Mileage Reimbursement Rates for 2015

IRS has pumped it up again

Abe Malmon at the pump of his gas station, St. Paul - 1940

Abe Malmon at the pump of his gas station, St. Paul – 1940

In a December 10, 2014 directive, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has increased its optional standard mileage reimbursement rate for an employee’s business use of his or her vehicle from 56 cents in 2014 to 57.5 cents in 2015.

The government calculates the mileage rate by an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile, including insurance, repairs, maintenance, gas and oil.

Under California Labor Code section 2802, employers must reimburse employees for all actual work-related expenses necessarily incurred. Many employers choose to use the IRS mileage reimbursement rate to satisfy their reimbursement obligation.

According to California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, using the IRS mileage reimbursement rate will generally satisfy an employer’s reimbursement obligation absent evidence demonstrating otherwise. For example, if the employee can show the IRS reimbursement rate does not cover all of his/her actual and necessary business-related vehicle expenses, the employer must pay the difference.

For further information and assistance, contact one of our attorneys Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

See our related blogs:

New 2010 IRS Mileage Rate
IRS Announces New Standard Mileage Rates
Mileage Reimbursements for 2013
IRS Mileage Reimbursement Rates for 2014


Employment Arbitration Agreements

In California, the Battle Continues

Flint & Zacek (fought on May 5, 1913)

Flint & Zacek (fought on May 5, 1913)

While private parties doing business are free to agree to arbitrate any dispute between them outside of the courts, an employer who presents a “take-it-or-leave-it” arbitration requirement to a job applicant as a condition of hiring presents special problems. California’s appeals courts have been particularly dedicated – or perhaps in commerce’s view obsessively picky – in refining the detail required to render an employment arbitration agreement fair, balanced and thus enforceable in this state. The decision in Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 180 California Reporter , third series (Cal. Rptr. 3d) 89 (November 17, 2014), is the latest.

One of the more hotly contested refinements on arbitration agreements is the wording necessary to disqualify an employee from bringing a “class action” or “representative claim” into his or her arbitration on his individual claims. As we outlined in “Contractor Misclassification . . . Class Action?”, an employee’s class action allegations seek to include a large number of his or her co-workers claims in the lawsuit. A “representative” claim or action similarly seeks to include co-workers, but under special, streamlined criteria and procedures.

In Garden Fresh, the Court of Appeal decided that when the employment arbitration agreement does not specify whether the employee can include class action or representative claims in arbitration, it is up to a judge, not an arbitrator, to decide.

The trial judge in Garden Fresh originally declined to make the ruling on an employee’s ability to include a representative claim in her arbitration, instead referring the question for the arbitrator to decide. This was bad news to the employer Garden Fresh Restaurants since, in theory anyway, an arbitrator might well be more inclined to include class or representative actions in the arbitration out of the prospect of a more complicated and thus more profitable proceeding for that arbitrator. Handing the question to the arbitrator also raised the stakes because arbitration decisions and awards are commonly not reviewable by a court. Thus, an employer would almost certainly be stuck with an arbitrator’s ruling to allow a class or representative action, a development that could jack up considerably the leverage against the employer to settle.

However, Garden Fresh, and with it other California employers, fared better with the appellate court. Just as trial judges are required to examine agreements for their fairness on matters such as an employee’s decreased scope of claims or increased cost in arbitration, the Court of Appeal saw this as a “gateway” issue requiring judicial determination.

The irony of course is that arbitration agreements are dictated by employers. Here, Garden Fresh faced the prospect of incurring a severe blow to its operations and financial stability by virtue of incomplete contract terms on which it had required the employee to agree.

The wisdom of whether an arbitration agreement could or should actually seek to limit an individual’s ability to bring class or representative actions in his/her required arbitration is a separate question. However, if the Garden Fresh agreement had included direction on that point – or directed that the trial judge should decide it – it would have saved the fees and other resources necessary to hash out the ambiguity at two levels of the California courts. The simple “math” of an ounce of prevention equaling several thousand pounds (or dollars) of cure comes to mind.

If you need further information, please contact any of our attorneys – Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth, and Helena Kobrin.

California’s Paid Sick Leave Notice and Poster Must Be Implemented January 1, 2015

Wage Theft Notice and Poster Template Now Available

Fra Har Dyrene Sjæl, 1893

Fra Har Dyrene Sjæl, 1893

As reported in “Mandatory Paid Sick Leave for California Employees” California’s Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act (Assembly Bill [AB] 1522) requires nearly all California employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees. While affected employers do not need to provide paid sick leave until July 1, 2015, such employers must comply with AB 1522 notification requirements at the start of the year by prominently displaying a new template sick pay poster and by distributing individual notices to new hires.

Posting Requirements: The California Labor Commissioner has issued a template poster for employer compliance, to be displayed by January 1, 2015 where employees can easily read it. The poster describes which employees are entitled to AB 1522 paid sick leave and how and when they may use their available benefits. The poster reiterates that retaliation or discrimination against an employee who requests or uses paid sick time is prohibited.

Notice Distribution Requirements: As reported in “California Wage Theft Protection Act,” California employers must provide written notice to newly hired non-exempt hourly workers concerning rates of pay, payday, employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier, and related information. Beginning January 1, 2015, employers must use an expanded version of that notice specified by the California Labor Commissioner’s office (“Notice to Employee – Labor Code section 2810.5”).

The revised notice’s new subsection on paid sick leave advises that an employee: may accrue and use sick leave; has a right to request and use accrued paid sick leave; may not be terminated or retaliated against for using or requesting the use of accrued paid sick leave; and has the right to file a complaint against an employer who retaliates.

An affected employer should closely review and understand the revised notice before January 1 as one of four alternative ways of providing sick pay benefits must be selected and checked off on the form prior to its distribution to new hires.

For further information and assistance, contact one of our attorneys Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.


Human Rights Day Forum: Religious Freedom in an Extremist World

Interfaith Roles and Responsibilities

human rights day flyer - dec 14

Employment Law Seminar with Tim Bowles

Employment Basics, New California Workplace Laws for 2015

Employment_Law_Seminar2015 will bring significant changes in California workplace regulation, among some 930 bills that Governor Brown has signed into law in recent months.

Over an intensive day-long session, labor and employment law specialist Tim Bowles will present his annual review of the workplace legal basics, with emphasis on the effect of these new laws. Notable changes include mandatory paid sick leave for employees, expanded workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation protections (including extended rights for unpaid interns and volunteers and for non-citizen immigrant workers), and more comprehensive harassment prevention training for supervisors.

Our updated model employee handbook policy and forms will be available by January. Tim will also focus on these revisions in the seminar.

From experience reflected in his Martindale-Hubbell “AV” (highest possible) rating, Mr. Bowles’s presentation also includes important refreshers and insights on the legal basics of personnel management.

The seminar is a must for all business owners, executives and personnel management staff, setting the foundation for confident hiring and stable business expansion in this new year.

These sessions are always well-attended, informative and, dare we say it, entertaining:

“This was a very eye opening, informative seminar…learned a lot about CA labor law and how to act and handle (an) employee in the correct manner. Tim is an exceptional person and professional that I respect a lot.”

“Really enjoyed it. Well presented by someone who knows this area.”

“I’ve learned something of immense value from every seminar by Mr. Bowles. If I was to compare his seminar to something I’d say it’s like getting a casual walk through the ins and outs of how to handle personnel in your company. It’s just that simple and easy and useful. I love how everyone learns and expands on their skill and how visible this is during the day.”

The available seminars are being held at an easy-to-get-to Pasadena location on:

Friday, January 16, 2015
Friday, February 27, 2015
9:30am – 4:30pm

For pricing info and to reserve your spot, please contact Ray Loomis or Diane Temps at (626) 583-6600. Seating is limited.