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Know your employees' rights

Part of running a successful business is ensuring that you're following all the state- and federal-mandated laws that govern your obligations to your employees. Every employee you hire has basic rights, and it's up to you to know those rights and respect them. Ignorance won't be taken as an excuse.

With that in mind, let's look at some of the most basic rights that employees have in the workplace:

  • The right to privacy. This extends to purses, lockers briefcases and any private mail. Employees also have the right to keep their phone conversations and voicemails private. However, communications via email and internet history on company computers are generally considered fair game.
  • The right to a safe workplace. It's your obligation to make sure the workplace is free of toxic substances, safety hazards and any other dangerous conditions.
  • The right to fair wages. All federal and state wage laws must be followed.
  • The right to be free from discrimination. No employee can be discriminated against because of their race, religion, gender, age or national origin.
  • Whistleblower rights. The law forbids employers from retaliating against employees who make a complaint against the company.

This is just a broad overview of some of the basic rights every employee enjoys. The field of employment law can be complicated and time-consuming. That's why it might be in your best interests to seek the counsel of an employment law attorney. They know the laws inside and out and will be able to help you navigate these tricky waters.

Your employee claimed a contract breach; what now?

It's a question that you would surely prefer not to ask. But unfortunately, as an employer in Pittsburgh, it's a reality of the work environment. At some point, you might have to deal with an employee that has claimed you have breached a contract, and you will need to have a plan in place to handle these accusations.

The American Bar Association states that there are six basic ways to analyze a contract, which can then determine whether or not a breach actually occured. This starts all the way at the basics by determining if a contract even existed in the first place and, if so, if there was an attached duty of performance. The terms of the contract should also be known and examined. Defenses to the enforcement of the contract will also be looked at, and at that point, it will finally be determined if a breach actually occured. Only after passing the other questions and examinations will a potential settlement for the contract breach be discussed. Even so, false claims of contract breaches are often discovered quickly.

However, you should also note that while you may not intend items in an employee handbook to be taken as promises or contracts, it can be potentially interpreted that way in court. There are often cases in which an employee reads something in the handbook and feels as though a contract has been breached should you fail to meet the expectations set there.

Handling a situation in which a contract breach has been claimed might be tricky. This is why it's important to tackle this scenario properly, as it cuts down on confusion and the chance of your words being misinterpreted.

Know your employees' rights

Part of running a successful business is ensuring that you're following all the state- and federal-mandated laws that govern your obligations to your employees. Every employee you hire has basic rights, and it's up to you to know those rights and respect them. Ignorance won't be taken as an excuse.

With that in mind, let's look at some of the most basic rights that employees have in the workplace:

  • The right to privacy. This extends to purses, lockers briefcases and any private mail. Employees also have the right to keep their phone conversations and voicemails private. However, communications via email and internet history on company computers are generally considered fair game.
  • The right to a safe workplace. It's your obligation to make sure the workplace is free of toxic substances, safety hazards and any other dangerous conditions.
  • The right to fair wages. All federal and state wage laws must be followed.
  • The right to be free from discrimination. No employee can be discriminated against because of their race, religion, gender, age or national origin.
  • Whistleblower rights. The law forbids employers from retaliating against employees who make a complaint against the company.

This is just a broad overview of some of the basic rights every employee enjoys. The field of employment law can be complicated and time-consuming. That's why it might be in your best interests to seek the counsel of an employment law attorney. They know the laws inside and out and will be able to help you navigate these tricky waters.

Staying compliant with the Fair Labor Standards Act

When you dreamed of running your own business, your visions probably included picking out cool logos, finding an awesome workspace and giving great customer service. It probably didn't include spending countless hours trying to understand wage and hour laws and staying compliant with them. Unfortunately, it's part of the cost of doing business and not staying compliant could mean losing thousands of dollars or even losing the company altogether.

The following is a brief overview of the Fair Labor Standards Act. To put it simply, the FLSA is a piece of legislation that governs overtime pay, minimum wage, child labor standards and record keeping. Here are some of its particulars:

  • The minimum wage is 7.25 per hour.
  • Overtime is required after 40 hours in any given workweek and is paid at one-and-a-half times the regular wage.
  • Pay raises, premium payments, vacations, sick pay and fringe benefits are not required.
  • The minimum working age without restrictions is 16.

Some employees are exempt from the wage and overtime requirements:

  • Farm workers.
  • "Casual" workers like babysitters or companions for the elderly.
  • Professional, administrative and executive employees, which can include teachers and school administrators.
  • Workers at some seasonal recreational or amusement companies.
  • Employees on fishing operations.
  • Newspaper delivery people.

This is just a small sampling. As you can see, the deeper you delve into the FLSA, the more complicated it becomes. That's why an attorney can be such an invaluable help to a small business. An employment law attorney knows these laws backward and forwards and can help you stay compliant.

How Employment Law Can Protect You as an Employer

The recent upturn in Pittsburgh’s Gross Domestic Product is directly attributed to the blossoming employment rate. Whether you are seeking a new job in Pennsylvania or a company is launching its latest product, it is crucial to understand the various policies making up employment law. In the past, employers have fallen victim to various accusations filed by aggrieved employees. From unsafe work conditions to sexual harassment lawsuits, employers have shouldered most of the blame and ultimately paid the price with ludicrous out-of-court settlements.

Fortunately, the enactment of the Employment law has equipped employers with adequate knowledge essential in settling employment disputes. With the aid of experienced employment attorneys, you are assured of reliable legal services such as:

  • Human resources guidance: Prominent employment attorneys will systematically guide you in creating effective internal policies as well as enforce them adequately.
  • Competent counsel against harassment claims and employment discrimination lawsuits: It is common knowledge that unsatisfied employees tend to file unsubstantiated claims regarding harassment and discrimination. Fortunately, your lawyer will provide an aggressive defense and help you avoid similar charges in future.
  • Employment contract: As experts in the employment industry, they will effectively help you draft, enforce and negotiate contracts aimed at protecting your interests and business at large.
  • Unemployment compensation: With the rapid development of several Workers’ Unions, your employment attorney is obliged to advise you on whether to contest an unemployment compensation claim or pay up to protect your reputation.
  • Compliance with wage stipulations: As your attorney, it is their legal responsibility to ensure that all employees are compensated in compliance with the law.

Having a prominent employment attorney provides you with more benefits than you can imagine. For instance, such lawyers are highly skilled in the provision of responsive services in time to swiftly handle any occupational dispute with an employee. They are adept in the dissemination of practical solutions to unique challenges faced in the employment industry. More importantly, they will apply the law to solve your unique predicament and safeguard your business.

Despite the various regulations in place, employers can easily slip up and face a professional upheaval related to wrongful termination, sex and age discrimination and workplace safety. In such a case, do not roll over and agree to any demands presented by the plaintiff. On the contrary, get in touch with your employment lawyer for adequate representation against workplace pitfalls.

When is an employer required to give unemployment compensation?

Unemployment compensation is often an agreeable arrangement. If an employer has to lay off a worker, compensation is usually the least the company can do. But, sometimes employees will take advantage of unemployment compensation. In other words, they may demand it when they don't deserve it. Thus, employers should know in what circumstances the government requires them to pay.

Fired employees often qualify for unemployment compensation. A legit example is after a layoff. But, an employee that performs misconduct can be exempt from payment. This misconduct usually has to be intentional and recurring. Examples include:

  • Frequent and unexcused lateness and absence.
  • Not following workplace rules.
  • Being intoxicated while working. 
  • Sleeping while at work.
  • Lying. 
  • Sexual harassment. 
  • Causing considerable damage to a business.

Those who quit aren't usually supposed to receive unemployment compensation. But, sometimes there is a "good cause" for leaving which then necessitates reimbursement. "Good causes" can include:

  • Sexual harassment or discrimination that the employer didn't fix.
  • An employer relocated an employee's job or their spouse's job to somewhere far away.
  • An employer compromised an employee's health.
  • Convincing personal reasons, such as caring for a sick family member.

If you believe that one of your employees is wrong in requesting unemployment compensation, you may want to consult an attorney that specializes in employment law. They can help you determine whether your employee deserves compensation or not. And, if an employee demands reimbursement where none is due, an attorney can help fight for your company's rights. They may also prevent your business losing a significant amount of money as a result.

Avoiding complications when starting a business

Starting your own business is an exciting endeavor. Whether you have reached the decision to start your own company as a result of a declining economy and strained job market or you are in a position to finally go after your dream of opening a brick and mortar or online store, provide a service or sell your art for example, there are many things you will need to consider to avoid complications when starting a business.

Although starting a business is an exhilarating experience, just like with any major decision, there are many factors to consider. After you have decided on a name, ensuring that it is available to use, you then have to determine the type of company. Should the business be incorporated, are you going to start the business alone or with a partner, have you determined a plan and goals that are achievable?  If there is a partnership involved, every invested party needs to decide how funds will be disbursed, how partners are paid, what funds will be reinvested in the business. These are all questions to answer to ensure success.

If you plan to hire employees as opposed to independent contractors, you will have a host of additional parameters to meet. For example; when you are the employer, you must also ensure that all your bases are covered with regards to employees such as employment benefits, employment-related disputes and unemployment compensation. Paperwork, licenses, laws regarding taxation and ensuring you are adhering to all legislation requires a detailed plan of action.

There is help available to ensure the success of your new venture.  Contacting a business law attorney experienced with the many intricacies of starting and growing a viable business or company is the best place to start. They can walk you through every step of the process and take care of the legal issues to you can focus on seeing your dream come to fruition.

Are my employees exempt from the FLSA?

If you run your own business, you're probably aware that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) governs overtime pay, minimum wage and child labor standards. However, the ins and outs of the FLSA can make it a bit confusing to interpret. For example, you may be wondering when you have to start paying overtime or, depending on the business, whether your employees are even subject to the FLSA.

These are important questions to answer because noncompliance could result in penalties. So, let's take a look at some of the basics. The majority of workers in the U.S. do get protections from the FLSA, meaning they must be given the current minimum wage and paid overtime when they work over 40 hours in one week. 

However, there are some conditions under which your employees would be considered exempt. First, if they make $455 or more a week or $23,600 every year. Also, if the employee is paid a set salary. There are some other conditions as well:

  • If the employee has managerial supervision over at least two employees and is in a position to hire, fire or give assignments.
  • If the employee works in a highly skilled field such as teachers, lawyers, physicians and nurses.
  • Some administrative positions like human resources, public relations and accounting are also exempt.

Staying compliant with the FLSA isn't always easy. That's why it might be a good idea to speak with an employment law attorney who can help you make sure you're on the right side of the law.

A primer on defamation

As a business owner, there are few things more important to you than the reputation of your business. So when someone says something derogatory about your services or the way your business operates, it can hurt you both emotionally and financially. Potential clients may see it and decide not to use your business because of what someone else said. Now what if the derogatory remarks were false and made by a former employee or a competitor who is looking to ruin your business?

In that case you may be able to file a defamation suit and recover damages for the injuries to your business and your reputation. In order to prove that your were defamed, there are a few requirements:

  • A statement has been written or spoken about you by a second party.
  • That statement has to have been "published," meaning it was seen by a third party. This does not mean it has to be "published" in the traditional sense.
  • The statement has injured you in some tangible way, like damaging your reputation and causing you to lose out on work.
  • The statement has to be demonstrably false. True statements, even when they hurt, aren't considered defamation.
  • Finally, the statement can't fall into a protected category of speech. One example would be someone testifying at a trial.

 

If you feel the defamatory statement meets these requirements, you may want to consider speaking with an employment law attorney. He or she can listen to your case and may be able to help you move forward with it.

What Does the National Injunction on the Final Rule Mean for Employers?

A federal judge in Texas issued a preliminary injunction yesterday, November 22, 2016, that prevents the implementation of the Department of Labor's Final Rule regarding new overtime regulations. This preliminary injunction is nationwide and will affect all employers and employees who were subject to the Final Rule set to go into effect next week on December 1, 2016.

You can read more about the preliminary injunction on our blog here

You can also read more about the Final Rule on our blog here

So what does this mean for you as an employer?

If you have already made changes to an employee's salary or exempt status to comply with the Final Rule you should not change their salary or exempt status back. Doing so at this point without a final ruling will cause more upheaval and administrative costs. If upon the final judgment or other resolution the Final Rule is not implemented, employers who change salaries or statuses can move employees back into their original positions under the 2004 legislation with the comfort of knowing that they have the final answer.

If you have not made changes to an employee's salary or exempt status yet but do have employees who would be affected by the Final Rule, you don't have to make any changes now. Instead continue planning and be ready to make any necessary modification to comply should the preliminary injunction be lifted or a final resolution implement the Rules.

All employers should continue to plan and look for updates on the matter. The preliminary injunction is just that - preliminary. The litigation will continue, the DOL will challenge the preliminary injunction and there must be a final judgment or other resolution amongst the parties. In the meantime, the preliminary injunction will stand and the current salary threshold of $23,660 will be in effect. If the States Plaintiffs prevail it is possible that the preliminary injunction could become permanent, that is the Final Rule will never be implemented and the current threshold will remain. However, if the States Plaintiffs fail to prove their case, the Final Rule could be implemented swiftly. The parties could also reach another resolution or the new presidential administration could intervene and propose a modified Final Rule. If such intervention occurs, resolution is unlikely in 2017.

This is a good time for all employers to evaluate all workers and their statuses. Employers can be investigated, fined and can incur civil costs for inadvertent overtime violations as well as misclassification of employees and independent contractors. If you have questions regarding the Final Rule or other employment matter please contact Kisner Law Firm

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Pittsburgh, PA 15219
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