Are you one of those companies that is still trying to enforce a non-compete agreement against lower wage workers? If so, heed this advice. STOP. Many states have already either outright banned the use of non-compete agreements except in very limited circumstances (California and North Dakota), and still more prohibit employers from entering into non-compete agreements with lower wage workers. Illinois already bans non-compete agreements for employees earning less than $13.00/hour and Maryland is set to pass their own law prohibiting non-competes for employees earning less than $15.00/hour. If you are questioning the validity of your non-compete, contact one of our attorneys at myHRcounsel for a consultation.
Picture it: Sicily, 1922. No wait, sorry. Wrong post! Picture it. You are the HR manager and you’ve noticed lately that one of your employees seems to be down, unusually sad, has changed their eating habits or just seems to be generally suffering from “the blues”. Are you able to approach this employee to find out what’s been going on? Probably not, as the EEOC has said that employees may keep information about their medical conditions private. There are, however, exceptions to this rule. Employers may ask questions about mental health if an employee asks for a reasonable accommodation, if you made a conditional offer of employment and ask all applicants for the same medical information, if your company is governed by an affirmative action policy and you are tracking disability status for all, or there is evidence that the employee may not be able to perform the functions of their job or may be a safety risk. Outside of these four exceptions, an employer should not inquire after an employee’s mental wellness. If you have questions about this or want help analyzing a current situation you are experiencing with an employee, contact one of our attorneys at myHRcounsel for expert guidance.
Did you know that even if your company has a clearly stated and equally applied call-in procedure spelled out in your handbook, that you may need to deviate from that in order to stay in compliance with the FMLA? In the event of an employee’s need for unforeseeable leave, such as a car accident or heart attack, if the employee is unable to comply with your requirement that they, for example, call in 2 hours before their regularly scheduled shift, you will have to make concessions for the employee’s failure to comply. Further, you should allow others to call in on your employee’s behalf. One employer found this out the hard way. The employee was in such a depressed state that she was unable to speak at all, much less call-in to report her own absence. Her family member called in on her behalf, but the employer failed to accept it as a valid call-in and terminated the employee after she failed to show up for several days. Not unsurprisingly, this employer ended up getting sued by the employee. Contact our attorneys at myHRcounsel for help wading through the ever-complex web of FMLA laws and regulations!
Does your company have a practice of running background checks on applicants even before the applicant comes in for an interview? If so, you could be violating the background check laws in a number of states. Many states require that an employer make a conditional offer of employment (i.e., offering the applicant the job) prior to running any background checks. This ensures that companies are giving those who may have a criminal history a chance to compete on a level playing field with other candidates. If you find that the candidate you choose has a criminal history after making the offer of employment, you then have to decide whether that history disqualifies the candidate for that position. myHRcounsel urges employers not to take a hard line as to what crimes are considered automatically disqualifying. States like California require that you only deny jobs to those whose criminal histories are directly related the particular position for which the applicant is applying. If you have questions about your practices or would like assistance drafting a compliant background check policy, please contact one of the attorneys here at myHRcounsel.
If you are on the ball, your company probably already has anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and anti-retaliation provisions spelled out in the employee handbook. However, have you considered implementing an anti-bullying policy? While an anti-bullying policy is not required, at least in the state of Tennessee so far, it would be wise to consider adopting one. This is because Tennessee lawmakers have passed The Healthy Workplace Act which would provide employers with immunity from certain lawsuits arising out of an employee’s bullying. This is especially poignant as research has shown that more employees are likely to be bullied than experience discrimination or harassment on the basis of a protected class. Bullying in the workplace is an insidious issue and one that often goes under the radar. However, curbing bullying behavior in the workplace is of the utmost importance to preserve worker morale, retention and safety. If you would like assistance with drafting an anti-bullying policy, please contact one of our attorneys at myHRcounsel by emailing email@example.com.
When an employee calls in sick, does your company have a policy that requires the employee find their own replacement to cover the missed shift? If so, you should check whether your city or state has a paid sick leave law. If it does, dig further to see if this is something that is acceptable under that law. Many of the paid sick leave laws across the country prohibit an employer from requiring that their employee find a replacement worker if they call in sick. In one such lawsuit involving this issue, a Minnesota gas station was ordered to pay an employee $11,000 for violating the paid sick leave law by requiring the employee to find a replacement worker when he called in. To avoid this same fate and get some help digging through the confusing labyrinth of paid sick leave laws, consult your experts at myHRcounsel.
Do you employ workers in multiple jurisdictions? If so, have you checked whether there are paid sick leave laws on the books in those jurisdictions? If you have employees working in multiple jurisdictions that require employers provide employees with paid sick time, you must be sure that you are complying with each law’s unique differences. Some of the differences among various paid sick leave laws include: the amount of time an employee must work in that jurisdiction in order to qualify to accrue paid sick leave, the amount of hours an employee may accrue for each hour worked, the annual usage and accrual caps, the amounts of carry-over from one year to the next, among several others. There are a couple of ways you could handle these differences. One option would be to create a separate policy for each jurisdiction and apply that policy to only those employees working in that jurisdiction. This could become difficult from a recordkeeping and tracking standpoint, though, as you would have to use different tracking methods for different employees based on where they work. You could also choose the most employee-friendly statute of the jurisdictions where employees work and apply that to all employees. However, this option could give some employees a lot of paid sick leave that they would not ordinarily be entitled to. Bottom line: no matter which option you choose, you must be sure that you are complying with each jurisdiction’s laws. Contact the attorneys at myHRcounsel to discuss how you can be sure you are complying with the myriad paid sick leave laws throughout the country and get a legally compliant multi-jurisdiction paid sick leave policy.
If regular, consistent attendance is an essential function of an employee’s role, be sure that you are clearly indicating how and why that regular attendance is so important. This is crucially important for a number reasons, but chief among them is when an employee requests leave as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If an employee requests an accommodation of intermittent, unpaid leave under the ADA, but an employer has a clearly defined job description citing regular attendance as a major part of that employee’s job, it may be possible for an employer to deny that request. Remember, though, it is always wise to engage in the interactive process to find another accommodation that may allow the employee to continue meeting the expectations of their role. For help deciphering the ADA, the interactive process, or possible accommodations, consult one of our knowledgeable attorneys today.
Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to change an employee’s schedule, hours, pay or benefits and you worried about whether you could (especially if the change negatively impacts the employee)? We here at myHRcounsel have seen this question many times. An employer will write in and say that they want to cut an employee’s pay based on a variety of factors such as business necessity or poor performance. However, the employer worries because that employee is in a protected class and so they wonder if they can make that change. First, as long as the employee is an at-will employee and there is no written document in place that states otherwise, employers are free to modify the terms and conditions of a worker’s employment (including hours, pay, benefits, etc.). Second, if you want or need to make the change, be sure that the reasoning behind the change is well-documented and is non-discriminatory. In the case of reducing an employee’s pay for poor performance, as an example, be sure that you have documented the poor performance and attempts to improve it prior to making this decision. This way if the employee does perceive a discriminatory intent, you as the employer have documentation to prove a legitimate, non-discriminatory intent to justify the change in the worker’s pay. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to make unfavorable changes to an employee’s terms and conditions of employment and you would like some legal guidance on how to effect that change, please consult one of myHRcounsel’s attorneys today!
Are you sure that you are providing ALL of the various types of leave that your employees are entitled to? Did you know that if you are an Oregon employer, veterans are entitled to take the day off on Veteran’s Day? Maine requires employers give employees 15 days of Family Military Leave each time the employee’s spouse, domestic partner or child is set to go on a 180-day or longer military deployment? Many states, including North Carolina and Minnesota, allow an employee to take time off from work to attend their children’s school-related functions. Staying on top of the widely varied leave laws throughout the country can be a daunting task. Enlist the help of myHRcounsel’s attorneys today to ensure you are complying with them all!