Blog : CERG

Minami Tamaki Investigating Sportmix Pet Food Linked to Death and Illness of Dogs Across the U.S.

Minami Tamaki Investigating Sportmix Pet Food Linked to Death and Illness of Dogs Across the U.S.

Minami Tamaki is investigating Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc. after numerous reports that dogs have become ill or died from eating the company’s Sportmix brand pet foods. The Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) has reported that at least 70 dogs have died after consuming Sportmix products.

The FDA has issued alerts to pet owners and veterinary professionals that Sportmix products may contain potentially fatal levels of aflatoxins. Aflatoxins are toxins produced by the mold Aspergillus flavus, which can grow on corn and other grains used as ingredients in pet foods. At high levels, aflatoxins can cause illness in animals and lead to their death.

Midwestern Pet Foods announced a recall of certain lots of Sportmix products on December 30, 2020. The company then expanded the recall on January 11, 2021, to include all pet foods containing corn and manufactured in the company’s Oklahoma plant with an expiration date on or before July 9, 2022. Products made in the Oklahoma plant have a date/lot code on the back of the bag that includes an “05.” 

The FDA has advised that pet owners should stop feeding their pets the recalled products and consult their veterinarian, especially if the pets are showing signs of illness. 

For more information on this investigation, you may contact Minami Tamaki Consumer and Employee Rights Group (CERG) members Sean Tamura-Sato, Lisa Mak, and Claire Choo online or call us at 415-788-9000.

*The contents of this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or medical advice.  Information in this article may not constitute the most complete or up-to-date legal or other information.  Readers should contact a licensed California attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Minami Tamaki LLP.

Claire Y. Choo New President of San Mateo County Trial Lawyers Association

Claire Y. Choo New President of San Mateo County Trial Lawyers Association

Minami Tamaki LLP Associate Claire Y. Choo on January 1, 2021, began her one-year term as President of the San Mateo County Trial Lawyers Association (“SMCTLA”). Claire is the first attorney from Minami Tamaki LLP to serve as SMCTLA President.

Founded in 1967, SMCTLA is the leading professional organization for plaintiff’s attorneys in San Mateo County. In addition to serving as a network for members, SMCTLA provides professional advancement programs, events fostering relationships with the county’s judiciary and elected officials, and scholarships for students interested in careers in civil law or criminal justice.

As SMCTLA President, Claire sits on the Board of Directors of the Consumer Attorneys of California. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (“AABA”) and is an active member in several bar associations, including the American Association for Justice.

She continues Minami Tamaki’s tradition of leadership in bar associations. Associate Lisa P. Mak serves as Vice President/President-Elect of AABA. Partner Sean Tamura-Sato also serves on the AABA Board. Senior Counsel Dale Minami is a co-founder of AABA and of the Asian Pacific Bar of California. Partner Suhi Koizumi is a past president of the Korean American Bar Association of Northern California. Partner Minette Kwok served as a Commissioner on the State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization Immigration and Nationality Law. Associate Seema Bhatt serves on the board of the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California. Other firm attorneys have served in numerous positions with various bar associations and legal organizations.

As an attorney in Minami Tamaki’s Consumer and Employee Rights Group, Claire represents clients in a wide range of cases, such as insurance bad faith, consumer fraud, catastrophic personal injuries, and aviation-related actions.

She has significant litigation experience in individual, class, and collective actions in state and federal courts across the country. Claire has also served as trial counsel in several cases. In 2016, she was second chair in an action against the State of California which resulted in a $9.5 million total verdict for a family who suffered the wrongful death of a family member.

Claire has been recognized as a Northern California Super Lawyers Rising Star from 2013 to 2019. She was also recognized as one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers in 2019.

New Coronavirus-Related Employment Laws for 2021

New Coronavirus-Related Employment Laws for 2021

As we usher in 2021, here are some new California employment laws that may impact the legal landscape as employers and workers continue facing challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). 

Enhanced Enforcement and Reporting for COVID-19 (AB 685):
The new law, effective January 1, 2021, enhances the ability of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to enforce COVID-19 safety requirements in the workplace. Within one business day of “potential exposure” based on a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace, an employer must provide written notice of the exposure to all employees, and to employers of subcontracted employees, who were at the workplace within the infectious period. The employer must also provide notice of COVID-19-related benefits and protections, and information about the company’s disinfection and safety plan to respond to the exposure. 

In cases of a COVID-19 “outbreak” (defined as three or more confirmed COVID-19 cases within a two-week period among employees from different households), the employer must also notify local public health agencies within 48 hours of becoming aware of the outbreak.  The employer must continue to give notice to the local health department of any subsequently confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the worksite.  

From January 1, 2021, until January 1, 2023, Cal/OSHA can issue an “Order Prohibiting Use” (OPU) to shut down an entire worksite, or a specific worksite area, that exposes employees to an “imminent hazard” related to COVID-19 infection. The OPU would remove employees from the risk of harm until the employer can effectively address the hazardous situation.

From January 1, 2021, until January 1, 2023, Cal/OSHA can also issue citations to employers for “serious violations” related to COVID-19.  Prior to AB 685, Cal/OSHA would provide employers with at least 15 days of notice (the “1BY” notice) before issuing a citation for serious violations, and give employers time to respond to the notice. However, under the new law, the agency can issue citations for serious violations related to COVID-19 without giving employers the 15-day notice period or the opportunity to address the claims before the citation is issued.

PPE Supply Requirements for Acute Care Hospitals (AB 2537):
Effective January 1, 2021, acute care hospitals are required to give their employees appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) if they provide direct patient care or provide services that directly support patient care.  The hospital must ensure that employees use the PPE supplied to them.  Beginning April 1, 2021, acute care hospitals must maintain a three-month stockpile of new, unexpired, unused PPE as specified in the statute.  Upon request from Cal/OSHA, the hospital must provide an inventory of its PPE stockpile and a copy of its written procedures for periodically determining the quantity and types of PPE used in normal consumption at the hospital.  An acute care hospital that violates the requirement to maintain a three-month PPE supply could face monetary penalties of up to $25,000 per violation.   

Expansion of CFRA Coverage (SB 1383):
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to qualifying employees to care for themselves or certain family members due to a serious health condition. Previously, the CFRA covered employers with 50 or more employees. Effective January 1, 2021, CFRA coverage was expanded to employers with five or more employees. To be eligible for CFRA leave, an employee must have at least 12 months of service with the employer and at least 1,250 hours of service during the previous 12-month period before the start of the leave. The new law also expands the categories of family members for which leave can be taken, and now includes family leave for grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, and adult children.  

For more information on COVID-19 employment issues, you may contact the Minami Tamaki Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force members Sean Tamura-Sato, Lisa Mak, or Claire Choo online or call us at 415-788-9000.

*The contents of this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Information in this article may not constitute the most complete or up-to-date legal or other information.  Readers should contact a licensed California attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Minami Tamaki LLP.

Lisa Mak to Serve as 2021 Vice President/President-Elect of Asian American Bar Association

Lisa Mak to Serve as 2021 Vice President/President-Elect of Asian American Bar Association

Minami Tamaki LLP Associate Lisa P. Mak was elected Vice President/President-Elect of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (“AABA”), one of the largest Asian American bar associations in the nation and one of the largest minority bar associations in California. Lisa’s election was recently announced to the AABA membership. She will begin her term as President in 2022.

Lisa will be the first attorney from Minami Tamaki LLP to serve as President of AABA. She served as Treasurer this year after serving as Secretary in 2019.

Lisa continues Minami Tamaki’s tradition of leadership in bar associations. Partner Sean Tamura-Sato and Associate Claire Choo also serve on the AABA Board. Senior Counsel Dale Minami is a co-founder of AABA and of the Asian Pacific Bar of California. Partner Suhi Koizumi is a past president of the Korean American Bar Association of Northern California. Partner Minette Kwok served as a Commissioner on the State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization Immigration and Nationality Law. Associate Seema Bhatt serves on the board of the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California. Other firm attorneys have served in numerous positions with various bar associations and legal organizations.

A deep commitment to our communities and diversity issues guides Lisa’s service. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach and for the California Asian Pacific American Bar Association. She is actively involved in the California Employment Lawyers Association (“CELA”) and serves on the Board of CELA’s foundation. Lisa is also a past board member of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Lisa is an Associate in Minami Tamaki’s Consumer and Employee Rights Group. Her practice includes employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, contract claims, and labor code violations. She is experienced in litigation, from pre-litigation negotiations to trials and appeals. She also advises employees on employment contracts and severance agreements. She writes frequently about social justice and workplace equality issues, and her work has been published in Plaintiff Magazine and on the CELA Voice blog.

Lisa has served as trial counsel in multiple trials involving a wide variety of employment disputes in state and federal court. In 2016, she was co-lead counsel on a five-week jury trial which resulted in a $3.5 million total verdict for four female officers at the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. The verdict was listed in the LexisNexis “Top 10 Employment Verdicts” for 2016 and was recognized by Leaders in the Law in its “Northern California’s Leading Lawyers” 2017 publication.

She was selected as a Super Lawyers Rising Star from 2015-2020, an honor awarded to no more than 2.5 percent of attorneys in the state. In 2017, Lisa was honored with the Legal Advocate Award from the Center for Workers’ Rights and with a civil rights award from the Equal Justice Society.

Lisa graduated from UC San Diego summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa and received her law degree from UC Hastings College of the Law.

Minami Tamaki LLP Lisa Mak AABA President 2022
Minami Tamaki LLP Announces Retirement of Partner Minette Kwok and Transition of Donald Tamaki to Senior Counsel

Minami Tamaki LLP Announces Retirement of Partner Minette Kwok and Transition of Donald Tamaki to Senior Counsel

Minami Tamaki LLP today announced that Partner Minette A. Kwok will retire from the firm and that Managing Partner Donald K. Tamaki will transition into a Senior Counsel position, both effective on January 1, 2021.

Minette has led Minami Tamaki LLP’s immigration law practice for more than two decades, growing it into an award-winning and successful practice nationally recognized and ranked by U.S. News and World Report.

“Minette developed a solid team of stellar, hardworking professionals and nurtured a firm culture promoting collegiality, collaboration, and mutual respect,” said Don Tamaki who worked with Minette since she joined the firm in 1990 as the first woman Partner. “She built an immigration law practice with superb clients, including numerous technology leaders, and dedicated countless hours to the nation’s immigration bar and to community organizations. Minette is an inspiration to all attorneys.” 

Minette’s achievements during her 30-year career include recognized leadership in AILA, numerous awards and recognition for legal excellence, and years of service on nonprofit boards and pro bono work.

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California Employers Must Have Written COVID-19 Prevention Plan Under New Workplace Safety Rules

California Employers Must Have Written COVID-19 Prevention Plan Under New Workplace Safety Rules

On November 19, 2020, the California Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR) Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopted emergency temporary standards to protect workers from hazards related to the coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Under the new regulations, employers must have a written COVID-19 Prevention Plan that addresses: 

  • Systems for communicating information to employees about COVID-19 prevention procedures, testing, symptoms and illnesses, including a system for employees to report exposures without fear of retaliation;
  • Identification and evaluation of identifying workplace conditions and practices that could result in potential exposure;
  • Investigating and responding to cases in the workplace, including providing notice about potential exposures and offering testing to workers who may have been exposed;
  • Correcting unsafe conditions and work practices;
  • Implementing procedures to ensure workers stay at least six feet apart from other people;
  • Providing face coverings and ensuring they are worn;
  • Adopting changes to the workplace and work schedules to reduce exposure to the virus;
  • Positive COVID-19 case and illness recording requirements;
  • Removal of COVID-19 exposed and positive workers from the workplace with measures to protect pay and benefits;
  • Criteria for employees to return to work after recovering from COVID-19;
  • Requirements for testing and notifying public health departments of workplace outbreaks (three or more cases in a workplace in a 14-day period) and major outbreaks (20 or more cases within a 30-day period); and
  • Infection prevention in employer-provided housing and transportation to and from work.

The emergency standards will be in effect immediately if approved by the Office of Administrative Law in the next 10 calendar days.  The temporary standards do not apply to workers already covered by Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standard, which protects healthcare and other workers from airborne and droplet transmitted diseases. 

The Cal-OSHA Training Academy has made materials available at its website for companies and workers to help comply with the regulations.

For more information on COVID-19 safety requirements for California businesses, you may contact Minami Tamaki Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force members Sean Tamura-Sato, Lisa Mak, or Claire Choo online or call us at 415-788-9000.

*The contents of this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Information in this article may not constitute the most complete or up-to-date legal or other information.  Readers should contact a licensed California attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Minami Tamaki LLP.

Employment Law Considerations as San Francisco Reopens for Indoor Dining

Employment Law Considerations as San Francisco Reopens for Indoor Dining

After six months of shutdowns and restrictions due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, San Francisco allowed restaurants to reopen for indoor dining at 25% capacity up to 100 people on September 30, 2020.  Restaurants reopening for indoor dining must not only follow public health guidelines, but must also ensure employee safety and protection of employee rights.  

Important actions for San Francisco restaurants reopening for indoor dining include:

  • Follow City Requirements on Reopening
  • Educate Employees About When They Should Stay Home from Work
  • Promptly Identify and Notify Workers Of Positive COVID-19 Cases
  • Review Employee Leave and Anti-Discrimination Policies
  • Maintain Confidential Employee Health Information

Below are more details related to each action.

1. Follow City Requirements on Reopening

In order to move forward with indoor dining, restaurants are required to adhere to guidelines from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.  For instance, the City’s requirements state:  (1) Tables must only seat 6, and customers must be 6 feet apart; (2) everyone must wear face coverings; (3) contact between people must be minimized; and (4) Surfaces must be thoroughly cleaned between customers.  For more information, see sf.gov.

2. Educate Employees About When They Should Stay Home from Work 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) also set forth recommendations for employers to protect employees in the workplace and to ensure their safety.  The CDC recommends that:

  • Employees should stay home if they have tested positive for COVID-19, or are showing COVID-19 symptoms.  Employees who have recently had close contact with a person with COVID-19 should also stay home and monitor their health.
  • Employers should actively encourage employees who are sick or have recently had close contact with a person with COVID-19 to stay home.
  • Employers should develop policies that encourage sick employees to stay at home without fear of reprisal, and ensure employees are aware of these policies.

For more information, see CDC.gov

3. Promptly Identify and Notify Workers Of Positive COVID-19 Cases

Restaurants should create a COVID-19 assessment and control plan to respond to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases.  This should include a system for employees to provide notice if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or if they have come in contact with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case. Our attorneys at Minami Tamaki LLP can assist you with creating this plan.

On September 17, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 685, which created new requirements for employers to notify local and state public health officials of COVID-19 cases in the workplace.  If a restaurant (or other employer) receives notice that a worker who tested positive for COVID-19 or is subjected to an isolation order was in the workplace while considered potentially infectious, the restaurant must provide notice to all workers within one business day of potential exposure to COVID-19.  The notice must contain information about COVID-19 related benefits the employees are entitled to, and the employer’s disinfection and safety plan.  Restaurants must also notify local public health officials within 48 hours of “outbreaks” in the workplace, as defined by the State Department of Public Health.  AB 685 takes effect in January 2021.  

4. Review Employee Leave and Anti-Discrimination Policies

Restaurants should review, analyze, and modify their leave policies as appropriate to ensure employees are not improperly penalized for taking sick leave due to COVID-19. Our attorneys at Minami Tamaki LLP can assist you with reviewing your leave policies.

On September 11, 2020, San Francisco implemented the COVID-Related Employment Protections Ordinance.  Under the Ordinance, restaurants (and other employers) may not take any adverse action (such as termination or suspension) against or in any manner discriminate against a worker due to specific COVID-19 issues.  For instance, restaurants may not take adverse action against a worker who is absent from work, unable to work, or who requests time off work, because the worker tested positive for COVID-19, is isolating or quarantining, or previously isolated or quarantined, due to COVID-19 symptoms or exposure.  Further, restaurants may not take any adverse action against a worker because the worker tested positive for COVID-19 or is perceived to have been infected with COVID-19.  The Ordinance will expire on November 10, 2020 unless reenacted by the Board of Supervisors. 

For more information on the Ordinance, see sfgov.org.

5. Maintain Confidential Employee Health Information

All employee health information, including COVID-19 test results, must be kept private and confidential.  If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, restaurants should notify employees in a way that does not reveal the personal health information of the employee.

For more information on requirements for San Francisco restaurants reopening for indoor dining, you may contact Minami Tamaki Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force members Sean Tamura-Sato, Lisa Mak, or Claire Choo online or call us at 415-788-9000.

*The contents of this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Information in this article may not constitute the most complete or up-to-date legal or other information.  Readers should contact a licensed California attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Minami Tamaki LLP.

Photo CC BY-NC 2.0 by Jennifer Yin.

California Establishes New Consumer Financial Protection Agency

California Establishes New Consumer Financial Protection Agency

On September 25, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 1864, which establishes the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation.  The Department is modeled after the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) and is designed to protect Californians from unfair, deceptive, and abusive financial practices.  Supporters of the Department say it will serve as a watchdog for low-income communities, seniors, and individuals who have suffered financial hardship due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  

AB 1864 expands the state’s power to target abusive practices by financial service providers, such as debt collectors and emerging financial technology products.  The Department will add 90 positions over the next three years to supervise financial institutions and address improper financial practices.  The Department will also create: (1) a team to monitor markets to identify emerging risks to consumers; (2) a team dedicated to consumer education and outreach; and (3) an Office of Financial Technology and Innovation that will develop financial technology to serve consumers. 

California is strengthening its consumer protection efforts at a time when the federal CFPB has scaled back its enforcement and oversight of consumer fraud.  The CFPB was initially created to oversee products like credits and home mortgages in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.  

“While the federal government is getting out of the financial protection business, California is leaning into it,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “It’s at this moment especially – when so many Californians are strapped for cash and struggling to pay their bills – that families are likely to fall victim to predatory and abusive financial products. These bills ensure that financial predators are subjected to alert oversight and agile enforcement.”

Minami Tamaki’s Consumer & Employee Rights Group litigates class actions and individual cases on behalf of consumers who have been harmed by illegal or unfair business practices.  For more information on Minami Tamaki’s consumer protection practice, you may contact us online or call us at 415-788-9000.

*The contents of this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Information in this article may not constitute the most complete or up-to-date legal or other information.  Readers should contact a licensed California attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Minami Tamaki LLP.

New California Laws Related to Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Notices Expand COVID-19 Relief for Workers

New California Laws Related to Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Notices Expand COVID-19 Relief for Workers

On September 17, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law two worker protection bills, AB 685 and SB 1159.  AB 685 creates new requirements for employers to notify local and state public health officials of COVID-19 cases in the workplace.  SB 1159 expands access to workers’ compensation to certain first responders, health care workers, and employees who test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) due to an outbreak at work. 

AB 685 provides that if an employer receives notice that an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 or is subjected to an isolation order was in the workplace while considered potentially infectious, the employer must provide notice to all workers within one business day of potential exposure to COVID-19.  The notice must contain information about COVID-19 related benefits the employees are entitled to and include the employer’s disinfection and safety plan.  Employers must also notify local public health officials within 48 hours of “outbreaks” in the workplace, as defined by the State Department of Public Health.  AB 685 takes effect in January 2021.  There are exceptions to these reporting requirements for certain employees, including, but not limited to, some health care workers who work directly with COVID-19 patients. 

AB 685 also gives the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health authority to shut down businesses it believes are exposing workers to the risk of infection to the point that there is an imminent hazard to employees.

 SB 1159 creates a presumption that a covered worker’s illness or death from COVID-19 is work-related and entitles them to workers’ compensation.  Employers have the burden of rebutting this presumption by pointing to measures they have taken to reduce the potential transmission of COVID-19.  For workers in health care facilities who do not provide direct patient care (and custodial employees of health care facilities), there is no presumption if the employer can show that the employee did not come into contact with a patient who tested positive in the last 14 days. 

In addition to first responders and health care workers, the law also applies to workers who test positive for COVID-19 during an outbreak at their workplace, as defined by the bill.  SB 1159 took effect immediately upon signing. 

The rebuttable presumption under the law remains in effect until January 2023.  Governor Newsom said in an announcement that the legislation “will help California workers stay safe at work and get the support they need if they are exposed to COVID-19.”

California employers must prepare to respond to any indication that an employee has contracted COVID-19 in the workplace.  For more information about COVID-19 employer obligations, you may contact the Minami Tamaki Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force online or call us at 415-788-9000.

*The contents of this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Information in this article may not constitute the most complete or up-to-date legal or other information.  Readers should contact a licensed California attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Minami Tamaki LLP.