n  2010 Employment Law and Leadership Conference

n  Training_Calendar_

n  Happy Holidays

n  Using the Economic Climate to Pause

n  Legislative Update

n  CA Wage & Hour Tip

n  Welcome New Members

n  Nepenthe Member Spotlight

n  HR Q & A



Training Calendar

CA Employment Essentials (HR101)

A training series focusing on the regulatory compliance and HR best practices - the information & skills supervisors & managers need to keep themselves and the organization out of hot water!

n February '10

Management Excellence Series

A training series focusing on practical leadership and communication skills to help managers develop or refine their effectiveness as leaders!

n March - April '10

Training Calendar

n Harassment and Discrimination at Work

January 28

n CA Wage and Hour

February 25


March 09

TPO and Littler will guide you through an informative day,
balancing both Legal and Leadership Best Practices to prepare you for 2010!

2010 Employment Law & Leadership Conference


TPO Members attend FREE* as part of their Annual Membership!

(*Based on number of authorized representatives)
Type of Registration


Early Bird

(Must be paid by 12/15/09)


(3 or more)

Team Early Bird

(Must be paid by 12/15/09)

Non-Members $349 $299 $299 $269
TPO Member** $299 $249 n/a n/a

 **Charge for participants above the number of your authorized representatives.

Click here for early bird registration!

The economic climate has created demographics in the workplace that are different from anything that HR professionals have seen before and if you take time to “pause” you may see the silver lining there. On one hand, older workers intend to work three to five years longer than previously planned so the exodus of Baby Boomers from the workplace is unlikely to occur in the near future. Conversely, younger workers anticipating their next career moves find themselves in a holding pattern. Openings at the top, or even on the way to the top, remain filled by those who were previously headed into retirement.

From an organizational point of view, this situation actually presents a rather nice situation, albeit one counter-balanced by angst and difficult decisions. The “brain drain” of retirements is being delayed and there is more time to do succession planning, training and organizational development. The challenges presented by the older and younger workers might result in opportunities to increase both morale and output.

  • It is a good time to help younger workers develop career paths and train to them. This will be important for keeping these eager employees engaged in the company’s goals while waiting for promotional opportunities.

  • Older worker’s need goals that will keep them actively engaged and making positive contributions over the next few years, lest they turn bitter about having to work longer.

An area of convergence especially useful for young and older workers is in the benefits area where both groups will value having flexibility and work/life balance as part of the package. Building long term stability as the economy recovers is a worthwhile goal as you prepare for future expansion opportunities. An excellent book to read in this area for ideas on engaging employees of all ages is, Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay, by Berret-Koehler, 2008.

On a related topic, come to TPO's Annual Employment Law and Leadership Conference on 01/11/10 and attend the afternoon session, Generations in the Workplace: Why We Each Think The Other "Doesn't Get it!" (click here)

Article written by: Susan Kettmann, SPHR-CA

2009 was a busy year for the CA legislature; however, few noteworthy HR/Employment bills were signed into law. Business owners and managers will want to keep their eyes out next year for more bills that would impact employment.

California HR Legislation

  • Civil Air Patrol Leave (AB 485) – Signed into law in November, employers with more than 15 employees are subject to a new leave for employees who are volunteer members of the Civil Air Patrol, providing at least 10 days of leave per year when the employee is called to respond to “an emergency operational mission.”

  • Unemployment Insurance (ABX3 23 and 29) – Made changes that allowed California to take full advantage of federal stimulus funds in order to provide extended duration of UI benefits to unemployed Californians. Included improved efficiency in administration for employers, such as providing for telephonic hearings at the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.

California HR Items of Interest

  • Minimum Hourly Wage for Exempt Computer Professionals and Licensed Physicians – The minimum hourly wage for these two groups of employees who can be paid hourly and still retain the “exempt” status can change on an annual basis, however, the rates are not changing for 2010 and remain: Computer Professionals ($37.94/hour) and Licensed Physicians ($69.13/hour). Of course, the actual duties performed must also meet the exemption tests for the position to be correctly classified as exempt from overtime, breaks, meals and other wage and hour provisions.

  • Small Businesses in California – Not coming as a surprise to many TPO clients, a new report ranks California 49th among the states and Washington D.C. in policies and taxes friendly to small businesses and entrepreneurs, according to the 14th annual Small Business Survival Index.

  • Personal Liability for Managers and Officers – A 2005 California Supreme Court ruling held that under state law individual managers and corporate officers couldn't be held personally liable for unpaid wage claims. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals—which covers California—recently ruled that managers and officers don't enjoy the same protection under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Federal HR Legislation

  • Health Care Overhaul Legislation – This widely discussed topic continues to be modified and revised as it makes its way through the federal system. Currently the Senate is debating the details.

  • Unionization “Employee Free Choice Act” (S.560 and HR. 1409) – If passed, these bills would amend federal law to give workers the option of joining unions by signing cards (“card check”), rather than casting secret ballots.

    • While both bills are still in Committee, many believe it will be passed in some form. Attend the TPO-Littler Annual Employment Law and Leadership Conference on 01/11/10 to attend an afternoon breakout session on this topic and to learn how an employer may impact the legislative process. (click here for link)

  • “Emergency Influenza Containment Act” (H.R. 3991) – If passed, this bill would require employer who send their workers home with the flu to offer up to five paid sick days. The author cites Centers for Disease Control estimates that a sick worker will infect one in 10 co-workers. The emergency two-year bill would cover employers with 15 or more workers. Employers that already offer five or more days of paid sick leave are exempt. 

  • “Balancing Act” (H.R. 3047) – If passed, this bill would require employers and employees to pay into a national insurance fund to pay workers who take family leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act. This bill would also require businesses with more than 15 employees to grant workers as many as seven days a year of paid sick leave.

  • 2010 IRS Mileage Rate: The IRS has announced the new mileage rates for 2010. Starting Jan. 1, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, or truck will be 50 cents per mile for business miles driven.

Article written by: Melissa Irwin, SPHR-CA

“Working Lunches” and Non-Exempt (hourly) Employees

…do we really have to pay for the time in the lunch meeting, an extra hour of pay for a missed meal period…and their pizza?

The provisions of meal periods can be one of the more complicated areas of employment! While many employer have required occasional paid “working lunches” (for example a lunchtime office meeting) for their non-exempt hourly staff (often even providing the food), at question is whether such a requirement runs afoul of any CA wage and hour requirements.

Because employers must authorize and permit non-exempt employees to take a 30 minute meal period for shifts in excess of five hours, if the employer is requiring the employee to work through that time by attending a meeting, the employee has not received 30 minutes free from work. In this case the employer is required to provide an alternative 30 minutes free from work prior to the conclusion of the 5th hour of work. If the employer does not provide the alternate meal period within the time frame, then the employer is liable for an additional hour of pay to the employee (this hour does not count as time worked).

From a practical standpoint, if you want to schedule a “working lunch” an employer is advised to do one of the following:

  • Make the first half-hour of the lunch meeting truly voluntary and the next half-hour the working portion. This satisfies the requirement of allowing employees to choose to take the first 30 minutes in the manner they choose. You could provide the food during the first half-hour and certainly if employees choose to enjoy the meal together, it is a good teambuilding experience. Just make sure that the first half-hour is truly voluntary and no employees are penalized for eating in their car or not socializing with the group.

  • Pay for the working lunch and pay an extra hour of pay. While this may seem costly, some employers make the business decision that it is best for workflow and scheduling.

Whether you pay for the pizza or not is not relevant to the analysis, but it is certainly a kind gesture…I’ll take mine with pepperoni!

Article written by: Melissa Irwin, SPHR-CA

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We look forward to the opportunity to provide each of you with unlimited phone/email access, reduced consulting and training rates, eCompliance notices, attendance to our Annual Employment Law & Leadership Conference at no additional cost, and priority status when you require TPO support from any of our highly qualified team of HR experts! Thank you for joining!


Kirk Gaffill, Nepenthe General Manager: “The need to properly manage a company’s greatest asset, its employees, is of the utmost importance and simply cannot be overstated in a competitive and ever increasing regulatory environment. TPO provides consistent and high quality training support to our company and its management team. Further, TPO’s principals and its staff are gifted and quite effective in providing appropriate guidance and support in managing difficult or problematic employment issues.

Nepenthe has worked with TPO to develop our Employee Handbook, improve our hiring and employee management procedures, and as reliable counselors in the area of employment law and liability. TPO is a critical partner to our on-going success in managing, nurturing and improving the quality or our staff. Success in these areas directly improves our overall economic success in the short term and enhances our prospects for continued long term success.”


Nepenthe - serving visitors to the

Big Sur Coast since 1949!

Nepenthe Restaurant serves lunch every day of the year from 11:30 - 4:30. They serve dinner from 5:00 - 10:00 every day except Thanksgiving & Christmas. Based on the vision of founders Lolly and Bill Fassett, the family has maintained a commitment to exceptional caring service in a relaxed atmosphere. Lolly added the Phoenix Shop in 1964 to share the wares and treasures she loved with the world, and in 1992, the Café Kevah opened. All three businesses are still operated by their children and grandchildren. The traditions of family hospitality are a hallmark of the business.

For more information about Nepenthe: http://www.nepenthebigsur.com

As a reminder, COBRA is for employers with 20 or more employees; this article is not for employers with less than 20 employees.

I have an employee who was just terminated. Does he qualify for the COBRA subsidy program?

Whether or not the employee is eligible depends on when his health care benefits end and he becomes eligible for COBRA.

Under the current COBRA subsidy program enacted in February, a nine-month subsidy for COBRA continuation coverage is available to individuals who are involuntarily terminated from employment and lose coverage on or after September 1, 2008 through December 31, 2009. This means if the employee becomes eligible for COBRA before the end of this month, he would be eligible, but not if after.

Since most employers cover the employee through the last day of the month in which the employee is terminated, most employees will be eligible for COBRA on January 1, 2010 which would mean they would not be eligible to receive the subsidy.

There is reason to believe that Congress may pass some sort of extension of this benefit. Two bills were recently introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R. 3930 and H.R. 3966), and one bill was recently introduced in the Senate (S. 2730). While H.R. 3966 simply extends the current nine-month subsidy program for involuntary terminations and losses of coverage occurring through June 30, 2010, H.R. 3930 and S. 2730 expand on that by extending the subsidy program for six months (from nine months to fifteen months); although all subsidies under H.R. 3930 and S. 2730 would end by December 31, 2010. The Senate bill also raises the 65% premium subsidy amount to 75%.

If any of these bills pass with a retroactive extension, an employer would adjust future premiums or refund money to the former employee. If the employer charged an eligible employee whose 9 months had passed the full COBRA amount, a retroactive effective date of more months would trigger the need to make adjustments to future payments or refund in some cases.

Article written by: LaTonya Olivier, SPHR-CA

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TPO's Employment Upd@te may not be reproduced or re-transmitted without change or modification of any kind. The information provided is designed to be accurate in content. TPO provides human resource consulting and is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. Readers are advised to consult legal counsel on matters involving employment law or important personnel policies & practices before adoption or implementation.