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Common Mistakes in Employment Law


Employment law can be tricky to navigate, with complex language that can be difficult for the average business owner to understand. Unfortunately, violating these laws can have expensive consequences, even if the violation wasn’t intentional. There are a number of mistakes that business owners can make that may cost them in fines and other penalties. Find out more about common mistakes that violate employment laws, and how you can avoid them.

Misclassifying Your Workers

You may not be aware of the differences between independent contractors and employees, or you may not know which classification is appropriate for your workers. The difference is important, however. You may avoid certain taxes and may not need to pay benefits for independent contractors, but there can be hefty state and federal penalties for misclassifying employees as independent contractors. If you are looking to save expenses by classifying your workers as independent contractors, you should consult an experienced employment lawyer to help you determine if your decision follows state and federal regulations.

There is no one definition of an independent contractor or an employee. A worker’s status varies from state to state, and there can also be federal regulations guiding the worker’s status. The IRS also has its own guidelines for worker classification for tax purposes. Your attorney can help you interpret all the laws and guidelines that apply to you and help you correctly classify your company’s workers.

Failing to Implement an Employee Handbook

The importance of an employee handbook should not be overlooked. These materials serve as a formal explanation of a company’s expectations for performance, an outline of employee benefits, and the relationship between the employer and employee. Employee handbooks can protect businesses from legal liability and can be used to demonstrate compliance with labor laws. These documents serve as a reference point, should an employee challenge you in court.

For these handbooks to be used in court, it is important to have all employees, old and new, to read the handbook and submit an acknowledgment that they understand the policies and are willing to comply with them. It also holds your company responsible for adhering to your own policies and employee benefits. An employee handbook protects you as well as your employees.

Language choice is important when it comes to drafting an employee handbook. Some courts and employees may interpret the handbook as a contract, especially when it comes to promises of continued employment. An employment lawyer can help you develop an employee handbook that uses the appropriate language to protect your company, as well as ensuring that your employee handbook complies with all state and federal regulations.

Incorrect Break Times

Break times are important to allow employees a few moments to rest, eat, and refocus themselves for the task at hand. Mishandling employee break times is becoming a leading cause of employment lawsuits. State laws differ in their requirements for meal and rest breaks, so it is important to familiarize yourself with your state’s laws for these breaks. Your attorney can help you develop a legal and fair break policy. Be sure to regularly communicate this policy to your employees and maintain records of break times taken by employees.

Mishandling Employee Complaints

Employee complaints should be taken seriously. Employers who fail to respond appropriately to complaints about harassment and discrimination may be vulnerable to a lawsuit. It is critical to take appropriate steps to document and correct inappropriate actions. This can include documenting complaints, conducting an investigation, and reprimanding the offending coworker. It is illegal to take retaliatory action against employees who file complaints about harassment and discrimination.

Complaints about workplace settings that pose difficulties for disabled workers also should be acknowledged. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) addresses employers’ responsibility to qualified disabled employees. All employers must reasonably accommodate disabled employees by providing proper equipment, services, or devices to allow them to perform their tasks, unless doing so would cause undue burden for the employer. These accommodations may include ergonomic products, rearranging workplaces to accommodate medical assistive devices, such as wheel chairs, or providing interpretive services or other accessible devices.

Appropriately addressing employee complaints can help protect employers from legal actions, including a discrimination lawsuit. Your lawyer can help you develop a protocol for employee complaints to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to protect employees from harassment and discrimination, and that every employee is able to perform their duties, despite disability.

Your Houston Employment Lawyers

At Shellist Lazarz Slobin, we are committed to protecting employers and employees alike. We understand that the complexity of employment law can be a challenge that many business owners face, and we are here to help you navigate these regulations. Mistakes can be expensive for small business owners, so we know that it is important to ensure that all policies and business practices follow the law carefully. Let us help you protect your business from accidental violations of employment law.

Contact our offices for a consultation by calling (713) 352-3433.

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