Employment law involves every federal and state law and court ruling that regulates the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees in the employment relationship. It sets the legal boundaries around everything from hiring, pay requirements, employee classification, workplace safety, discrimination, termination and more. Below are the most popular employment law issues faced by business.
Claims of discrimination
Discriminations claims may be based upon a number of protected characteristics, depending upon the location of the place of employment. Such characteristics include race, color, gender (including pregnancy), national origin, religion, marital status, disability, and sexual orientation. Liability and the potential damages that could result from a claim of discrimination vary based upon the number of employees who are employed by the employer. Any action taken by the employer that alters the material terms or conditions of an individuals’ employment may be considered discriminatory. Claims are investigated in Florida either by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR), or a local equal employment/human rights office. Private Corporate Counsel business labor and employment lawyers help businesses proactively avoid claims of discrimination and vigorously defend baseless claims in court to protect businesses from bad workers.
Claims of harassment
Harassment claims may be based upon any of the protected characteristics detailed above. To legally amount to actionable harassment, the conduct must be so severe and pervasive in the workplace to both the complainant and a subjectively reasonable person. Claims of harassment are also investigated by the Equal Employment Counsel ("EEOC"), state agencies, such as the Florida Commission of Human Rights ("FCHR") and local agencies. Private Corporate Counsel business labor and employment lawyers help businesses proactively avoid claims of harassment and vigorously defend baseless claims in court to protect businesses from bad workers.
Claims of retaliation
Retaliation claims arise when an employer takes an adverse employment action against an employee for having engaged in a protected activity. Protected activities include making a formal or informal complaint of discrimination or harassment (internally or to a government agency), participating in an investigation related to discrimination or harassment, or being associated with an individual who has made a complaint. Generally, Courts do not require retaliation claims to be investigated by a government agency if they would naturally flow from the original complaint of discrimination or harassment. An employee is not required to prove the underlying claim, but only that he/she reasonably believed the action was discriminatory. Private Corporate Counsel business labor and employment lawyers help businesses proactively avoid claims of retaliation and vigorously defend baseless claims in court to protect businesses from bad workers.
Employee vs. Independent contractor
Employees and independent contractors are treated differently in a variety of ways, including pay and benefits. Whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor is a very fact-sensitive issue and depends on many factors, including the amount of control the employer has over the individual, such as when they work and how they conduct their work. Whether the employer designates an individual as an employee or an independent contractor is not controlling; Courts will examine many aspects of the relationship between the parties in making the determination. Private Corporate Counsel business labor and employment lawyers help businesses classify workers properly, draft contracts to confirm classification, and defend businesses against claims and misclassifications to avoid liability.
Intellectual Property Rights
Enforcement of intellectual property ("IP") rights, especially trade secrets: Intellectual property and trade secrets are very valuable to a company. Protecting this information from dissemination by current or past employees is vital to success. To prohibit others from disclosing or using this information is generally achieved by a binding agreement between the parties. Should an individual violate that agreement, legal action may be taken against them to enforce the agreement and make the company whole. PCCBLE Lawyers draft contracts to protect businesses IP, and vigorously defend their IP rights in court against bad workers.
All non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay, i.e., regular pay plus an additional fifty percent, for all hours worked over forty hours per weekly pay period. This does not apply to exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act or to independent contractors. Should an employer fail to pay the overtime wage to eligible employees, it may be liable for up to three times the unpaid overtime pay, for a period dating back two to three years prior to the complaint. PCCBLE lawyers advise businesses and have to structure their payroll to proactively avoid overtime pay claims, and vigorously defend frivious overtime claims in courts.
Paid vs. Unpaid Leave
Employers generally establish when an employee may take paid leave as opposed to unpaid leave. Although the matter is usually left to the discretion of the employer (absent an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement), the policy should be applied in the same manner towards all similarly situated employees. Applying a leave policy in a biased manner may lead to claims under civil rights laws, including Title VII and the Equal Pay Act. PCCBLE lawyers advise businesses on how to structure and manage their benefits package to proactively avoid disputes.
Unemployment compensation claims
Most employers are required to take part in the unemployment system in Florida, depending upon the number of employees. Unless the employee resigned voluntarily or was terminated for cause (as defined by the legislature), an employee is entitled to “reemployment assistance benefits” for a certain period of time. If an ex-employee files for such benefits, an employer can contest the entitlement. PCCBLE lawyers represent businesses in disputed unemployment compensation claims.
Employers must compensate employees and independent contractors at the rate agreed upon by the parties. The failure to make payment in a timely manner may result in claims made to the Department of Labor or other civil rights agencies. PCCBLE lawyers advise businesses on how to create some processes and procedures to proactively avoid claims for unpaid wages and aggressively defend frivolous claims
Businesses must take the steps to protect themselves and minimize the chances of any of these issues materializing. Therefore, a proactive approach is critical, including ensuring that the on-boarding process is comprehensive, that workers are verified and classified properly, that all workers sign contracts which protect the business, and that the business’ processes and procedures are updated regularly to comply with state and federal laws, and with the case law of the jurisdictions in which they operate.
Our employment and labor attorneys have extensive experience helping businesses proactively address all employment and labor issues. In addition, they have experience litigating these issues to enforce the business’ rights, and defending businesses against claims made by workers.
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While contracts are an effective tool to protect your business against risks and threats from internal workers and external partners, you can enhance this protection by having good policies and procedures in place to guide your workers in their daily tasks and to ensure that everyone complies with the standards you set for the business. This will help create and maintain the positive culture you want and need to improve and grow your business. Therefore, it is a good idea to consult with your Private Corporate Counsel about the following:
Vacation, Sick Leave and Volunteer Leave Policies
Pay and Overtime Policies
Conflict Resolution Policies
Performance Improvement Plan Policies
Grooming and Dress Policies
Social Media Policies
Crisis and Disaster Relief Policies
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