Employers beware: wage cases at all-time high

I’ve been reporting on the changes in wage and labor laws that the restaurant and bar industry needs to know about.  I’ve also reported about the increasing trend of audits and employee initiated lawsuits against employers.

As this trend is so alarming, I want to keep it on the front of your mind.  If you haven’t already taken action, be sure you have started using the new wage notice and the new I-9 forms.  After reading my blog posts, if you are looking for more information, you might try www.TheHRSpecialist.com.  It has a lot of great articles with practical advice you can put into action.  Here are some summaries of articles from the January 2014 newsletter:

  • Employers can be liable for discrimination for requiring English fluency for employees in positions where it is not truly necessary to effectively perform the job duties.
  • Those involved in the hiring process should never make notes on resumes and applications.  These notes are the most common source of evidence in employment discrimination claims.  Keep notes separate from the applicant file.
  • Altering employee time sheets can result in personal liability and loss of your personal assets (home, investments, IRAs, bank accounts, business, inheritances, collectables, and other assets).
  • Allowing employees to eat at their desk while working can lead to labor and wage penalties.  Even when employees don’t want to take a break, supervisors should require the employee to take the break, and to record that it was taken.
  • Even “white collar” employees can earn overtime.  Anyone earning a salary of less than $455/week or $23,660 annually is automatically entitled to overtime for work over 40 hours.
  • Smoking breaks are paid work time.
  • Mentioning body odor or hygiene issues isn’t discriminatory.
  • Assigning employees to customers with “like” cultural or racial background can be deemed discrimination.
  • Bad weather no-shows can have a full day’s pay deducted (even salaried employees) but not if the business closes for bad weather.
  • Social media policies are necessary in this day and age.
  • Beware of companies trying to sell employment related posters and forms – most are available for free.
  • Employees are not necessarily entitled to access their personnel file.
  • There are complex rules about paying employees for travel time, including attending overnight conferences and employees required to travel to customer sites to perform work (consultants, repairmen, etc.).
  • Employers cannot require medical treatment of any kind, including visiting therapists (ex. anger management or addiction counseling).
  • It is a good idea to post all jobs internally as well as externally.
  • In employment references, you can be exposed to liability for saying anything more than job duties and dates of employment.  If you want to say more, run it past an employment lawyer first.