Tag Archives: employment

Employee Lawsuits, what should you do

Employee lawsuits are more common than you think.   When you run a small business, it’s easy to feel like your employees are friends or even family members. But in a court of law, they are your employees — and, as their employer, you should take steps to protect yourself and your company in the event that one of them sues you.

The FLSA: Learn It, Know It, Live It

The most common type of lawsuit brought by employees is a “wage and hour” case, or a dispute over whether or not you’ve adequately compensated them for hours they’ve worked. The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act addresses these issues, although each state, county, and city may have their own additional rules.

Most cases begin when “non-exempt” (or hourly, part-time) employees are treated like “exempt” (or salaried, full-time) employees. “Exempt” means exempt from the FLSA. In other words, salaried employees may work overtime without being paid extra, whereas hourly employees must receive overtime pay.

“There’s a booming industry in these types of cases, where employees are not getting paid time and a half,” says Keith Gutstein, partner at Kaufman Dolowich Voluck & Gonzo. He adds that that restaurants, hotels, gas stations, car washes, landscapers, and other cash businesses are at greatest risk.

No contract can waive an employee’s right to be protected by the FLSA. There is often an agreement to work overtime without being paid time and a half, Gutstein says, “but the fact is, it’s illegal, even though employer and employee are happy. After termination, they often realize they can go back and get all the overtime that is owed to them.” In fact, the FLSA compensates workers for up to three years of back overtime — and some states award twice that. Also, if you’re at fault, the FLSA doubles the award and requires you to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees, too.

To protect yourself, keep pristine records of employee hours and pay. Without records, an employee could claim any rate of pay and hours. Also, if the government gets wind that you pay workers in cash, it will investigate to insure that it’s collected all the tax revenue it’s due. Many times, in fact, an employee unwittingly triggers an investigation by filing for unemployment benefits.

Discrimination and Harassment

Many other employee lawsuits derive from behavior on the job, and, as such, can be tough to defend against. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission protects employees from discrimination if they are a member of a “protected class” based on gender, age, race, and disability. (Sexual orientation and marital status are not protected under federal law, but they are in many states.) The EEOC will even prosecute on behalf of claimants, so your employee does not even have to retain a lawyer to launch such a suit.

In order to file a discrimination or harassment complaint with the EEOC, an employee must prove four things: that she’s a member of a protected class, that she’s qualified and performing the job in a satisfactory manner, that she’s suffered an adverse action (such as lack of promotion or termination), and that the adverse action was the result of membership in a protected class.

If a court allows the suit to proceed, it doesn’t mean the employee has won, it just shifts the burden back to the employer to prove that the adverse action was based on legitimate business reasons, Gutstein explains. “You have to rely on documentation—counselings, warnings, write-ups,” he says.

Your most important tool, however, is your employee handbook, which should outline company policies about discrimination and harassment, your disciplinary process, and should make clear that there is an open door policy for reporting any and all complaints about discrimination and harassment. There also must be appropriate training around these policies.

Assuming that you have an employee handbook and such practices in place, you can fall back on the Faragher/Ellerth defense, which allows an employer to file for a case to be dismissed because there was an open-door policy for reporting discrimination and harassment that the employee did not use before filing suit.

5 best practices to avoid employee  lawsuits

Free Biotech Job Training And Education In San Diego

 

BRIDGE  logo explains goal of job training program.

San Diego State University and two other local organizations offer free biotech education and job training to more than a thousand people.

Veterans, unemployed and displaced adults living in San Diego and Imperial counties can apply for the program called BRIDGE.

Above: BRIDGE logo explains goal of job training program.

The acronym stands for Biotechnology, Readiness, Immersion, Certificates & Degrees for Gainful Employment.

BRIDGE is a collaborative effort of SDSU, the BIOCOM Institute, Miramar College and the San Diego Workforce Partnership.

The program offers hands-on job training and formal education up to a Master’s degree for adults who want to work in San Diego’s biotech industry.

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Networking Advice: 5 Tips for an Effective Elevator Pitch

Tell me … what do you do, who you do it for, why you do it and what can you do for me?

And tell me quickly.

Such is the challenge of the elevator pitch – a personal marketing spiel seldom delivered in elevators, but a staple of networking.

A skillful elevator pitch can be the foundation upon which new professional relationships are built. A not-so-skillfull pitch will make sure you are forgotten — or, even worse, leave a bad impression with a potentially valuable contact.

“The perfect elevator pitch should take no more than 30 seconds and incorporate your number of years of experience, areas of expertise, key skills and some key projects or brands that you have been associated with,” says Jessica Bedford of niche recruiting firm Artisan Creative. “If there is anything that makes you stand out, work that into your pitch as well.”

Yes, easier said than done – but doable, nonetheless.

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The Top 10 Things Employers Get Sued For

Employers may unintentionally violate employment laws and never realize the risk they create for the company. Trying to provide some flexibility for an employee, saving money for the company, or just being nice are all ways that an act of kindness can become a business liability.

CalChamber’s “The Top 10 Things Employers Do to Get Sued” white paper details some of the mistakes that could lead to employee lawsuits. Topics include:

  • Exempt and nonexempt employee classification
  • Meal breaks
  • Independent contractor status
  • Harassment and discrimination
  • Hours of work
  • Termination
  • Leaves of Absence
  • Final paycheck
  • Deductions from wages
  • Vacation policy

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Employment Forecast Raised by U.S. Business Economists

Employment will improve more this year than economists previously estimated, helping the world’s largest economy to keep growing, a private survey showed.

Payrolls will rise 170,000 a month on average in 2012, up from a November projection of 127,000, according to the results of a survey by the National Association for Business Economics issued today in Washington. Unemployment will average 8.3 percent, down from 8.9 percent in the prior forecast.

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Green economy weathered recession well, report says

Since the mid-1990s, green jobs in San Diego County have grown more than twice as fast as the overall average and weathered the past two recessions better than most other industries, according to a report released Tuesday by Next10, a research organization focused on the environmental industry.

According to the report, there were 20,500 “green economy” workers in San Diego County at the beginning of 2010 — the most-recent year for comprehensive data — compared to just 12,400 in 1995.

Those jobs — including solar-panel installers, wind-turbine manufacturers, biofuel developers, energy conservation consultants, recycling collectors, wastewater processors and “clean-building” designers — grew at an average pace of 4 percent per year, compared to 1.8 percent for the overall workforce.

Even at the depths of the Great Recession, green jobs held steady in San Diego County. Only 300 jobs were lost — a 1 percent drop in employment — that compared to a 4.5 percent drop in the county’s total workforce.

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