04/30/2012 // Los Angeles, CA, USA // Keller Grover LLP // California Employment Lawyer Eric Grover // (press release)
Los Angeles, CA (California Employment Lawyer News) — In our litigious society, you can never be too careful. And even a careless mistake can become a valid reason for an employee to file a lawsuit against you. For employers, simply trying to be nice and go the extra mile to help an employee could land you in court for inadvertently violating employment laws, reports California employment attorney Eric Grover of Keller Grover LLP.
In a new report the California Chamber of Commerce details that “employers may unintentionally violate employment laws simply by trying to provide some flexibility for an employee, save money for the company or just be nice.”
According to the California Chamber of Commerce, the following are the top 10 mistakes that can often result in a lawsuit:
1. Classifying all staff as exempt: According to state and federal laws, only certain positions can be exempt from overtime laws, including meal and rest breaks. While it may seem easier to just put your whole staff on salary, labor laws will not permit it for every type of position.
An employee can only be considered exempt in positions that include high-level executives, administrative, professional employees, and certain artists and outside sales staff. An exempt employee is paid a specific amount of money, no matter how many hours they work in a week.
Failing to accurately classify your employees can result in lawsuits for failing to provide meal and rest breaks, as well as overtime wages.
2. Allowing staff to work through meals so they can leave early: Even if an employee is willing to forego breaks in order to leave early, it is illegal and could land you in court. Non-exempt employees are required to take at least a 30-minute meal break and a 10-minute rest break for every four hours that they work. If both meal and rest break violations take place in the same day, then the employee is entitled to two additional hours of pay.
3. Classifying all personnel as “independent contractors” because it’s easier: While it may be easier to classify your employees as independent contractors, issues can be raised when workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance and state liability insurance or paid family leave benefits come into the picture. In addition, problems can also arise when the Franchise Tax Board or the Internal Revenue Service are looking for owed taxes, since the “independent contractor” hasn’t been paying and/or owes. The employer can actually end up owing this money to the tax collector.
4. Failing to provide adequate training for supervisory staff on handling sexual harassment and discrimination: Sexual harassment and discrimination does happen in the workplace. Avoid lawsuits by properly training your personnel on how to identify and handle these situations.
5. Allowing employees to determine their own daily schedules: Unless classified differently, most employees are restricted by law as to how many hours they can work without being paid overtime wages. “A valid alternative workweek schedule requires that employers follow specific steps to institute such a program. Failure to meet the specific requirements can mean back pay for overtime, as well as penalties,” the report stated.
6. Firing an employee that took a leave of absence: Employees have legal protection when they are away from work for various reasons, including workers’ compensation, disability, pregnancy, family and medical leave, military leave, jury duty and many more, according to the report.
7. Failing to give employees their last paycheck because they didn’t return company property: While it seems reasonable to hold a former employee’s check if they haven’t returned company property like a laptop, it is against labor laws. In California, a large penalty can be levied if the final paycheck isn’t given to the employee by the state designated deadline.
8. Offering employee loans then deducting the payments from paychecks: California’s Labor Code section 224 permits deductions authorized by law and those authorized by the employee for benefits such as health insurance or benefits. No other deductions are permitted, the report stated.
9. Using non-compete agreements to protect confidential information: In California non-compete agreements are prohibited, with a few exceptions. There are legal options for protecting trade secrets, like customer lists and pricing information. Employees have the right to work and earn a living.
10. Enforcing a “use it or lose it” vacation policy to avoid paying a lump sum at termination: This is not permitted in California. If an employee has earned vacation, it is essentially a form of wages that cannot just be voided. You may place a reasonable cap on the accrual of vacation, which stops the accrual of vacation when a certain level of accrual is reached. But you cannot take away what the employee has already accrued, the report said.
Keller Grover is an experienced employment law firm that has played leading roles in a wide variety of employment related claims, including wage and hour, breach of contract cases and discrimination and harassment cases based on race, sex, age, disability and other legally protected categories. Keller Grover LLP is dedicated to helping workers whose wage and hour rights have been violated. For more information about the Los Angeles employment attorneys at Keller Grover and employment law cases, please visit www.kellergover.com.
Address: 16133 Ventura Blvd., Encino, CA 91436
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