Permissible Deductions from California Paychecks

Most everyone knows that there is a difference between a gross paycheck and a net paycheck. If you’re not, a gross paycheck is the product of the number of hours you work and your gross pay (e.g. $25/hour, etc). From your gross paycheck, things like federal taxes, state taxes, retirement plan contributions, and other deductions are taken out to give you the net paycheck you actually take home to spend, er, I mean, save prudently. However, are all kinds of deductions allowed from a California employee’s paycheck? That’s the topic of this post. In California, the applicable law for deductions from an employee’s paycheck is California Labor Code section 224, which authorizes four broad categories of permissible deductions: Deductions authorized by state or federal law. Child and spousal support would be in this category; Deductions expressly authorized by the employee in writing for insurance, health or medical dues; Deductions to cover health and welfare or pension plan contributions expressly authorized by a collective bargaining or wage agreement; Deductions not amounting to a rebate or reduction from the standard wage arrived at by collective bargaining, agreement, or statute. As with everything in the law, however, exceptions exist. One exception is that an employer is allowed to deduct from an employee’s paycheck for the reasonable cost of board, lodging, or other facilities furnished to the employee in addition to their wages. 29 Code of Federal Regulations 516.27. What is more common in my experience — which is, again, by no means exhaustive — is for an employer to try and deduct for things that don’t qualify under any of the four...

Civil Battery in California Torts

A “tort” is, generally speaking, something that would allow a victim to sue the offender for money. This is different, obviously, from a “crime” in which the relief sought is not money, but rather incarceration. Incarceration can refer to many different things — community service, probation, etc — and not just time served in jail or prison. One of the first torts I learned about in law school was battery followed very quickly by assault. If your law school experience was like mine, then you learned that a civil battery is a “harmful or offensive touching”. A touching could, in theory, be any sort of contact the defendant makes with the plaintiff’s person or something connected to the plaintiff (e.g. something the plaintiff is holding in his hand). A typical defense to a battery cause of action might be the Crowded World Doctrine, for example. The Crowded World Doctrine basically says that the world is full of people so some amount of physical contact — imagine riding a crowded subway train — with other people is an inevitable part of daily life. This definition, however, is theoretical and terribly useful in the real world if you have actually been involved in a civil battery. A more useful definition would be one that, for instance, lists out the various criteria for civil battery. If you fulfill the listed criteria, then you as a plaintiff have made a case for civil battery. Whether you prevail, of course, depends on what defenses the defendant can raise and prove. In California, the elements of a cause of action for civil battery are as...

Statutes of Limitation – Breach of Contract

In a prior blog post, I went over statutes of limitation and specifically discussed the New York and California statutes of limitation for defamation. To continue with that idea — and totally not because I have run out of ideas to blog about — I’m going to go over the statute of limitations for breach of contract. In my experience — which is by no means exhaustive — breaches of contract are very common. Many people have an intuitive sense of when a contract is broken (i.e. someone is supposed to do something and they aren’t) so it is logical to wonder what statute of limitations applies. Knowing what statute of limitation applies is only a small part, though. Actually proving the existence of a clear and enforceable contract can be quite involved. Always consult an attorney regarding your personal and — most likely — unique situation. All of that said, let me talk about California first. California applies different statutes of limitation on contract breaches depending on whether the contract in question is oral or written. For an oral contract, the applicable period is 2 years under California Code of Civil Procedure section 339. For a written contract, the applicable period is 4 years under California Code of Civil Procedure section 337. New York does not distinguish between breaches of oral and written contracts like California does. In New York, contract breaches are subject to a 6 year statute of limitations under New York Civil Practice Law and Rules (NY CPLR) section 213(2), but exceptions do exist. Some situations (see NY CPLR section 213(a)) have a 4 year...

California Community Property and Keeping Title in Your Own Name

California is a community property state when it comes to divorces. Community property is a complicated subject, but many people summarize it as the rule that says “during a divorce, each spouse gets half of the stuff.” Given this 50/50 division, a common situation in California divorces is that one spouse (say, Spouse A) feels that he or she isĀ entitled to more than just half of the marital property, sometimes a great deal more than the half that community property dictates. One way in which Spouse A might try to get what he or she feels to be their rightful share is to put the marital property under Spouse A’s name alone. This might be an account (e.g. bank account) that is only in Spouse A’s name or it might be putting just Spouse A’s name on the title to the car or the house. The logical question to wonder then is: Can Spouse A get around community property law by simply putting property under their name alone? The short answer is no. There are many Spouse As that try this tactic and it never works. The longer answer is that this question presents two competing interests. On the one hand is community property which, as I indicated earlier, basically says that all the property acquired during the marriage is split equally upon divorce. See California Family Code section 760. On the other hand is California Evidence Code section 662, which states that the “owner of the legal title to property is presumed to be the other of the full beneficial title.” In other words, whoever is listed as...

Statutes of Limitation – Civil Defamation

Many people are familiar with the term “Statute of Limitations” from having seen someone mention it on television or in a movie. However, seeing it on television or in the movies usually just tells the viewer that Statutes of Limitation exist, but not how to actually use it in a particular situation. The short answer is that a Statute of Limitation is the time period within which a case — civil or criminal — has to be brought against a defendant. If the Statute of Limitations passes without the case(s) being brought, the defendant can claim the lapsed Statute of Limitations as an affirmative defense. In other words, the defendant can say that even if everything alleged in the case is true, there’s no way for the plaintiff or prosecution to win. The longer answer is that in order to use the concept of Statute of Limitations in the real world, you have to know the answer to three questions: what is the statute of limitations that applies to a given situation? when does the statute of limitations — whatever it happens to be — actually start? under what situations — if any — can the statute of limitations be paused so that the plaintiff or prosecution has more time? Shockingly, TV shows and movies don’t answer these questions. Questions 1 and 2 are fairly straightforward to address. Question 3 is more complicated and requires discussing something called Tolling and what needs to happen before Tolling can be done. In this first post on Statutes of Limitation, I’m going to talk aboutĀ the answers to Question 1 and 2 above...

Annulments under California Family Law

Someone who is going through a divorce in California might sometimes wonder whether an annulment is a viable option instead. This blog post goes over the two types of annulment available under California law. I’m going to cite to sections of the California Family Code wherever I can so you can go look up the statute sections yourself, if you’re so inclined. The first type of annulment in California is for a void marriage. This is when the marriage is void or illegal from its inception. In other words, the marriage in question never existed because it was illegal from the start. Two common reasons for a void marriage are (1) incest under California Family Code section 2200 , and (2) certain kinds of bigamy under California Family Code section 2201. There are other reasons why a marriage might be void. If you have doubts as to whether your marriage might be void, please contact an attorney. Only certain types of bigamy will make a marriage void. Under California Family Code section 2201(a)(2), a bigamous marriage is not void, but only voidable (see next paragraph) if the former spouse of one of the parties is (a) generally believed to be deceased, or (b) not known to be alive for the immediately preceding five years. As an example, suppose A and B get married, but split up after a few years. A and B live apart, but neither actually goes through the process to get divorced. A then moves in with C and they want to get married. If B is known to be alive, then the A-C marriage would...

Donald Trump, Sanctuary Cities, and Federal Funds

Sanctuary cities have been in the news a great deal ever since Donald Trump became President of the United States. One of Trump’s positions is that cities should not give sanctuary to those in the United States illegally (i.e. sanctuary cities). Those cities who insist on doing so, according to Trump, will no longer receive money from the federal government. In some situations, the federal government provides such huge amounts of money to local governments that cities can’t help but pay attention to Trump’s threat. Regardless of how you feel about politics, this brings up the legal question of whether such a threat actually has any teeth. In other words, could Trump withhold possibly substantial amounts of federal money as a way of forcing cities to no longer be sanctuaries? Assuming Trump does try to follow through with his threat, a lot will depend on the way in which funds are withheld. This is not specific or unique to Trump or to sanctuary cities. When it comes to the law, the “how” is always going to be very important. If we look past the “how”, however, one obstacle that Trump may run in to in withholding federal funds from sanctuary cities is a concept in Constitutional Law called the Anti-Commandeering Doctrine. In a nutshell, the Anti-Commandeering Doctrine places limits on the degree to which the federal government can force the states to undertake a particular course of action. This blog post is not meant to be a full and complete discussing on the Anti-Commandeering Doctrine. I only mean to bring up the term so that, if you’re interested, you...

Alcohol at Automated Checkout

If you’re like me, you love using the automated check out machine when making purchases at a store. You’re probably not like me in that you don’t notice signs and other postings related to the law, like this one that I saw the other day while shopping at Walmart. I can’t say that I’ve ever bought alcohol at an automated check out machine before, but I apparently couldn’t, even if I wanted to. The law in question here is California Business and Professions Code section 23394.7, which states: “No privileges under an off-sale license shall be exercised by the licensee at any customer-operated checkout stand located on the licensee’s physical premises.” Section 23394.7 originally went in to effect on January 1, 2012, but was challenged in a lawsuit so implementation was delayed until October 18, 2013. For the lawyers in the audience, the case in question is California Grocers Association v. Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (2013) 219 Cal. App. 4th 1065. I merely present this as an example of law in everyday life. A while ago, I did a similar post involving sales tax on cold versus hot Subway sandwiches in California. I don’t specialize or focus on alcohol-related law (or sandwich law… although that sounds awesome). From what I have read from others, Business and Professions Code section 23394.7 was opposed from the outset by grocery stores with automated check out machines — in the form of the California Grocer’s Association (CGA)– who wanted those machines used to the fullest. Simultaneously, the law was supported from the outset by, among others, unions representing retail clerks who would...

Lawyers Returning Client Files – California Rules of Professional Conduct

One of the common questions I see posted on law question and answer forums for California is some variant of ‘I’ve fired my lawyer and he won’t return my files so that I can go find another lawyer. What can I do?’ I’m surprised by this for two reasons. The first is morals and integrity, namely if a client fired me, I would not withhold their files. Every lawyer — me included — has had a client fire them before. It comes with the territory of being in the profession. Because there is an inevitability to being fired, I don’t see the point of refusing to return the client’s files. It doesn’t solve anything. The second reason I’m surprised, however, is probably more of interest to you if you’re reading this blog post of mine — it violates the rules California has for its lawyers. The rules I’m talking about are the California Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) and are put out by the State Bar of California. Failure to abide by the RPC subjects a lawyer to discipline by the State Bar. As you can probably gather, being disciplined by the licensing body for your profession is not a good thing. The RPC are fairly short so reading them is not difficult. If you do read them, you’ll find that they cover all types of conduct — from advertising to trust accounts to sexual relations — that lawyers can and can’t engage in. The particular RPC that governs what lawyers have to do if they have been fired by a client is RPC 3-700, Termination of Employment. The...

Law School Help: What is Consideration?

Lawyers often toss around the term “consideration” when discussing the existence or lack of a contract. Consideration is one of the criteria that has to be proven in order to show that a contract exists. In California, consideration is defined in Civil Code section 1605 which states: “Any benefit conferred, or agreed to be conferred, upon the promisor, by any other person, to which the promisor is not lawfully entitled, or any prejudice suffered, or agreed to be suffered, by such person, other than such as he is at the time of consent lawfully bound to suffer, as an inducement to the promisor, is a good consideration for a promise.” As you can perhaps tell, consideration is not something that lends itself to a neat or simple definition. Consideration can take many forms. The common idea behind all of these forms, however, is that the purpose of consideration is to show that a party to a contract has voluntarily assumed the obligation imposed on them by the contract. Thought of another way, consideration prevents a person from accidentally falling in to a contract and being obligated to do something they didn’t intend. Numerous other requirements for consideration are imposed by sections 1606 to 1615 (or so) of the California Civil Code as well. In case you’re wondering, the other required elements of a contract are: (1) parties capable of entering in to a contract, (2) the consent of said parties to enter in to the contract, and (3) a lawful goal or purpose to the contract. See California Civil Code section 1550. Depending on the facts of the particular...