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Archive for the ‘Employment Law’ Category

Does Video Surveillance in the Workplace go too far?

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Privacy rights for employees in the private sector are essentially not realized in a legal sense. This is due to the fact that employers must protect themselves, their office, their equipment, any trade secrets, client data and their employees from theft or vandalism. Employers also have a right to prevent employees from misbehaving on the job, committing illegal acts or injuring others, so that the security of the company comes foremost, to the detriment of the individual rights of the employee for privacy.

As a result of that, it means that an employer can implement video surveillance without making the employees aware that they have done so. Most employers however do, in fact, inform their employees, simply as a means of protecting the company and the employee in the case of lawsuits from employees. Generally, the laws in most states regarding employee privacy rights, if any laws even exist, do not allow such video surveillance in areas where reasonable privacy can be expected, such as a restroom or changing area. If an employer has placed video surveillance in an area of the office that you feel is inappropriate, you have the right to question such surveillance practices or even sue the company if you feel that your privacy has been violated. However, the law is more generally on the side of the employer, who, as stated, has the right to protect their company and other employees as they see fit, even at the expense of employee privacy.

While employers can observe employees actions within the office by video, not just what they are doing but where they are going as well, most employers also monitor their employees’ use of office equipment. This can consist of Internet usage, including what sites they visit and any information they may post on websites and/or blogs, as well as phone usage, including conversations and what numbers are dialed.

For employers, this type of surveillance can do more than one thing. Firstly, it provides a cost savings to the employer, as it can act as a theft deterrent. Further, video surveillance of employees can ensure that they are effectively performing their jobs, handling their time on the job efficiently, and working to their full potential for the company. This is the type of behavior that the employer obviously wants to see, but they are also watching for other behavior as well.

For employees, video surveillance can be a friend or a foe. Obviously, for the model employee, being observed while working can be a plus, as this employee exhibits the behavior the company desires. Also, being watched can protect an employee from false accusations of misdeeds or theft. However, for those employees who may want to spend more time playing than working, it’s not as much of a benefit.

When hiring, an employer should inform new employees of any and all employee privacy rights policies. This will ensure that an employee will not unknowingly violate such policies, as some violations may result in immediate dismissal.

What To Do If Your Employer Asks For A Police Check

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Many employers now require a background check for new hires and even for promotions. There are several reasons why they may want this information. It could be that check is required by law for the particular position, because they have been involved in lawsuits over hiring practices, because of heightened security due to recent events, or because they were provided with false information by previous employees.

Some people are uncomfortable with someone investigating their background and personal history. Not necessarily because they have anything to hide, but simply because they realize that information could be incorrect or seen out of context, and that it could have a detrimental effect on their career.

The information in a background check can come from many places, including driving records, vehicle registration, credit records, criminal records, social security records, educational records, court records, workers’ compensation records, bankruptcy records, character references, neighbor interviews, medical records, property records, military records, state licensing records, drug tests, past employers, personal references, incarceration records, and the sex offender list. Also, employers more and more frequently check online, at social networking sites, like MySpace and Facebook.

There are a few steps you can take to prepare yourself for a background check, and be sure that no surprises await you and your potential employer.

1. Get a copy of your credit report and be sure that everything on there is correct. Dispute any information that looks incorrect.
2. Be sure that any information contained in court records is correct, especially if you have an arrest records, or even just for divorce matter or other lawsuits.
3. Get a copy of your record from the Department of Motor Vehicles and be sure that any driving infractions or DUI convictions have been expunged. If they haven’t, be honest.
4. Check yourself out by hiring a company to do a background check on you. That way you can see what might be uncovered by a potential employer first hand. If you have had a background check performed on you previously, see if you can get a copy of that report as well.
5. If possible, get copies of documentation from your personnel file at your last job or jobs. This information cannot always be obtainable by law, but if it is, it might give you lots of info.
6. Carefully read any job application or consent forms that you sign. Be clear what you are allowing the potential employer to check out about you.
7. Make sure your neighbors, colleagues, friends and family know that they may have to answer questions about you. This way they know to expect it and will know that they have your permission to speak.
8. Google yourself. Be sure to check your name in the major search engines to see what you’ve been up to. Could anything you’ve posted be offensive to a potential employer? Remove it. Also, track down anywhere else it might be posted and request that site to remove the info as well.

Discrimination on the job and how to handle it

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

According to Federal law, companies are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, pregnancy, national origin, religion, disability, citizenship status and age. State and local laws may differ on discrimination regarding weight, sexual orientation and other forms of prejudice. If you have been or are a victim of discrimination in the workplace there are certain steps you can take, both individually and legally, in order to ensure that your rights are protected.

First, report any discrimination of any kind to the human resources department at your place of employment. This will not only give your employer an opportunity to dispel the discrimination amicably, but will also show a record of complaints you have filed in case you do decide to bring a lawsuit against the company in question.

Second, save any and all evidence that may prove beneficial to your case. This includes any e-mail, letters, memos, post-it notes, or voice messages that show you are a victim of prejudice.

Lastly, if you and your employer are not able to come to a reasonable understanding or a respectable agreement regarding your concerns of discrimination, you may want to find an experienced lawyer who is well-versed in employment law. Succeeding in an employment lawsuit without a lawyer is nearly impossible. A good lawyer will know how to present the proper witnesses and documents to the court and jury, and how to prevent a large company and from using unfair means to influence the case.

Proving discrimination in a court of law is based on two positions: yours and your employer’s. That is why it is extremely important for you to keep a record of every incident of discrimination that occurs. In a court of law, this is referred to as an “adverse employment action.” An adverse employment action can affect everything from pay, title, vacation time, firing or hiring — basically anything that is a term or condition of employment.

Your employer will then be forced to explain or provide a legitimate reason why the adverse employment action took place. It is up to the jury to decide whether or not that reason is legal under the law. For instance, your employer may be accused of firing you because you are of a different race. He or she can tell the court that they fired you simply because they were downsizing, which is perfectly legal.

It is actually more difficult to prove discrimination than you may think. You and your lawyer may want to go over the evidence you have collected as well as provide suitable statistical information that may be beneficial to your case.

The essential question you need to ask yourself is why. Why were you fired? Why did you receive a pay cut? Was it because of your age, race or gender? Or was it because of something else? Once you have determined the answer, you will know whether or not you were a victim of discrimination. Then you can proceed accordingly as you see fit.

Have you ever been hurt on the job? Well, you may be entitled to Workman’s Compensation!

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Workman’s Compensation is available if you are ever in an accident that happens while you are on the job. If you are hurt on the job, your employer is liable to pay compensation.

The employer is not liable if any injury doesn’t result in the disablement of the worker in a period outside of three days. The employer is also not liable if the injury is a result of being foolish on the workers part, which could include: intoxication, influence of drugs, disobedience, unwilling to follow safety regulations at work.

There are lists of injuries that result in permanent disabilities, partial disablement, other injuries, and general injuries that fall under workman’s compensation. In general, if there is a loss of major parts of the body, you will get full compensation back. As the loss of extremities get smaller, such as a finger, the lower the compensation will be. The same goes for the amputation procedures.

The amount of compensation, when death is involved, has the amount of fifty percent from the injury of monthly wages of the passed workman. This can be multiplied by a factor, depending on your state. You could choose to have the total equal to the disablement resulting in sixty percent of the injury of monthly wages of the injured person that is then multiplied by a factor, depending on your state.

Another compensation you could receive is for permanent partial disablement. If this were to be a result of an injury, the percentage of the compensation would be percentage of loss of earning capacity due to the injury that occurred. With the injury, the compensation percentage you would be payable as if it were a case of permanent disability as long as it is appropriate in comparison to the assessment of the medical practitioner.

If there are injuries that happen in larger amounts, caused by the same incidents, the amount of compensation paid out will be the sum as long as any case will not go above the set amount payable from that set injury. To assess the loss of earning, the medical practitioner would have to look at the percentages of loss of earning in relation to other injuries that are specified.
Compensation will always be paid when it is due. If you have a case where the employer does not claim responsibility for making the compensation payments, they will be made to make provisional payment based on the amount of liability that he accepted. These payments will then be deposited to the Commissioner or the person receiving the payment.

If any employer were to default in paying the compensation within one month from the date of injury, the Commissioner can do one of two things: direct the employer to pay a simple interest at the rate of twelve percent per annum; or if there is no reason for the compensation delay, the Commissioner will direct the employer and insist that the employer pay an additional fee that does not exceed fifty percent of the amount due.

Your Choices and the Best Schools for Business Law

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Aspiring business lawyers in the United States often believe they should focus their efforts on being accepted into the top rated schools in the country. These schools are difficult to get into because of their success rates. Generally, the top rated business law schools have over 90% of their students complete their degrees. This may mean that these institutions are the answer for you.

The top rated educations for business law in the United States come from:

· Yale University in Connecticut

· Harvard University in Massachusetts

· Stanford University in California

· New York University in New York

· Columbia University in New York

· University of Chicago in Illinois

· University of Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania

· University of California (Berkeley) in California

· Duke University in North Carolina

· University of Virginia in Virginia

In the United States, getting into a good school for studying business law is a step in the right direction to get you off to a great start in your career. As with any other type of educational institution, these schools all have pros and cons, so your choice will be a personal one in which the attributes of one school may fit your personal circumstances best.

Whenever you must make such a major decision that will affect you and your entire career and future, you should be very careful. It is a good idea to do a lot of research before making your decision. Research into what each school has to offer will help you compare in order to find the right fit for yourself.

While attending the top rated schools does provide the hope of higher success in any field, it certainly does not guarantee such a thing. There are many professionals who have attended top notch educational facilities and have only had mediocre success in the business world while others have attended smaller, less famous schools and risen to the top of their professions.

The combination of personal initiative and drive along with good schooling may be the ideal mix for a successful future in the business law profession. Unfortunately, many people may lack the financial resources to attend one of the top schools and must make the most of the education they do get. Working in the field, continuing education and volunteer work in related areas can often provide excellent opportunities that even a great school name on your diploma might bring.

The bottom line is that you must have a dedication to your chosen profession and the willingness to get your education to get you where you are going. If you aspire to attend the top schools, then you should do everything you can to get there and make good use of your education there. If you have to use a different route for your education, do that and make sure you take advantage of all the other opportunities you can find for the advancement of your business law career.

Business law is a huge industry in the United States and it is continuing to grow. If your chosen profession is in this area, get the best education you can and get at it!

Recent Change in U.S. Labor Law is Major

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

The most talked about change in employment law in the United States this year is the increase of the minimum wage. While this change will not take effect until July of 2008, it is deemed to be one of the most significant changes to take place for many years.

The minimum amount that can be paid out to an employee for their work in this country is currently $5.85. This amount is set to increase to $6.55 next year with this new law and then again up to $7.25 in 2009. The exception to this rule is the pay employers can pay to workers who receive tips. Employers will still be responsible to ensure that tipped employees receive at least the new minimum wage between their tips and their hourly rate.

The U.S. minimum wage is governed by federal labor law and has not been increased for years. The minimum wage for workers in other developed countries has been significantly higher for years. Poverty activists in America and around the world have taken issue with the low level of the minimum wage here for quite some time.

An employee in the United States who works for minimum wage at a job for forty hours a week will bring home a gross amount of $262 per week at the new rate. Of course, from that grand total of $262, federal and state taxes as well as other required deductions reduce that amount somewhat.

Other developed countries have increased their minimum wages well beyond that of the United States. It is thought throughout much of the world that the United States has not taken strong enough steps towards equitable pay and minimum wage levels and that what many Americans see as pro-business laws are in fact pro-poverty for it’s citizens.

Anti poverty groups are still pushing for U.S. labor laws to increase the minimum wage even more and will continue to do so despite the recent increase. The rising numbers of homeless people and others living below or at the poverty level in America is unacceptable to most groups of people. That is what makes this issue one that will continue to be discussed into the future.

Whether the recent labor law announcement is seen as helpful to those trying to earn a living on minimum wage is up for debate. Whether the increase is seen as harmful to business is also up for debate. There are still many who believe that helping businesses succeed helps all levels of our society succeed. There are the proponents of higher wages who believe that helping individuals succeed will in turn help businesses succeed.

The United States labor and employment laws will continue to be challenged over many issues. One will be the level of the minimum wage despite this year’s announcement for impending increases. This will be an issue that does not go away because it appears to take such a long time for any kind of changes to take place.

Likelihood of Law Suits Stronger in Some Business Sectors

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

While it does seem like we now live in a sue-happy country with lawsuits being filed for everything from dry cleaning issues to pension scandals, there are certainly some sectors of business that see more legal suits than others.

Service sector businesses encounter law suits on a fairly regular basis. Many of these suits are for fairly trivial things in this impatient society of ours and others are over huge amounts of money caused by loss of business and faulty workmanship. Most businesses do carry liability insurance that can protect them from such claims, but this insurance is pricey and does not provide compensation for all types of lawsuits. Any time a business provides service to the general public or to other businesses, they must unfortunately, accept a certain degree of risk of being sued, whether it is a just lawsuit or not.

Physicians, surgeons and others in the medical field are especially susceptible to being sued in this current society’s’ way of thinking. Malpractice suites are a huge business for lawyers now and the suits simply keep on increasing. These professionals carry malpractice insurance as a matter of course, but this insurance is almost prohibitively expensive for many doctors. In fact, the exorbitant fees charged by physicians and specialists are often due to the fact that their malpractice insurance is so costly and must be passed on in their fees to you.

Another large source for business law suits is in the case of injury. Personal injury lawyers are in constant demand to help individuals pursue their lawsuits once they have been injured. Those injured in the workplace, in car accidents or just from tripping on a crack usually find it necessary to hire a lawyer to sue someone on their behalf whether the incident was an “accident” or not. Any business, employer or property owner can be the recipient of a personal injury suit filed by some disgruntled person who feels they should be made to pay.

Damage to property is another top ranked reason for pursuing a law suit. People who have had their property or vehicle damaged by another person often have no other recourse but a lawsuit to settle these matters and get their property repaired or replaced. Insurance often does not cover enough of the expenses to make the lawsuit unnecessary.

Basically, any person or business that deals in contracts of any sort may find themselves at the end of a lawsuit at some point. Contracts are meant to clarify business arrangements, sales and other agreements. Unfortunately, they often cause misunderstanding due to misinterpretation and unintentional breach of contract. Lawsuits address such problems but can be expensive and in many cases are pricier than a simple settlement between the contract signatories would have been. Again, these cases do, however create a lot of work for business lawyers.

While these are the top reasons for lawsuits, there are many, many more and most types are sadly only increasing.

Labor Rights Then and Now are a Different Picture

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Labor law has changed a lot over the last few decades. This makes the current workplace a much more worker friendly environment for everyone.

One such change has been the minimum wage that can be paid for any kind of work in the United States. While it did take a long time for this rate to be changed, it finally has been. While inflation has gone up and interest rates for loans have changed, the minimum wage for workers remained the same for years. Minimum wage for work is governed by the federal government.

Another law that has come about only in recent decades is in the matter of sexual harassment. Prior to government regulations that prohibited it, inappropriate touching, sexual innuendo and remarks as well as physical demands were common place in the workplace. During the 70’s and 80’s especially, women’s groups lobbied for government laws to prohibit this kind of behavior. Of course, enforcing these changes was a challenge at first but it is commonplace now for such behaviors to be reported to authorities. Most employers now encourage their employees to report any kind of impropriety.

The fact is that as our society develops and becomes aware of issues, our laws often change to reflect our widening views on how we should behave. These changes sometimes come about slowly and other times they become a part of our laws rather quickly. This sometimes has to do with a societal acceptance of what is right and wrong. Other times it has a lot to do with smaller groups who take on the responsibility of making the rest of society aware of a problematic issue.

Another issue that has been dealt with in the legal arena and become a part of our laws is the matter of discrimination in the work place. At one time it was commonplace for someone applying for a job to be at the mercy of bosses hiring based on sex, race, religion or simply their own personal preferences. This was another major change in American law that took time. It is no longer acceptable for hiring practices to include these kinds of discrimination and most employers would simply never consider hiring that way. The labor laws of the United States ensure that these rights are in place for workers now and the numbers of law suits that involve this kind of suit were reduced once it became the acceptable norm in the workplace.

American justice and labor laws have certainly changed over the years. Most people feel that these changes were a positive step and that equitable labor laws only improve the legal landscape of this country. While there will always be new issues to be dealt with by society and in turn the justice system, these labor laws can stand as an example that our laws do evolve and change as our society becomes more and more aware of inequities within our way of life.

Possibility of Major Changes in Sight for U.S. Labor Laws

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

The issue of unfairly low wages for women workers is certainly not a new issue in the United States (and indeed in the rest of the world). This year there was a case that hit the U.S. Supreme Court with regard to this issue once more.

Goodyear was accused of discrimination of a female employee because her wages were lower than those of her male co-workers. This is not a new scenario by any means and unfortunately, due to the complicated ins and outs of the U.S. legal system, no relief was found for the plaintiff in this case.

The court decision here focused on the timing of the issue. Way back in 1964, the Civil Rights Act addressed such matters as discriminatory pay. It said however that a plaintiff must file charges within 180 days of a decision that showed discrimination. The woman in this year’s case had already been employed by Goodyear for quite some time and so, the 180 day limit was in effect.

Even though it was argued that the decision by Goodyear each and every payday to pay this woman less than her male counterparts was a new “discriminatory decision”, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that it was not so.

This case illuminates the sorely overdue need for changes to U.S. labor laws that continue to allow for discrimination to occur in the workplace. Women’s groups and equal rights activists have been highlighting these examples for years and years but the fact remains that we still indeed live in a country that believes it is okay to pay one worker less for the exact same work than another worker.

Labor laws and equal rights issues such as these will continue to be challenged on the legal level in any way that plaintiffs and activists can find in order to keep the matters in view of the American people. Most people know that it is completely unfair to pay workers differently based on their sex, their race or other factor that does not affect their work.

Because of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many labor issues were addressed and changed over the years since. While many remain unfinished and still in the process of moving ahead (such as this Goodyear case) some 43 years after they were addressed by this Act, the United States Supreme Court will be forced to deal with every aspect of each and every challenge until such discrimination is once and for all wiped from our landscape.

While the U.S. legal system is continually bogged down by personal injury suits and frivolous claims for millions of dollars for a pair of dry cleaned pants, major issues such as equal pay for equal work remain as unfinished business. There are major changes on the horizon in labor law within the United States. The question is, how far away is that horizon?

U.S. Labor Law and Labor Unions

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Labor laws and the rights of workers largely developed in the United States after the industrial revolution was well underway. At that time, there was a huge need for workers at that time. Machines were being built which required huge amounts of raw materials. Such materials came largely from mining.

While this did mean that there was low unemployment back then, the conditions that most workers dealt with on a daily basis were very poor. There were few if any real labor laws and businesses wanted every ounce of work they could get out of every penny they paid out in wages (which were very low). At that time the profits of big business was most certainly on the backs of laborers who often risked their lives on a daily basis just to earn a living.

When the first workers organized into groups to demand better working conditions, they were often dismissed as ineffective. Slowly, more and more workers began to back the groups who were making their voices heard about unfit work conditions. Eventually, strikes were organized in order to bring the message clearly to the management and some of the worst work conditions were improved somewhat.

Many of the labor laws in America today would not be in existence were it not for these workers so long ago. Labor unions that were once merely though of as disruptive and anti-business made headway and made their causes known to the public as much as they could. They became more and more organized because it was very difficult for individuals to seek better conditions on their own. As a group, workers could affect changes to their work conditions and ensure that some safety precautions became safety standards in the work place. These groups made management understand for the first time that they were responsible for the lives of their workers and that they were being watched.

Today, labor unions have quite a different face. Many people see them almost as playground bullies in the work world of today. Because the government now has taken on the responsibilities of ensuring that workplace standards for safety are met by all industries, some argue that there is no place for labor unions in today’s business world. The government has labor laws now that regulate the length of working days, minimum wages, and work conditions.

While labor unions most certainly served a purpose back in the day that our country was developing, there is questionable value in them now. They certainly play a part in pay negotiations for many industries such as vehicle manufacturing and many industrial enterprises, they are often thought to simply be holding their power over management and the general public in order to maintain their hold on the worker who is obliged to pay their union fees whether they want to or not. Perhaps labor unions only exist now because they were so important to us early on and we haven’t figured out how to get rid of them.