee schedules, which makes our industry appealing, will be severely diminished.

The Obama Administration’s overhaul of overtime pay rules aims to boost workers’ paychecks, but that also means increased operating expenses for restaurant owners. These competing interests will have to be hammered out in the upcoming public comment period until all sides come to a middle ground.

Same-Sex Couples’ Rights in Restaurants and Bars

On the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, holding that that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage under the 14th Amendment and striking down state-level bans on the practice, the rights of certain religious restaurant owners and other businesses, such as wedding planners, caterers and bridal salons, to refuse service to customers on the basis of sexual orientation will come to the forefront.

Restaurants and bars qualify as “public accommodations” under federal law, even if they’re a private business. That means it is illegal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for those businesses to discriminate or segregate on the basis of “race,” “color,” “religion,” or “national origin.” (It is also illegal to refuse service to disabled or handicapped individuals, under the Americans with Disabilities Act.) While federal law does not include “sexual orientation” within the group of people who are protected from discrimination, laws in many states do protect those groups. For example, California law prohibits the arbitrary exclusion of individuals from a restaurant based on their sexual orientation or marital status. (Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civil Code § 51 et seq.; see also Rolon v. Kulwitzky (1984) 153 Cal.App.3d 289.) Even in states where discrimination against LGBTQ people isn’t banned, such as Arizona, local laws may prohibit sexual orientation discrimination. Continue reading Same-Sex Couples’ Rights in Restaurants and Bars

Shake Shack vs. In-n-Out: The Pros and Cons of Rapid Growth

bread-salad-lunch-meal2With news last week that New York burger restaurant Shake Shack will open its first California location in 2016, excitement rippled throughout the state – not just among East Coast transplants, but also West Coast foodies who right now have to leave the state to try a ShackBurger®.

Started in New York, Shake Shack has developed a loyal following across the country. Eager to take advantage of this market potential, Shake Shack has expanded along the Eastern seaboard, and is now working its way slowly but steadily westward, opening a location in Chicago last November, and in Las Vegas in late December.

What challenges face restaurant chains with such visions of manifest destiny? Shake Shack’s West Coast rival might provide some insight.

Continue reading Shake Shack vs. In-n-Out: The Pros and Cons of Rapid Growth

Upcoming Legal Compliance Deadlines for Bay Area Restaurant Owners and Other Employers

• April 30, 2015 is the deadline for employers covered by the Health Care Security Ordinance (HCSO) and the Fair Chance Ordinance to submit their 2014 Employer Annual Reporting Forms. If you are a restaurant owner or employer with 20 or more employees, you may likely be covered by the HCSO. If you cannot meet the April 30 deadline, a penalty of $500 per quarter will be assessed until the form is submitted. Please carefully review the instructions before submitting the form.
• May 1, 2015 is the effective date for San Francisco’s minimum wage to rise to $12.25 per hour. The Minimum Wage Ordinance requires all employers to post a notice informing employees of their rights. The notice must be posted at each workplace in San Francisco in a location where employees can read it easily.
• July 1, 2015 is the effective date when key provisions of the new paid sick leave law, the California Healthy Workplace Family Act of 2014, take effect. There are a number of new requirements for employers under this law, so please be sure to review the application of the new law with an employment law attorney. Employers must provide at least 24 hours or 3 days of paid sick leave for each eligible employee per year, display a poster on paid sick leave where employees can read it easily, provide written notice to employees with sick leave rights at the time of hire, keep records showing how many hours have been earned and used for 3 years, and comply with additional requirements.