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VIA Focuses on New Labor Laws

Lawyers give advice at the Valley Industrial Association's monthly luncheon.

Posted: February 21, 2008 6:28 p.m.
Updated: April 23, 2008 5:04 a.m.

Attorney Brian Koegle from Poole & Shaffery, LLP, speaks about new labor laws for California employers at the Valley Industrial Association's monthly luncheon at the Hyatt Valencia on Tuesday afternoon.

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The Valley Industrial Association's monthly luncheon focused on education and prevention as two local attorneys briefed the audience of business leaders on the new labor laws for the state of California and the implications of violating the latest wage and hour restrictions.

Dozens of guests representing various companies at the Hyatt Valencia Conference Center on Tuesday listened to David Poole and Brian Koegle, attorneys from Valencia-based Poole & Shaffery, LLP, explain the need for businesses to understand labor laws, especially with an 86 percent increase of wage and hour claims in 2007.

The new year brought an increase in the federal and state minimum wage. Also, Koegle noted that with reimbursing out-of-pocket business expenses to employees, a business is able to pay its workers at a higher rate as a way to compensate the business expenses. However, Koegle said this can be tricky as businesses must be able to show that the higher rate includes regular wages plus compensation for expenses.

Koegle, who focuses on labor and employment law, and Poole, who specializes in civil litigation with an emphasis on complex business disputes, labor and employment, real property and environmental law, pointed out that companies have an obligation to mandate the meal and rest periods that are taken by employees. Workers are allowed 10-minute breaks for every four hours, two 10-minute breaks for 8 hours, 30 minutes of uninterrupted breaks for every five hours and two 30-minute meal periods for 10 hours of labor or more.

Although it is common practice to "add up" breaks so that workers can go home early, Koegle said this should not be happening in the workplace.

To prevent one-time employees from attempting to request back pay and wages for unused breaks, Koegle and Poole advised the business leaders to include some type of language on every employer's time sheet or time card that notifies them about their rights for breaks and lunches. With every completed time sheet, the two suggested that businesses have their employees sign the agreement so that they are fully-aware of their breaks and that they took them.

Issues with overtime laws were also discussed, highlighting that unless deemed an exempt worker, every employee should be paid overtime for working more than eight hours in one day or 40 hours in a week. The six most common exemption categories, out of the nine total, for employees include: executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, computer-related occupations and other highly compensated occupations.

Aside from discussing the latest labor regulations, the team offered helpful hints for employers looking to prevent any future wage disputes.

Poole suggested that businesses conduct an annual written evaluation of every exempt employee's classification. Additionally, companies should hold annual evaluations so that exempt employees understand their eligibility for overtime. This can serve as a way to stop any future disputes from employers about their labor classifications.

Emphasizing the need for documentation, Poole noted that written job descriptions for every category of employment should be kept on file and updated periodically, as job descriptions and requirements will change. As always, Poole and Koegle said another wise decision is for a business to have an updated employee handbook to reflect any changes in the laws.

The luncheon also announced the finalization of key Valley Industrial Association-sponsored events. The regional executive summit on affordable housing is scheduled for May 7 and the business organization will be sponsoring an open house on March 20.

Next month's VIA luncheon will be a forum for the five candidates for Santa Clarita City Council.

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