Friday, October 30, 2009

Civil Rights for undocumented workers...

This is part II of the blog started last night!!

Undocumented workers (UW) are not in the legal system. They are in foreigners (called "aliens") who have not applied for immigration benefit, are not here legally and/or have not come under immigration scanner yet. They seek and find jobs through their own network. Most common sight is near a Home Depot or other lumber store. You can also spot them on a busy street in a city early in the morning. Individuals working on their homes themselves or even contractors pick them up for handyman or other kinds of jobs.

Unprotected workers are also protected by federal and state discrimination laws but it is unclear if they can recover lost wages. Nonetheless they are protected by law for the purposes of Civil Rights laws and its protection. See earlier blog (Part I).

The challenge with undocumented workers is the fear of retaliation and being reported to immigration service. The retaliation itself is illegal. If employer calls ICE (Immigration), UW may be placed in removal proceedings. It is a different story, that removal process is time-consuming but the UW will face the problem, if employer retaliates and complains to ICE. Therefore, UW should make the complaint only after serious consideration and full consultation with the attorney.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the largest investigative agency in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Formed in 2003 as part of the federal government's response to the 9/11 attacks, ICE's mission is to protect the security of the American people and homeland by vigilantly enforcing the nation's immigration and customs laws.

ICE combines innovative investigative techniques, new technological resources and a high level of professionalism to provide a wide range of resources to the public and to our federal, state and local law enforcement partners.

ICE is comprised of four operational divisions:

* Office of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO)
* Office of Investigations (OI)
* Office of Intelligence (Intel)
* Office of International Affairs (OIA)

With more than 20,000 employees in over 400 offices in the U.S. and around the world, ICE plays a vital role in the DHS layered defense approach to protecting the nation.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Civil Rights issue spotting -Part I

I attended a Civil Rights Spotting Training couple of weeks ago. It was arranged by Santa Clara County Bar Association, South Asian Bar Association of Northern California and Asian Law Caucus. Veena Dubal, Staff Attorney, Asian Law Caucus was the speaker.

The information provided was too valuable to pass. I thought I will pass it on!

The training covered following topics: Employment Discrimination Law, Civil Rights in Schools, Rights and Laws at the U. S. Border and Rights and Laws in relationship to law enforcement.

1. Employment Discrimination laws. Federal law, Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex (including sexual harassment), national origin, religion and pregnancy. American with Disability Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on the basis of disability. Age Discrimination Employment Act prohibits discrimination based on age (40+). State law in California, Fair Employment & Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex (including sexual harassment), national origin, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity (including transgender status), medical condition, pregnancy or marital status.

All anti-discrimination laws do not apply always. Title VII applies when employer has 15 employees. ADA applies when employer has 15 employees. ADEA applies when employer has 20 employees. FEHA applies when employer has 5 employees.

Not all forms of discrimination/harassment are illegal. Discrimination is being treated unfairly because of proscribed factors. Harassment is when boss, supervisor or co-worker says or does something that creates a hostile, intimidating or threatening work environment.

The forms of discrimination are religious discrimination or language discrimination. Anyone who feels they are being discriminated should keep a journal to document wrongful conduct and keep paper trail. File an employment discrimination claim with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Dept of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) & cross-file. Statutory limits to file with EEOC is 300 days unless govt. employee (then it is 45 days) and with DFEH is 1 year.

In Northern California, help is available through the Employment Law Center (, Project SURVIVE: Domestic Violence and Employment Helpline 888-864-8335, Language Rights Helpline 800-864-1664 (for language discrimination issues. "English only rules"), Unemployment and Wages Claims Helpline at 415-864-8070 and Work and Family Helpline 800-880-8047 for Family and Medical Leave issues.

.......................more later!!! Stay tuned!

Friendship to Partnership-things to consider in Contracts

As a lawyer, I end up representing a lot of people who could have easily avoided the legal mess they are in. People get excited about working together with good friends and start the collaboration before finalizing the important terms (who will do what, how profits will be shared, how someone will be compensated, etc.).

When things go wrong, expectations and attitudes change. There are disputes over the acceptability of terms and conditions informally agreed upon.

For example, I represent a real estate developer who entered into a deal with a friend who is a real estate broker. Part of the work was to be done by the developer and the rest was the broker's responsibility.

However, failure by the broker to do certain tasks in compliance with real estate laws led to delays and affected the marketing and salability of the project.

Instead of being happy and rich friends, they are now fighting over accounting issues.

Suggestions for a successful business partnership:

* Have a detailed discussion on the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved. Assign roles and responsibilities based on the parties’ education, proven professional backgrounds, and the value they bring to the process.
* Agree upfront on financial compensation. This is important to keep all parties motivated.
* Identify the legal vehicle to carry out the endeavor. In other words, decide whether you want to conduct your business as a partnership, corporation, or joint venture.
* Identify appropriate professionals such as accountants, financial planners, insurance agents, and lawyers to help you with proper accounting, record keeping, and legal protection. Should there be a disagreement, properly maintained books will help alleviate doubts.
* Have a legal contract documenting your understanding. For instance, if you are conducting business as a general partnership, have a detailed, fully-executed, general partnership agreement which is prepared with the help of an attorney. The attorney can help you plan for possible contingencies and identify methods of resolving disputes by suggesting methods such as arbitration. In the absence of such methods being laid out ahead of time, confusion will prevail and will cost you more, should a dispute really arise.
* You might try to save on the costs of incorporating your company by using the services of an online company. However, the personal touch and valuable feedback of an experienced attorney would help save you grief later on.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Is Ham a vegetarian food? How would you react???

A potential client (just because the signed contract is not in my hand yet) contacted me today. The couple is vegetarian. They were visiting home country to visit religious places per tradition after the marriage. They made their holy pilgrimage and were back to the U.S.. Wife is pure vegetarian since birth. Husband is the one who was not eating meat during this particular special week which has quite high religious significance. On the way back, they asked specifically for vegetarian food and got served with Ham Salad. The Ham was mixed up with the salad, and wife, who has not traveled much before, started to eat, half asleep probably. She thought that perhaps it is some kind of finely chopped tamato It was not until husband, who was napping during this time, also started to eat and figured out that there is something wrong. He called hostess and asked for clarification about what kind of salad have they been served with. The answer "Ham Salad" shocked them. Wife ran to the restroom and vomited right away. Both are devastated. Both are shocked and are aghast by the insensitivity to their core religious belief and of course which is violation of their rights. I wonder what a jury comprising of peers would think. In this meat eating society would their beliefs be considered pious or just another fad!!! I am personally disgusted. I welcome your thoughts.

Home Retention and Loan Mod help

We had a great interview on radio with Jocelyn Van Toor, housing counselor, both foreclosure and prepurchase, with Community Neighborhood Housing Services. Community Neighborhood Housing Services (CNHS) is a community based non-profit organization located in Saint Paul, MN. Specializing in foreclosure prevention, home improvement loans, and new homeowner education, CNHS serves the seven-county metro area with special program emphasis in the city of Saint Paul.

A housing counselor help a homeowner with financial evaluation and help modify the loan. Ms. Van Toor believes in "empowering the borrower" in dealing with the lender. She explained the process of loan modification, criteria for loan modification, time line etc.

CNHS is HUD approved counseling agency. Info on local agencies can be obtained at Specifically, for resources on foreclosure, visit

This counseling is available without charge. The fact I enjoyed the most was that Jocelyn talked about "empowering the clients to talk to the lender directly". I totally agree with this. I feel that it is unfortunate that clients who pay lot of money to the lenders feel scared to talk to the same lender/bank, they are helping become so rich. I guess attorneys are necessary evil from that prospective.
Note: My radio show is on every Saturday on 1170 AM KLOK in SF bay area. It can also be heard in internet on link to radio program on my website