Employers in California should be mindful that while California is an at-will state, meaning employees can be fired for any reason, that doesn’t always mean any reason. For example, it is against the law firm California employers to fire for discriminatory reasons, in retaliation for an employee exercising his or her rights, in violation of a contract with an employee, or for a reason that is contrary to public policy (for example, refusing to do something illegal). Employers must also not fire an employee who files a complaint with the government concerning an employer’s illegal activities. Similarly, employers must not fire an employee who refuses to perform tasks that would violate state safety standards. Choosing to terminate an employee under any of the above conditions could result in a wrongful termination lawsuit.
In real estate transactions, parties often create “easements,” or restricted rights to use someone else’s property. An easement just means that one property owner grants someone else a right to a definable use or activity on the property owner’s land, and the right is less than “full ownership.” If you are granting or seeking an easement, consult with an attorney to make sure the language of the grant of easement reflects the parties’ intentions. Most easement disputes end up in litigation.
Easements are often needed where one property owner buys a parcel with no road into or out of the property (this happens more often than one would think). In one recent case in California, a court found that an easement to go into and out of a piece of land was narrowly restricted; that is, the developer should not have built features such as sewer pipes and storm drains on and under the easement. Those features belonged to the property owner, who sued for trespass and nuisance and won.
Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the broad scope of the Federal Arbitration Act, holding that when a contract includes a valid arbitration provision, an arbitrator, and not a court, should be the first to decide whether the contract is valid under state law. The Act provides for judicial facilitation of private dispute resolution through arbitration and many Los Angeles business owners are likely familiar with the Federal Arbitration Act from drafting employee handbooks.
The Act provides for contractually-based compulsory and binding arbitration where both parties give up the right to an appeal on substantive grounds to a court. Basically, it requires that where the parties have agreed to arbitrate, they must do so in lieu of going to court and applies in both state courts and federal courts. There are additional aspects of the Act that an experienced small business lawyer in Los Angeles can address.