5 Workplace Laws Employees Need to Understand

Employment at Will

An at-will employee generally has no right to their job. Many employees believe that there are laws that protect them from being fired without reason or notice, but those employees are wrong. Being an at-will employee means that, absent a contractual relationship, your boss does not have to provide you the benefits of such protections as notice or reason for termination. While this may be discouraging news, this also allows you the benefit of quitting your job with no notice or no reason as well.

Pay Rate and Hours

The only reason that most people work is to get paid, but in order to have a just wage, you must understand the laws that govern your pay rate and hours. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides the structure of the right for you to earn a fair pay rate for the hours that you put in work. The FLSA is a federal law, so all employees are covered. The law has established:

  • 40-hour work weeks
  • Overtime pay
  • Minimum wage
  • Child labor laws
  • Equal pay for equal work regardless of sex or gender, and
  • Paid time off

Each state’s payment laws may differ within the limitations set by the FLSA, but the FLSA sets minimum standards.

Employment Discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for upholding federal laws that make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees. In order for the EEOC protections to apply, you must have been discriminated against because of your race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. The EEOC will also protect employees, who have complained or filed a claim for discrimination, from the termination of their employment.

Family and Medical Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is another federal program that assists employees with balancing their work and personal lives without jeopardizing their employment position. The FMLA provides employees with job protection while participating in a 12-week unpaid leave from work. FMLA will cover situations such as serious medical conditions, caring for an immediate family member, allowing time to spend with newborn or newly adopted children, or military obligations.  Additionally, there are other factors to consider when taking this time off, including:

  • Is your employer covered? (businesses with 50 or more employees must comply)
  • Are you covered as an employee?
  • Is your reason for the leave protected?
  • Did you meet proper notice requirements?

Privacy Rights

While there is a general right for an employer to monitor their employees, employers may only monitor those actions that take place on or in employer property. There is a clear line between personal property and business property, and employers must comply. Company desks, files, lockers, and cars are considered employer property and, therefore, are subject to searches. Digital records, on the other hand, often blur this clear line. That is why it is important to understand that an employer may also monitor any action that is transmitted via a work computer, email account, phone or mobile device. If you are participating in private conduct at work, make sure this conduct is through your personal property. For example, an employer has no right to monitor the texts, calls, or emails sent through your personal mobile device, but will have the right to monitor those actions taken on a company’s mobile device.

If you have any concerns regarding employment law issues, contact the New York employment law attorney Steven Mitchell Sack to protect your rights. Call Steven Mitchell Sack, “The Employee’s Lawyer,” at (917) 371-8000 or email him at sms@StevenSack.com.

Another Court Settlement in Unpaid Intern Case

Recently, American fashion designers and former child actresses Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have moved to settle a lawsuit brought by a former intern. In September 2015, Shahista Lalani filed suit against the the sisters, known collectively as the Olsen twins, in New York Supreme Court, alleging that she worked 50-hour weeks without pay or college credit. Ms. Lalani filed a “proposed class action to join other unpaid interns” who had worked for the Olsen twins. She requested the court grant damages, minimum wage, and overtime. In 2012, Ms. Lalani worked for the clothing line “The Row,” a high-end fashion line owned by the Olsen twins.

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Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

On January 11, 2017, a proposed class action discrimination lawsuit was filed against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in Detroit, Michigan by the company’s former diversity manager Marlin G. Williams. In her discrimination suit, Ms. Williams alleges that FCA’s employee evaluation process impedes the success of African-American employees at a disproportionate rate. This lawsuit has the potential to affect many African-American managers who are subject to an evaluation process. Class-action status is the designation that can be approved by a federal judge if a plaintiff can prove numerous employees were also harmed in the same manner.

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New York State Eases Burden on Hiring Ex-Convicts

On December 21st the Cuomo Administration implemented a new regulation prohibiting insurance companies from refusing coverage for crime-related losses caused by employees. Effective January 1, 2017, the regulation allows businesses to obtain commercial crime coverage after sustaining losses in a situation involving an employee’s dishonesty.

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New Proposal from DOJ Seeks to Reduce Employment Discrimination against Immigrants

Law360 recently reported that The Department of Justice is proposing a new rule that would implement changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act, including how certain terms would be defined in regards to the so-called “unfair, immigration-related employment practices” based on the employee’s immigration status or nation of origin. Continue reading “New Proposal from DOJ Seeks to Reduce Employment Discrimination against Immigrants”

Fired African-American Car Salesman’s Lawsuit Can Proceed

An African-American who claims he was subjected to racial discrimination and a hostile work environment — only to be fired — has been allowed by a U.S. District Court to pursue a lawsuit against his former manager and the dealership where he worked.

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Fox News Host Files Sexual Harassment Suit Against Television Executive

Fox News Channel host Gretchen Carlson recently filed a sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit against the network’s chairman and CEO, Roger Ailes, after she refused his alleged sexual advances towards her. On July 6, Ms. Carlson filed a complaint against Mr. Ailes with the Superior Court of New Jersey in Bergen County, stating that, after she refused Mr. Ailes’ sexual advances towards her and complained about his behavior, he unlawfully retaliated against her. Ms. Carlson was terminated from her position as the host of the network’s afternoon program The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson on June 23. Prior to this role, Ms. Carlson was the co-host of Fox and Friends until 2013.

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Significant Employee versus Independent Contractor Developments

All companies must now be familiar with the Labor Department’s new rules defining independent contractor versus employee status for several reasons.  In addition to working for principals as an independent worker, many rep firms hire employees to assist in their businesses.  When are workers employees? When are they contractors?  These are differences in definitions that have huge legal implications.

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NYC Employers Fined for Not Allowing Employees Sick Leave

In 2014, New York City Mayor de Blasio signed into effect the Earned Sick Time Act, and later approved further amendments that would offer employees greater protection by expanding the Act.  Recently, companies such as Best Buy and FedEx have been fined for not complying with the law that went into effect in April 2014.

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Investigation of Employee’s Social Network Sites

In today’s technology driven society, almost everyone has some type of social media account.  While most young people think nothing of the reflection your page might have regarding prospective employment, it is estimated that three-quarters of employers look at applicants’ Facebook presence to see what they’re doing outside of work.  While CareerBuilder.com estimates approximately 1 in 10 young people have been denied jobs based off their Facebook postings, there are laws that protect a worker’s privacy when it comes to what these employers may take into account when selecting a new hire.

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