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March 2017 Archives

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.

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Kisner Law Firm, LLC
Gulf Tower
707 Grant St., Suite 2646
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
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Phone: 412-880-5605
Fax: 412-235-6704

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