If you run your own business, you might pride yourself on being a kind or flexible employer. But the reality is that you may actually be violating certain employment laws in the process. Even if the violation is accidental, you may find that you need help from employment law firms in your area, especially considering that plaintiffs win 68% of civil case bench trials (and 54% of jury trials). However, before you find out the definitive answer to the “what does an employment law attorney do?” question, you’ll want to know a bit more about labor laws — and the ones you might unintentionally be breaking.
Incorrectly classifying employees as independent contractors
A lot of people will be more than happy to work for you as an independent contractor — until they’re hurt on the job or don’t qualify for paid leave, that is. You might think that hiring someone as an IC will save you from an employment headache, but the opposite is often true. There’s a lot more involved with this classification than not providing benefits. At the bare minimum, a true independent contractor will work for more than one client at a time, advertise their services, send clients invoices, maintain their own records, and set their own hours.
If you’ve hired someone under the premise of being an independent contractor but are fuzzy on the regulations that come along with this designation, you may find yourself in hot water with the IRS or the court system. Should that employee be legally found to have been incorrectly classified, you may be forced to pay worker’s compensation, unpaid overtime dues, and other penalties. Working with independent contractors may be appropriate for your business, but you want to make sure you’re going about it correctly. Employment lawyers can be an immensely helpful resource in this area.
Overly flexible hours or lunch breaks
Employment laws vary quite a bit from state to state, which sometimes makes it difficult for employers to know whether their practices are considered lawful. In many states, non-exempt employees (meaning non-salaried individuals who are paid for the hours they work) are legally entitled to 30-minute lunch breaks and other breaks throughout the day. Depending on where you’re located, your state may even require when those breaks must be taken. In other words, you aren’t allowed to let employees skip their lunch break just so they can clock out early when they’re done with the work day.
In addition to break regulations, your state may also have rules about how many hours an employee can work within one day without getting overtime payment. If your company has a flexible time policy that allows employees to work longer days in order to work fewer days during the week (and therefore save up their paid time off), your company needs to know exactly what your state says about it. Otherwise, you may be penalized and forced to pay those overtime wages.
Forcing employees to sign non-compete clauses
Again, this depends on where your business is located, but it definitely pays to know the rules. Non-compete agreements can help protect certain important information within your business and make sure none of your current or former employees partner up with the competition. But how these agreements are enforced really depends on your state. Some states actually don’t allow them at all (though there are a few exceptions). So while you think you may be safeguarding your business, your efforts might be all for naught if the agreement doesn’t hold up in court. There may be other options for protecting your company that could work better. Your lawyer can help explain non-compete clauses and whether they’re the best choice for your state.
Employment law can be extremely tricky to navigate, especially if you don’t have help. Instead of taking a chance with your business practices, always be sure to consult an attorney with any labor law questions you may have. This small step may help ensure your business stays on the up-and-up and will preserve what you’ve worked so hard to create.