MSK Blog

The Definition of Film Fest Success – For Financiers and Filmmakers

Movie projector on dark background

Photo credit: istock.com/fergregory

By Steve Krone

The familiar annual rhythm of the major film festivals – Sundance in January, Berlin in February, Cannes in May and so on through Toronto in September – is well underway. And with Sundance and the Berlinale already in the rear-view, and SXSW right around the corner, it’s fair to say the 2019 sales environment looks to be very buoyant.

Although the single-film Sundance sale record was not eclipsed in 2019, the number of films that sold for eight figures was the highest ever, with numerous films racking up paydays in the $10-15 million range. Understandably, press reports out of Sundance tend to focus on these lofty (and once dreamlike) selling prices. It makes sense: the big numbers make great headlines, and the selling price is often the only deal information made publicly available.

But filmmakers – and in some situations, even film financiers – are not always best served by selling to the highest bidder. From a filmmaker perspective, the largest upfront payment, as great a thrill as it may be, does not necessarily translate into the best support for the film or most effectively accomplish the short- and long-term goals of the filmmakers. And even from a financier perspective, the biggest initial return does not always equate with maximizing the profitability of the film and the long-term interests of the financiers. (more…)

California Court of Appeals Dials in on Call-In Practices

By Jeremy Mittman and Louise Truong

Recently, the California Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 split decision that employees who are required to call in two hours prior to the start of their shifts to ask whether they needed to report to work are entitled to reporting time pay.  In Ward v. Tilly’s, Inc., the Court held that Tilly’s on-call policy triggered the “Reporting Time Pay” provision of California’s Wage Order 7, which applies to the retail industry. The Ward majority held that Wage Order 7’s Reporting Time Pay provision applied because Tilly’s workers “reported” for work when they called-in.

Under the Reporting Time Pay provision, employers are required to pay employees reporting time pay, as follows: “Each workday an employee is required to report for work and does report, but is not put to work or is furnished less than half said employee’s usual or scheduled day’s work, the employee shall be paid for half the usual or scheduled day’s work, but in no event for less than two (2) hours nor more than four (4) hours, at the employee’s regular rate of pay.” For example, if a sales clerk is scheduled to report to work for an eight-hour shift and only works for one hour, the employer is still obligated to pay the employee four hours of his or her regular rate of pay.  (more…)

No Further Shutdown; List 3 Exclusion Process Coming

USA and Chinese flags on mountain signpost.

Photo credit: iStock.com/Darwel

By Susan Kohn Ross

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019 was signed into law on Friday, February 15, 2019, so the potential for another shutdown was averted, but there was a hidden gem buried in a related document. This new law contains a specific appropriation for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office which reads: “For necessary expenses of the Office of the United States Trade Representative, … $53,000,000, …” (more…)

Website Accessibility – Americans with Disabilities Act Impact

hands of business person working on computerBy Jonathan Turner and Susan Kohn Ross

Background

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) mandates that public accommodation must be provided to disabled persons to allow for the “full and equal enjoyment” of the related privileges, goods, services, advantages and accommodations as those provided to able bodied persons. The owner of any business is responsible for making sure those accommodations are made with “reasonable modification.” The ADA makes it very clear that a business that does not provide for that accommodation is engaging in unlawful discrimination 42 U.S.C. section 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii).

The statute provides for various examples of where public accommodations must be provided, including locations such as an inn, a restaurant, a theater, an auditorium, a bakery, a laundromat, a depot, a museum, a zoo, a nursery, a day care center, and a gymnasium. Noticeably absent from that list are websites. That’s because websites did not exist at the time the statute was passed, and Congress has not expressly addressed the issue in the interim. (more…)

Sex Education for Minors?

By Jeremy Mittman and Hilary Feybush

As we previously reported, this past fall, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 2338, which includes a provision requiring minors 14-17 years of age and their parents/guardians to receive sexual harassment prevention training prior to the issuance of an entertainment work permit by the California Labor Commissioner.  Earlier this week, the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”) published its guidance regarding AB 2338 on its website.  The DLSE’s very brief guidance does answer some questions regarding the new law, yet leaves some unanswered. (more…)

Don’t Miss the Party

By Jeremy Mittman and Bethanie Thau

Express waivers to Section 1542 of the California Civil Code are so ubiquitous in settlement and release agreements that most parties likely just note their presence without actually reading them.  On January 1, 2019, California’s Senate Bill No. 1431 went into effect, amending Civil Code Section 1542.  The prior version of the statute read: “A general release does not extend to claims which the creditor does not know or suspect to exist in his or her favor at the time of executing the release, which if known by him or her must have materially affected his or her settlement with the debtor.” The amended version of Section 1542 adds “releasing party” and “released party” alongside creditor and debtor, respectively, and also changes “must have materially affected” to “would have materially affected” the releasing party’s decision to settle, so that it states: “A general release does not extend to claims that the creditor or releasing party does not know or suspect to exist in his or her favor at the time of executing the release and that, if known by him or her, would have materially affected his or her settlement with the debtor or released party.

(more…)

CA Employers Hungry for Time-Rounding Meal Breaks

time to eatBy Jeremy Mittman and Stephen Rossi

Why This Matters

On November 21st, the California Court of Appeals ruled in Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC regarding meal breaks and how they get tracked. Overall, Donohue is a positive wage and hour development for California employers. The case is also helpful in providing a roadmap for a design of an exceptionally good (and now, court approved) electronic meal break recording system (further described in the explanation of the decision), which enables an employer to track the reason for a noncompliant meal period and obtain notification with minimal administrative burden. California employers would be well-served to consider adopting a similar meal break monitoring system, which—considering the cost of defending against meal break claims, a perennial favorite of plaintiffs’ attorneys—would be money well spent. The Court’s decision and the intricacies of the case are further described below. (more…)

H-1B Visas: Employers Be Aware of Potential Changes

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services envelope, white folder for naturalization certificate on table with American flag

Photo credit: iStock.com/ablokhin

By David S. Rugendorf

Changes are in the works related to the processing of H-1B visa petitions, and employers intending to file such petitions should be aware. On Monday, December 3, 2018, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a proposal to change the annual cap-subject H-1B visa petition filing system in two significant ways: (1) the establishment of an online H-1B registration system; and (2) a major change in the procedures related to the annual H-1B visa cap lottery.

By law, the number of new H-1B visa petitions for professional worker beneficiaries is capped at 65,000 annually, with an additional 20,000 set aside for individuals with advanced degrees from U.S. universities. Advanced degrees are considered to be master’s degrees or higher. Certain employers, such as hospitals, non-profit research institutions and universities are exempt from this annual cap. As a result of this limitation on H-1B filings, the USCIS receives well in excess of the allowable number of petitions at the beginning of each year’s filing season, April 1. Accordingly, a random lottery has taken place in early April of each year. Employers are notified over the next few months if their petitions are among the lucky 85,000 selected. The numbers are daunting – approximately 198,000 petitions where received in fiscal year 2017, and approximately 236,000 in fiscal year 2016. (more…)

Customers Now Jointly Liable with Port Trucking Companies for Certain Labor Violations

Truck in port

Photo credit: iStock.com/nightman1965

By Susan Kohn Ross

One of the bills signed into law by California Governor Edmund G. Brown from the most recent legislative session aims to hold customers accountable when hiring trucking companies that have a record of Labor Code violations. Under SB 1402, customers who utilize trucking companies to deliver goods from California’s ports may be held jointly and severally liable for certain Labor Code violations committed by those trucking companies. Here is the explanation for the need for this new law: “Holding customers of trucking companies jointly liable for future labor law violations by port drayage motor carriers who they engage, where the customer has received advance notice of their record of unsatisfied judgments for labor law violations, will exert pressure across the supply chain to protect drayage drivers from further exploitation.” And “Customers have the market power to exert meaningful change in the port drayage industry that has eluded California drivers for more than a decade.” (more…)

NLRB Proposes Rule Changing Joint-Employer Standard

By Anthony J. Amendola

Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) published its “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking; request for comments” in the Federal Register setting forth a proposed new standard for establishing a joint-employer relationship.  The joint-employer analysis is significant because entities found to be joint employers may be jointly liable for alleged unfair labor practices or under collective bargaining agreements.  In various circumstances, parent/subsidiary companies, franchisers/franchisees and client/temporary services providers have been argued to be joint employers. (more…)