Van Vleck Turner & Zaller Relocates Offices

In the category of VTZ news, we have just finished relocating our offices from downtown LA to the Carthay Circle area of West LA.  Our new contact information is:

Van Vleck Turner & Zaller, LLP
6310 San Vicente Blvd., Suite 430
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 592-3505 (Tel.)
(323) 592-3506 (Fax)

 

List of Top 100 Employment Law Blogs Names California Workforce Resource Blog as #24

The fine folks at at The Delaware Employment Law Blog have released their annual list of The Top 100 Employment Law Blogs in the country for 2010.  And I am proud to report that our humble exercise made the list at #24.  The recognition is especially satisfying as we are in the company of some really great blogs. 

 

Now On Twitter

I've been on Twitter for awhile, but only recently became more active with the site.  Click here to follow me through twitter.  I am going to try to post any updates on California employment law in twitter, as well as this blog. 

I highly recommend using Tweetdeck to make twitter more useful.  This software makes Twitter 100 times more user friendly.  Just within the last couple of months, the discussions on twitter have multiplied.  If you deal with California HR issues, Twitter can be a useful resource. 

Still trying to figure out Twitter (like the rest of us) - click here for a good video describing Twitter

Speaking at Research Security Administrators' Fall Seminar

I will be speaking at the Fall seminar sponsored by Research Security Administrators on October 7, 2008 in Fountain Valley California.  For those not familiar with RSA, it was founded in 1956, as a nonprofit regional security organization "concerned with all defense, technical, scientific, and social matters which have an impact on the security of the United States."

The Fall seminar is titled "Analyzing, Mitigating, Responding, and Managing Threats and Emergencies."   Below is the topic of my presentation, entitled “Legal Considerations: Privacy & Security in the 21st Century”:

The technologies available for combating security threats have increased dramatically. Electronic databases, monitoring of e-mail, surveillance, lie detection, and other tools are potent weapons. But they implicate serious legal restrictions that can compromise security efforts and result in lawsuits or even criminal prosecution. This presentation will explore how best to navigate the legal challenges inherent in security operations in the 21st Century, with a special emphasis on technology and privacy rights.

Blogging - As American As Apple Pie?

I read this post by Kevin O'keefe recently that challenges lawyers to blog.  Normally, I would have simply agreed and moved on with the next item on my list to do.  However, my brother was in China recently, and we spoke over the phone at one point and  I told him that he should check out a personal blog post I wrote about a trip my son and I took to see the Red Bull Air Race in San Diego.  My brother told me that he would have to wait until he made it back to the U.S. to read it - the Chinese government won't allow its citizens to read blogs.

This really took me back.  To me, this was an indicator of how much people are relying upon blogs for news and information - and of course the Chinese government wants to control this information in order to control its people.  Then, reading Kevin's post that blogging lawyers are educating and opening the legal system up to citizens -  it hit me - blogging lawyers are giving Internet readers a lot of power.

Blogs allow clients looking for a lawyer to actually read the analysis and thoughts of the lawyer they are considering to hire.  Also, through blogs, the entire legal process is now becoming truly open to the public - citizens can obtain details about how cases proceed through the legal system, learn about the particular judge their case has been assigned to, read differing views of new court decisions, and, fundamentally, come to a more fuller understanding of their legal rights.  All of this without leaving their home - and this is why the Chinese government does not allow blogs.

"Retooling" Of The Blog

As some of our readers may have already noticed, we are changing a few elements of our blog.  With summer upon us, we thought it would be a good opportunity to retool.  We are changing the blog to better suit our readers as we learn the new technologies available to us.  Our goal is to make our blog more of a resource center for our readers.  If any readers have any suggestions, please email them to me

One element that we already added to the blog, is the "Top Posts" list on the left hand side.  This list is of the most popular posts that visitors view - kind of a "best of" list. 

We are also looking forward to publishing more podcasts, and placing a few more of our presentations on-line as resource to California employers.  We also have a few other beta ideas we cannot yet disclose, but should be of interest to our current readers in the next few months.  The ever changing and great new advances that the Internet is continually offering makes us think we are more like computer programmers than lawyers (I don't remember any of my law school classes covering html, blogs, or RSS feeds.)

Hope our readers continue to find our blog educational, and thanks for reading. 

Today's BLR Teleconference On Hidden Risks In Using Social Networking Internet Sites To Conduct Background Checks

I would like to thank everyone on today's BLR teleconference on the pitfalls on using social networking sites to conduct background checks on employees.  I hope everyone enjoyed the seminar.

As I promised, here are the five general caveats employers should follow when using social networking sites to conduct background checks on employees:
1. The employer and/or its agents conduct the background check themselves;
2. The site is readily accessible to the public;
3. The employer does not need to create a false alias to access the site;
4. The employer does not have to provide any false information to gain access to the site; and
5. The employer does not use the information learned from the site in a discriminatory manner or otherwise prohibited by law.
If any of the listeners to today's teleconference have any follow-up questions or comments, please feel free to email me

Speaking Next Week On Pitfalls When Using The Internet To Conduct Background Searches For Applicants

Posted by Anthony Zaller

I will be speaking again next week on the pitfalls employers encounter when using the Internet, MySpace.com, Facebook.com, and similar social networking sites to check out the backgrounds of job applicants and employees.  If you are interested, more information about the seminar can be found here.

While I thought this topic was interesting, I had no idea that so many people would also find it interesting.  I was recently quoted in Financial Week and have had many other inquires about the topic.

Someone Must Be Reading This

To end the week, we wanted to give ourselves a pat-on-the-back due to our blog's first place ranking in popularity among employment law blogs (and ranked 32nd of out of all legal blogs) this week on Justia.com

If you have not already checked it out, Justia.com is a more technological version of Findlaw, and has some great resources.

Not Posting Much Lately

I have not been posting as much as I would like recently, work has been very busy and I have been asked to speak in front of a few different employer groups recently.

Tomorrow, I will be conducting a telephonic presentation for new managers on practical tips on how to comply with California labor and employment law. The presentation is through Employer Resource Institute and is entitled “Suddenly a Supervisor: 11 Practical Training and Development Tips for Brand-New Front-Line Managers in California.” Click here for more information if you are interested in registering to listen in.

Also, due to the huge interest in my presentation about the legal risks associated with using Facebook.com, MySpace.com and other internet sites to conduct background checks on job applicants, I will be presenting this talk on a nationwide basis again, as well as providing the same seminar focusing on issues particular to California. These will likely be scheduled in April. Please e-mail me if you would like to receive notification about these presentations once I set the details.

Teleconference On Using Facebook, MySpace, and Other Websites to Scope Out New Hires

I would like to thank everyone who participated in the BLR teleconference this morning.  It was a pleasure speaking to everyone. 

Due to the great interest in this topic, we will be conducting the seminar again on at least one one occasion, maybe two.  We will also provide a seminar specifically addressing liability under California state law when using social networking sites and the Internet in conducting background checks.  Please check back within the next week or two for the dates on these teleconferences, or send me an email and I can notify you when we finalize the dates.

To download today's PowerPoint slides, click here

Also, I've had a lot of requests to repeat the five general guidelines employers should keep in mind to avoid liability when conducting background checks on applicants on the Internet.  Under Federal law, employers may utilize social networking sites to conduct background checks on employees if:
  1. The employer and/or its agents conduct the background check themselves (i.e., does not use a third party to conduct the search);
  2. The site is readily accessible to the public;
  3. The employer does not need to create a false alias to access the site;
  4. The employer does not have to provide any false information to gain access to the site; and
  5. The employer does not use the information learned from the site in a discriminatory manner or as otherwise prohibited by law.

Why Every Client Should Want A Lawyer Who Blogs

Teri Rasmussen posted an article recently on her blog that has received a lot of attention on the Internet recently. She explains why a client should want their lawyer to blog. In summary, her reasons are:
1.Knowledge Entrepreneur.
The blogging/blawgging attorney is just going to know MORE about more issues because they have a concrete personal stake and commitment beyond the needs of any particular client to find stuff out. And if I already know something, you the client won’t have to pay me to go find out.

2.Communication 101.
If you are able to “connect” with what I write in my blog/blawg, then at least you know you’ll get something of value when I communicate with you in writing, and hopefully face to face as well.

3.Authenticity and “Real Voice”.
So, when you read my blog/blawg, you as client get at bit of a “sneak preview” of what I’m really like. And if, as is likely, you’re going to be spending some time with me once you ask me to represent you, that’s got to be useful info.

4.Quality and Competence.
Those of us who blog/blawg are “out there”. You can take what we’ve written and ask your favorite friend attorney (who you don’t want to hire because you don’t want to mix personal and business or for some other reason), CPA, financial advisor, etc., what they think – or even research us on the web by seeing what other folks have to say about the same topic, or even about we’ve said about particular subjects.

5.Commitment to “the Law” Made Practical.
Blogging/blawging is fundamentally more practical and pragmatic than traditional legal scholarship in the form of footnoted articles in law reviews and journals.
Blogs definitely should be a tool used by clients looking for a lawyer. Just a few years ago, to find a lawyer, clients relied on their network, the yellow pages, or a lawyer rating company (which was paid by the lawyers it rated).  I strongly believe that one’s network is still the best source for a lawyer referral, and this will probably never be replaced (there is no better review than from someone that has recently work with the lawyer).  Today, however, every client should be able to do some background research on the lawyer they are considering to hire. And this research should include more than where the lawyer went to school and if he or she was on law review. The client should be able to read the lawyer’s opinion about the recent case law in the particular legal area, and also get a sense for the lawyer’s judgment (that is after all what the client will be paying for).

Hidden Risks of Using Facebook, MySpace, and Other Websites to Scope Out New and Prospective Hires

On February 26, 2008, I will be presenting a nation-wide teleconference entitled “Hidden Risks of Using Facebook, MySpace, and Other Websites to Scope Out New and Prospective Hires" through BLR. More information can be found at BLR’s website here.

During this 90-minute audio conference, I will cover the legal pros and cons of relying on online data when you screen potential and current employees – with a special emphasis on information found via Google, Facebook, MySpace, and other social networking sites. I will also cover the following topics:
  • The most common mistakes employers make when they check applicants and current employees on the Web
  • Which online sites pose the greatest legal threats for employers when used for HR purposes
  • When it’s legal to use information found online to evaluate applicants and workers – and what types of online details you must never use or keep (no matter how damaging or relevant it may seem)
  • How you can decide whether the information you’ve found online is accurate
  • The steps you should take if an applicant or employee claims that your online searches constitute an illegal invasion of privacy
  • When your Facebook, MySpace, or Google searches may cross the line into discrimination
  • The red flags that you may have violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act when surfing the Web to learn more about applicants or employees – and how to protect yourself
In preparing for the conference, I am interested in specific questions anyone would like addressed, problems companies have encountered in this area, or any other comments you have about this topic. Please email me at azaller[at]vtzlaw.com.

A bit off topic, but related to social networking sites, please feel free to connect with me or view my profile on Linkedin. Click here for my Linkedin profile

Much To Be Thankful For

For it is true that everywhere men turn their eyes today much of the world has a truly wild and savage hue. No man, if he be truthful, can say that the specter of war is banished. Nor can he say that when men or communities are put upon their own resources they are sure of solace; nor be sure that men of diverse kinds and diverse views can live peaceably together in a time of troubles.

But we can all remind ourselves that the richness of this country was not born in the resources of the earth, though they be plentiful, but in the men that took its measure. For that reminder is everywhere -- in the cities, towns, farms, roads, factories, homes, hospitals, schools that spread everywhere over that wilderness.

We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.
The article that this passage was taken from has appeared the day before Thanksgiving every year since 1961 in the Wall Street Journal.  It is a great reminder that despite our day-to-day frustrations and disagreements, our country is great, and we have much to be thankful for.

California Labor & Employment Law Podcast Is Available Through iTunes

Update: The California Labor & Employment Law Podcast is now available through iTunes.  Click the icon to the left or here to subscribe via iTunes.  We are just starting to experiment with the podcast and are considering future topics.  If you have any suggestions for future episodes, please contact us

Slate Profiles Big Law Firm's "Chow for Charity" Program

The extravagance of Big Firm summer associate programs is old news. But an article in Slate recently offered an interest critique of an increasingly popular twist to these programs. See Fifteen Dollars Worth of Smug.  According to Slate these Big Firms are allowing their summer associates to agree to be wined and dined at less expensive establishments. In return, the Firm will donate the difference to charity. Is this a common sense way to give some money to a worthy cause? Or, as Daniel Gross opines is it a cynical example of a corporate tendency to “undertake publicity-generating good works that don't require them to spend extra money or change the way they do business.” Either way, it’s a thought provoking article and an interesting glimpse into the way Big Law Firms operate.

Human Resources Seminar: Employee Handbooks & Policies

As another reminder, Van Vleck Turner & Zaller LLP will be conducting a free seminar for employers and human resource professionals regarding employee handbooks and employment policies. 

The seminar will take place on July 10, 2007 at 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Tony P's Dockside Grill in Marina del Rey.  After the seminar, please join us for networking and cocktails overlooking Marnia del Rey. 

Attorneys from our firm will lead a discussion on employee handbooks and policies including:
  • Policies every California employer must have
  • Policies every California employer should have
  • What not to include in an employee handbook or policies distributed to employees
  • Other issues related to handbooks and policies
At the end of the presentation, we will also have a question and answer period for the attendees to ask any general employment related questions.  Download a flier with more information here.

To register, please email us or call us at (213) 996-8445 and ask for Vanessa to register. 

Anthony J. Zaller

Professional:

Anthony is a founding partner of Van Vleck Turner & Zaller LLP. He is a litigation attorney who focuses on California labor and employment law matters.  Anthony attended law school at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, and received a joint J.D./M.B.A degree. 

Anthony has extensive experience in litigating class action and single plaintiff lawsuits. He has successfully defended California employers in class action lawsuits alleging wage and hour violations, such as unpaid wages, missed meal and rest breaks, exemption status, and mileage reimbursement claims among other issues. He has also successfully litigated many single plaintiff employment cases

including claims of wage and hour violations, wrongful discharge, sexual and racial harassment, discrimination, unfair competition, and

misappropriation of trade secrets and embezzlement.  Anthony has recently obtained complete summary judgment for a fortune 100 company in a lawsuit for disability discrimination, failure to promote, retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Anthony also provides sexual harassment training that complies with California’s AB 1825.

Groups:

Anthony is involved in many trade associations and often speaks to trade groups about California employment law issues.  Anthony has developed a niche in educating restaurateurs about industry specific areas of California labor and employment litigation.  

Anthony serves on the Loyola Marymount University MBA Alumni Board of Directors, and is a member of the LAX/Marina Del Rey Chamber of Commerce. 

Publications:

Anthony devotes most of his time writing for and maintaining the California Labor & Employment Defense Blog, along with his two partners.

He has been quoted in publications regarding California employment law, including Nation's Restaurant News regarding the impact California Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Murphy v. Kenneth Cole. The case determined the applicable statute of limitations for meal and rest break claims.

Personal:

Anthony spends his free time with his wife and two children. If/when he finds even more free time, he is becoming a regular competitor in triathlons, 10k races and enjoys hiking. In May of 2007, he hiked the Grand Canyon for the first time with this brother and his sister-in-law, Ric and Nancy.

View Anthony Zaller's profile on LinkedIn

California Employment Law Seminar: Employment Handbooks and Policies

Van Vleck Turner & Zaller LLP will be conducting a free seminar for employers and human resource professionals regarding employee handbooks and employment policies.  We will lead a discussion on the following topics:
  • Policies every employer is required to implement
  • Policies every employer should implement
  • What not to include in an employee handbook or policies distributed to employees
  • Possible alternatives to employee handbooks
At the end of the presentation, we will also have a question and answer period for the attendees to ask any general employment related questions. 

The seminar will be on July 10, 2007 at 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Tony P's Dockside Grill in Marina del Rey.  After the seminar, please join us for networking and cocktails overlooking Marnia del Rey.  Download a flier with more information here.

To register, please email us or call us at (213) 996-8445. 

Enterprise Zone Seminar for Pasadena Business Owners

KBKG, Inc. is sponsoring a Enterprise Zone seminar for Pasadena business owners on May 31, 2007 from 9:00 am - 11:00 am.  It will take place at Barn Burner Barbecue, 1000 South Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena.

Here is some information about the seminar:

Established by the California Trade & Commerce Agency, Enterprise Zone credits are tax incentives designed to stimulate growth and development in selected areas within California. Recent changes in the Pasadena Enterprise Zone program now allow more businesses to take advantage of these lucrative tax savings. This seminar is focused on providing you with the most recent updates and pertinent information that every Pasadena business owner needs to know.

What you will learn:

  • How your business can benefit from the Enterprise Zone program
  • How recent changes have enabled more businesses to qualify
  • How the Hiring Credit can generate up to $36,660 per employee in tax credits
  • How to make your machinery and technology purchases tax-free

For additional information, download the seminar registration here.

Big Firms Raise Lawyer Salaries Again

Last week, it was reported that big law firms are once again raising salaries up to $160,000 for first year lawyers and $280,000 for eighth year lawyers. Understandably, this made many in-house counsel and clients that utilize these firms a bit nervous. As one of the quotes in the articles states, the attorneys who received the $10,000 raises did not become any more talented as a lawyer the day after they received the raises.

This is good news for firms like ours. Clients eventually realize that they are not receiving any better service at the big firms than they receive from boutique firms like ours – but the only constant they do receive is a large bill. Plus, our clients always have a direct line to speak with the actual attorney completing work on their case.

It is also interesting to note that the big firms cite attracting the best talent for the increase in wages. While this may be true for attracting lawyers fresh out of law school, but it only takes one or two years of billing 2,200 + hours per year to realize that there are better alternatives. Many lawyers at the big firm are also realizing that they can and usually do receive better work assignments and develop more quickly as lawyers at smaller firms – which will pay off in the long run.

DOL On-Line Self Assessment For Restaurateurs Employing Minors

The U. S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division website provides a self assessment tool for restaurants that employ minors. The assessment covers common violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA ). Restaurant owners should note that this assessment does not cover California state law items. The assessment covers items that the DOL found in the past to be some of the most common problems encountered in restaurants, and therefore, are likely issues a DOL investigator will look for in a restaurant.

Here is a list of a few of the items covered in the assessment:

Do any workers under 18 years of age do the following:
1. Operate or clean power-driven meat slicers or other meat processing machines?

2. Operate or clean any power-driven dough mixer or other bakery machines?

3. Operate, load, or unload scrap papers baler or paper box compactors?

4. Drive a motor-vehicle on the job?


Do any workers under 16 years of age do the following:
5. Cook?

6. Bake?

7. Clean cooking equipment or handle hot oil or grease?

8. Load or unload goods from a truck or conveyor?

9. Work inside a freezer or meat cooler?

10. Operate power-driven bread slicers or bagel slicers?

11. Operate any power-driven equipment?

12. Work from ladders?

13. Work during school hours?

14. Work before 7:00 a.m. on any day?

15. Work past 7:00 p.m. between Labor Day and June 1?

16. Work past 9:00 p.m. between June 1 and Labor Day?

17. Work more than 3 hours on a school day, including Fridays?

18. Work more than 8 hours on any day?

19. Work more than 18 hours in any week when school was in session?

20. Work more than 40 hours in any week when school was not in session?

21. Do you employ any workers who are less than 14 years of age?

22. Do you fail to maintain in your records a date of birth for every employee under 19 years of age?

Click here to take the entire assessment. At the end of the assessment, there is a rules summary that explains an employer’s responsibility under the FLSA for the issues on the assessment.