This post discusses why – especially now that Assembly Bill No. 5 (AB-5) has taken effect – in California corporate officers are considered employees rather than independent contractors.
California Corporate Officers Employees by Statute
The starting point is California Unemployment Insurance Code Section 621. This Section states, in relevant part:
“Employee” means all of the following:
(a) Any officer of a corporation.
Officers conduct a corporation’s day-to-day business. Among the states, California law is unique in its set of required officers.
California Corporations Code Section 312(a) states that each California corporation must have:
- A chairman of the board or a president or both;
- A secretary; and
- A chief financial officer.
Additional officers are optional.
That Code section also provides that the president is the chief executive officer of the corporation, unless the articles of incorporation or the bylaws state otherwise.
Other states typically take an approach similar to that specified in Delaware General Corporation Law Section 142 (emphasis added):
While working with one of my international clients several months ago, I re-learned a lesson that I already knew: The meaning of a word (in this case, the definition of Director) may depend on the context.
I duly prepared a Statement and Designation by Foreign Corporation and had it signed by the client’s most senior officer. That officer’s title, translated as “Director,” was entered onto the form.
Officers of a corporation have a fiduciary duty to both the corporation and its shareholders. (See California Officers Need to Be More Careful than Directors.) I recently had to consider, for a limited liability company in California, whether LLC officers have a similar duty.
Section references below have been updated to reflect California’s new LLC law that took effect on January 1, 2014 (see RULLCA Brings New LLC Laws to California in 2014).
In California, the so-called Business Judgment Rule (“BJR“) protects corporate directors. They are not responsible for honest mistakes of business judgment. A recent case revealed that the BJR does not protect corporate officers in California.
During 2007, Indymac Bank bought more than $10 billion in risky residential loans. These loans ultimately generating losses of more than $600 million. Indymac closed. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was appointed receiver.
In Blue Nile v. Ideal Diamond Solutions, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington held that co-defendant Larry Chasin, founder and an officer of defendant IDS, was personally liable for infringement of plaintiff Blue Nile’s copyrighted images, even though Chasin claimed he had no role in putting infringing images on websites and he did not know the images were infringing.
Blue Nile is an online jewelry and diamond retailer. Chasin founded and operated IDS to create websites for brick-and-mortar jewelers to help them compete online. The websites included some of Blue Nile’s copyrighted images.
In “Incorporation: Not All (States’) Agents are Created Equal“, I discussed how agents for service of process in California are less formal – in both their appointment and their responsibilities – than registered agents in other states. California agents can resign more easily, too.
Corporations Code Section 1503(a) states that an agent for service of process may resign simply by filing a signed and acknowledged written statement. The Secretary of State? has provided Form RA-100 for this purpose. (more…)
Earlier today I answered the following Quora question: What does the Chairman of the Board do?
Here is the answer that I provided:
The Chairman of the Board does what the Bylaws and the Board of Directors say s/he will do. Here is some typical Bylaws language: (more…)