Cattle Rustling is on the Rise

SACRAMENTO, Calif.  —   A crime that was at the center of many Western movies is thriving in  modern-day California as reports of cattle rustling are on the rise,  state livestock officials said.

Greg Lawley, chief of the state’s Bureau of Livestock Identification,  said 1,317 head of cattle were stolen or reported missing last year. He  told the Sacramento Bee (    https://bit.ly/1cka3Jb  ) that it’s a 22 percent increase from prerecession numbers.

The USDA reports that cattle prices hit record highs in 2011 and 2012. One steer can sell for $1,000 or more.

Cattle ranchers hope a bill setting tougher fines and punishments that  goes into effect Jan. 1 will serve as a deterrent. Previously, there  were no set fines for cattle rustling. Next year, the crime will be  punishable as a felony or misdemeanor with up to a $5,000 fine.

Currently, it can be common for rustlers to plead charges down to a misdemeanor.

“They’ll get probation,” said Justin Oldfield, vice president of  government relations with the California Cattlemen’s Association. “When  people are punished, it’s usually a fine and not jail time. There  doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of seriousness from the courts.”

Oldfield told the Bee that he is uncertain whether the new law will  deter cattle theft, but he believes that it will create awareness.

“When you’re talking about the value of a steer worth $1,000 or more,  and you lose five of those – that’s a substantial impact to an  operation,” he said. “It can make or break the bottom line for that  year.”

There are roughly 3 million head of cattle in California, most of them  dairy cows. But 575,000 head roam the range, often with no more  protection than a brand.

Last year, the livestock identification bureau identified and returned  cattle worth $1.4 million to the owners. State officials say the crime  probably is under-reported.

In 2010 Red Bluff rancher Candace Owen lost 25 calves to thieves.

“It’s a terrible crime when you steal someone’s livelihood,” she said.

Officials say most thefts are inside jobs. Rustlers can load up a  livestock trailer and be in another state in a matter of hours.

“The thing with stealing livestock, and especially cattle, is you can  get 100 percent of its value, especially with unbranded animals,” Lawley said. In most cases a brand is the only way to establish ownership.

The rise in cattle theft in California is part of a national trend. In  2012, more than 10,400 head of cattle and horses were reported missing  or stolen to the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association – a  36 percent increase from 2010.

Information from: The Sacramento Bee,    https://www.sacbee.com 

The Associated Press

Farm Bill for New Farmers\Ranchers Debated

This may be of interest to our 4H and Future Farmers out there.

A group of bipartisan Representatives and Senators has asked House and  Senate farm bill conferees want to provide legislation with programs meant to break down the barriers that make it difficult to enter agriculture.  The Senate letter urged the conferees to maintain the strongest possible support for beginning farmers and ranchers through targeted programs  that provide new and young farmers with education and training, access  to credit and access to affordable land with support for conservation  programs.

Both letters specifically ask for adoption of funding for the  Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program at no less than the  House-passed level of 20-million dollars per year; House-passed  provisions that expand credit options for new farmers – including an  authorization for USDA to make microloans for beginning and veteran  farmers and to launch an intermediary lending pilot modeled after other  successful cooperative lending programs such as the Rural  Microentrepreneur Assistance Program; Senate-passed funding levels for  the Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentives Program; and the  House-passed provision that increases the amount of funding a beginning  or socially disadvantaged farmer can receive up front through the  Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

To Do the Right Thing

Life has a way of presenting moral and ethical challenges to us at the most interesting times in our lives.  The other day, I was in the parking lot of a restaurant when I saw a wallet on the ground.  I picked it up and I opened it to see if there was some ID inside.  The first thing I saw was a wad of $100 bills!!  There was well over $1,000 in there.  I shut it quickly and went inside the restaurant to turn it over to the management.

Now, understand, I am not telling this story because I want a reward or accolades, but to point out something we should all think about. Most of us would pause for a moment and contemplate keeping the money, including myself for less than a second.  Then I thought about the person.  Who would carry that kind of cash?  Most likely, a person who could ill-afford to lose it.  It may be their rent money or money to purchase a much needed car or whatever.  The point is, it wasn’t my money;  I did nothing to earn it.

And that is my real point.  So many people today feel they deserve payment just because they exist, not because they have truly  earned the money.  Our forefathers understood the value of earning what you had and keeping it for the next generation to build on.  When our society is ruled by people who feel they must be given “what is theirs” we have failed.  When we elect leaders based on what they will give us rather than how they will encourage us to be our best and ensure there is a reward at the end of the day for that effort, then we have failed.

Let’s hope we never get to that point.

“BRIDGE TO JUSTICE”-YOUR GOVERNMENT WORKING AGAINST YOUR INTERESTS

The US Department of Labor has combined forces with the American Bar Association to create “Bridge to Justice” to help employees connect with lawyers who will help them sue their employers for abuses of the FMLA, FLSA and other labor laws.  You can read the entire text from the Department of Labor website below.  I have highlighted a couple of very important passages for you to concentrate on.  I hope you find this useful.  Please leave your comments as we would like to have a lively discussion on this issue.  Here is the link to share….https://www.dol.gov/whd/resources/ABAReferralPolicy.htm

Wage and Hour Division (WHD)

BRIDGE TO JUSTICE: Wage and Hour  Connects Workers To New ABA-Approved Attorney Referral System

Many workers across the country still struggle to obtain basic employment protections under the nation’s minimum wage, overtime, and family medical leave laws.  When denied these protections, the workers are unable to fully contribute to their local communities and businesses.  Over the past two years, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (Wage and Hour Division) has added 350 new investigators and stepped up its efforts to help these workers through both complaint-driven and targeted enforcement.  In a typical year, over 35,000 workers contact the Wage and Hour Division for help, including the 25,000 who need assistance with their minimum wage, overtime, or family medical leave claims – and this number does not even include many more workers who do not contact us after their rights have been violated.

Although the Wage and Hour Division is able to help the vast majority of these workers recover denied wages or lost jobs through conciliation, settlement, or, with the Solicitor of Labor, litigation, every year there are thousands of workers whose claims we cannot resolve because of limited capacity.  In recognition of the fact that the Wage and Hour Division cannot remedy every violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Congress provided workers the right to pursue their own private litigation (private right of action) under these laws.

In the past, for those workers it did not have the capacity to assist, the Wage and Hour Division simply informed the workers that, even though they may have valid claims under the FLSA or the FMLA, the Wage and Hour was declining to pursue their claims further and that they have a private right of action under the applicable statute.  However, attempting to exercise rights on their own, or finding an attorney with the necessary experience and subject matter expertise to represent them, are significant and difficult obstacles to these workers obtaining justice.  When it is difficult for workers to pursue redress for denied rights, it makes it easier for those employers who exploit their workers to obtain an unfair competitive advantage, which denies law-abiding employers a level playing field.

Thanks to an unprecedented collaboration between the Wage and Hour Division and the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Lawyer Referral and Information Service (ABA LRIS), the Wage and Hour Division will now connect these workers to a local referral service that will, in turn, provide the workers with access to attorneys who may be able to help.  This collaboration will both provide workers a better opportunity to seek redress for FLSA and FMLA violations and help level the playing field for employers who want to do the right thing.

Beginning on December 13, 2010, when FLSA or FMLA complainants are informed that the Wage and Hour Division is declining to pursue their complaints, they will also be given a toll-free number to contact the newly created ABA-Approved Attorney Referral System.  If complainants choose to call the toll-free number, they will be advised of the ABA-approved LRIS providers in their area.  The complainant may then contact the provider and determine whether to retain a qualified private-sector lawyer.

In addition, when the Wage and Hour Division has conducted an investigation, the complainant will now be provided information about the Wage and Hour Division’s determination regarding violations at issue and back wages owed.  This information will be given to the complainants in the same letter informing them that the Wage and Hour Division will not be pursuing further action, and will be very useful for attorneys who may take the case.  The Wage and Hour Division has also developed a special process for complainants and representing attorneys to quickly obtain certain relevant case information and documents when available.

FAQs About the ABA-Approved Attorney Referral System 

Q: Why do the Wage and Hour Division and workers need the ABA-Approved Attorney Referral System? A:  Although the Wage and Hour Division resolves the vast majority of complaints it receives, it does not have the capacity to pursue them all.  For example, the Wage and Hour Division received over 35,000 complaints in FY 2009 and over 40,000 complaints in FY 2010.  In each of these years, the Wage and Hour Division informed approximately 10% of complainants that it was declining to pursue or resolve their FLSA or FMLA claims and that they have a private right of action.  The ABA-Approved Attorney Referral System will now provide these workers with a reliable way to seek qualified private legal representation.

Q: At what point might the Wage and Hour Division inform a complainant about the toll-free number to access the ABA-Approved Attorney Referral System? A: Typically, a complainant will be provided the toll-free number for the ABA-Approved Attorney Referral System at one of four stages:

    1. At the complaint intake stage, if workers decide not to file a complaint or say they would prefer to pursue her private right of action;
    2. At the complaint review stage, if the reviewing manager determines, based on the Wage and Hour Division’s national and regional priorities and the office’s current resources and workload, that giving the complainant the ABA’s toll-free number provides the worker with the quickest access to justice;
    3. After an attempt at conciliation, if the employer refuses to remedy a violation but, based on the same criteria used at the complaint review stage, the manager decides that giving the complainant the ABA’s toll-free number is a better option than further investigating or litigating the complaint, or;
    4. After an investigation, if the case is not resolved through settlement, the Wage and Hour Division may decide, often in consultation with the Department’s Office of the Solicitor, to leverage the resources of the private bar by providing the complainant the ABA’s toll-free number.

Q: What are the Wage and Hour Division’s priorities? A: Given the Wage and Hour Division’s resources limitations, it has to set enforcement priorities in a way that will make the biggest impact for the greatest number of workers.  Although specific initiatives will vary from year to year and from region to region, generally the Wage and Hour Division prioritizes cases involving minimum wage and overtime violations against low wage and vulnerable workers, child labor, recidivist employers, retaliation or discrimination, or criminal violations. In addition, as described in the Department’s Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2011-2016, the Wage and Hour Division is targeting “fissured” industries — those sectors that increasing rely on a wide variety of organizational methods that have redefined employment relationships: subcontracting; third-party management; franchising; independent contracting; and other contractual forms that alter who is the employer of record or make the worker-employer relationship tenuous and less transparent.  These industries include the agricultural, construction, janitorial, and hotel/motel industries.

Q: What information will a worker be provided from the Wage and Hour Division when the worker receives the referral information? A: How much information the Wage and Hour Division gives the worker will depend on at what stage the referral is given and whether there has been an investigation.  At all stages, the Wage and Hour Division will give the worker a toll-free number to call as well as instructions on using the ABA-Approved Attorney Referral System.  If this information is provided verbally at the complaint intake stage, no other information will be provided because the Wage and Hour Division will not have any further information about the complaint.  If the complaint is declined at the complaint review stage, the worker will be sent a letter that includes this information, along with a statement that the Wage and Hour Division did not investigate the worker’s complaint.  At the conciliation state, the complainant will be notified by letter that will include information about the complaint and the Wage and Hour Division’s attempt at conciliation.  The amount of information available at the conciliation stage will vary.

If the Wage and Hour Division has completed an investigation, it will send the complainant a letter with the Wage and Hour Division case number, the violations found, and the amount of back wages owed.  Complainants will also get a form that will allow them or an authorized attorney representative to quickly obtain certain items from the investigation case file.

Q: How does the ABA-Approved Attorney Referral Document Request process work? A: A complainant who has received the toll-free number to the ABA-Approved Attorney Referral System after a Wage and Hour Division investigation will also receive a form to request the most relevant documents from her case file.  These documents include the complainant’s own statement, the Wage and Hour Division’s back wage computations for the complainant, and copies of any documents the complainant provided to the Wage and Hour Investigator.  The Wage and Hour Division will provide these documents expeditiously.  The form also allows the worker or authorized attorney representative to request the case narrative from the file; however, it explains that requesting the narrative will delay the Wage and Hour Division’s response because it must be redacted.  The letter sent to the complainant with notification of the Wage and Hour Division’s decision to not pursue the case will also include information about the violations found and back wages owed to the complainant.

All other documents in the case investigation file must be requested through the Freedom of Information Act.

Q: What other types of documents are available in the case investigation file? A: The contents of a Wage and Hour investigation file vary from case to case.  Please note, however, that certain information in the file is always redacted under the Freedom of Information Act, including the names, contact information, and identifying characteristics of any other complainants or witnesses, and information about the employer protected by the Trade Secrets Act.

Q: How does the ABA-Approved Attorney Referral System work? A: The ABA-Approved Attorney Referral System is built on a pre-existing network of local and state LRIS programs that are “ABA-LRIS approved,” meaning they have complied with the ABA model rules concerning the operation of public service lawyer referral programs.  There are nearly 70 ABA-approved LRIS programs throughout the country.  The majority of these are operated by state and local bar associations.  Building on this system, the ABA is creating a toll-free number for use by workers with FLSA and FMLA complaints nationwide that will connect them to the local and state LRIS programs.  This phone system will be available in both English and Spanish.

Q: How will the toll-free number help connect workers to an attorney? A: When workers call the toll-free number, they will enter their employer’s zip code or their own zip code, and will be given recorded information on the ABA-approved attorney referral provider in the appropriate geographic area.  The caller will then contact the referral provider for assistance in locating an attorney.

Q: Will the attorneys to whom the individual is referred be experienced in FLSA and FMLA matters? A: Yes, the participating ABA-approved referral providers have created subject matter panels in both FLSA and FMLA, and attorneys who wish to join those panels and accept referrals must demonstrate an objective measure of expertise in these areas of law, according to the standards established by the local referral provider and in accordance with the ABA’s Model Rules for Lawyer Referral Services.

Q: What are the ABA’s Model Rules for Lawyer Referral Services? A: Although the ABA is really the expert on this issue, the important components of the model rules, from the Department’s perspective, are the requirements that referral providers confirm that the attorney is licensed, has malpractice insurance, and has the proper experience to accept referrals in a particular area of law if they wish to be on a subject matter panel.

Q: Will the Department of Labor guarantee that individuals who are being turned away will be given legal assistance from a private attorney? A: No, the Department cannot guarantee that a complainant will be able to find an attorney interested in providing representation.  WHD is providing this telephone number to the ABA-Approved Attorney Referral System as a service to those who may be seeking assistance.  WHD does not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided through this telephone number or by any ABA-approved attorney referral provider, or that an attorney will accept any case.  In addition, WHD is not endorsing the services of any lawyer to whom a complainant may be referred, or guaranteeing the results of any services.  Providing this telephone number creates no liability on the part of the government.

Q: How will the Wage and Hour Division know if these referrals are being accepted or if the cases are being resolved by the private bar? A: The ABA will provide the Wage and Hour Division with aggregate information about the numbers of referrals accepted and the outcome of those cases.

Q: I’m an attorney and I would like these cases to be referred to me.  How do I participate in the ABA-Approved Attorney Referral System? A:  Participating state and local bar association lawyer referral programs are listed on  https://www.abanet.org/legalservices/lris/attorneyapprovproginfo.html   Please contact these state and local bar associations for membership information in the respective LRIS.  Membership in the respective bar association is not required, but there is a membership fee for participating in the lawyer referral program.

NEW HEAT BREAK RULES SIGNED INTO LAW

Governor Brown of California signed SB435 into law effective next year.  It states that workers exposed to extreme heat must be granted cool-down periods during the work day.  If the employer does not provide such a cool-down period, they must pay the employee for an additional hour of work for each day the rest period is not provided. 

We are still awaiting the regulations surrounding this law.  Questions that arise include the definition of “extreme heat” and how the employer is to document that the employees took a cool-down rest period.

HR Mobile services will continue to monitor this new law and provide advise to our customers on how to best protect themselves.  We invite your questions and comments on this legislation.

Governor Brown signs more Worker’s Rights bills

Beginning January 1, 2014, employers cannot fire an employee who is a victim or domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault. Employers are also directed to make a “reasonable” effort to protect victims at the workplace.

This also means you must allow them time off of work to attend court dates in these cases.

On another bill the governor signed, employers cannot retaliate against workers who protest unfair work conditions. However, you can protect yourself with proper policies in place and adhering to your policies. As long as you apply your policies consistently and fairly to all, you will be in good shape.

Governor Approves Driver License for Undocumented Workers

 

Today, Oct. 3, 2013, Governor Brown of California signed into law a bill that grants Drivers Licenses to Undocumented workers in Calfornia as long as they apply and pass the driver’s test we all have to pass.  The thinking is that this will make our roads safer because they will be able to purchase car insurance now and will better understand our driving laws.  We are not so sure that is going to be the results, but there is another issue that is very important to all employers. 

If an employee gets this type of driver’s license, it will be marked with the initials DP (driver’s privilege) rather than DL (driver’s license) followed by the numbers.  As of right now, this new document is not allowed for federal forms and a worker, who is not a US citizen, will still need to provide a copy  of their Permanent Resident card to be eligible to work and for the I-9 form.