Webinar Recording & Recap: Employment Law | Basics & Beyond
December 26, 2021 | BY admin
On Monday, December 20th, Roth&Co and Korsinsky & Klein hosted a webinar detailing important employment laws, including discrimination laws, leave laws and social media policies. It was presented by Avi Lew, Esq., partner at Korsinsky & Klein, and moderated by Chaya Salamon, Director of Human Resources at Roth&Co. Below is a detailed recap of the webinar. You can also watch the full video recap here.
Federal, State and City Employment Discrimination Laws
Avi’s comprehensive overview of diverse federal, state and city employment laws illustrated how complex and illusive they are and how they impact every employer. Whether yours is a small or large business, as an employer, you need to be educated, knowledgeable, and have access to competent legal support when it comes to employee related laws.
The primary federal employment discrimination laws which were discussed include: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; the Americans with Disabilities Act; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Equal Pay Act; the Fair Labor Standards Act; the Family and Medical Leave Act; and the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act.
These laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of – among other factors – color, race, religion, gender, age, national origin, marital status and disability. The list is long and constantly expanding, as is the definition of ‘employee.’ Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has expanded to include discrimination by gender identity and now defines even independent contractors as ’employees.’
Providing an employee handbook to your employees is no longer optional – it is required by law. An employee handbook is a vital resource in an employee claim of discrimination or harassment. An employee handbook protects the employer from liability and educates employees about the business’ policies and procedures.
An employee handbook is not a document you want to write yourself; using the wrong language can inadvertently violate a law or create a contract with the employee. Don’t include policies that your business doesn’t actually adhere to, and consider including provisions that address restrictive covenants, alternative dispute resolution terms and cyber-security obligations.
It is vital to document that your employees actually read and received your business’ employee handbook, which will be helpful to you in the event of future employee claims against you. Reviewing and updating your company’s employee handbook annually is necessary to ensure that you have policies and procedures in place before an issue arises.
Social Media Policies
Do you use social media sites to screen applicants? Have you ever rejected a potential employee because of something you found online? The National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of employees when it comes to certain work-related conversations conducted on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.
This is a very grey area of the law and employers are advised to protect themselves by developing a clear policy that serves the company’s legitimate business interests without compromising the rights of its employees. It is important for the company to regularly review handbooks for potential violations and encourage management training.
This is an important term that effects both employers and employees. It is usually unlawful to refuse to provide reasonable accommodation to someone with disabilities or to someone who claims hardship due to his religious belief. In order to avoid a charge of discrimination, an employer must be able prove that making accommodations to such an employee would fundamentally alter the nature of the business or cause it an undue burden. An undue burden is defined as a significant difficulty or expense.
Discrimination laws aren’t limited to federal law. For example, the NYC Human Rights law is one of the most powerful anti-discrimination laws in the country – even stronger than federal law. If you employ four or more employees (which includes independent contractors), this law applies to you.
The threshold for making a claim of discrimination under this law is very low and makes it easy for an employee to sue. Under the NYC Human Rights law, litigation is easily triggered and often becomes prolonged and expensive.
Small and Large Companies
Employment laws apply to small and large companies and it is the employer’s responsibility to be aware of its business’ obligations. Here are a few examples:
• Title VII discrimination laws apply to employers with 15 or more employees.
• The federal Fair Labor Standards Act sets standards for wages and overtime pay. It applies to all employers, regardless of how many employees they have.
• The ADA (American with Disabilities Act) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act guards against discrimination for the disabled and for pregnant employees. It applies to businesses with 15 or more employees.
• The Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA) protects seniors and applies to employers with over 20 employees.
• The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a federal law requiring covered employers to provide employees with job-protected, unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. Both the FMLA and the Affordable Care Act apply to employers with over 50 employees.
• The NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law provides employees with mandated sick leave time and requires that New York City employers provide up to 40 hours of paid leave each calendar year (or up to 56 hours if the company has 100 employees or more).
• The Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act requires all employers located in New York City with 15 or more employees to conduct an annual anti-sexual harassment training for all employees, supervisors and managers.
Employers have a responsibility to safeguard and protect both their businesses and their employees. When a business delays addressing an employment issue, it will most likely intensify, resulting in prolonged and expensive litigation that will damage the business and erode its work environment. Conversely, when an employment issue is addressed promptly and at its source, it can be remediated much more easily, avoiding costly violations, penalties and litigation. Employers must be vigilant in creating and documenting clear policies, abide by those policies and educate management to report issues promptly. Lastly, employers must be mindful of the constant changes in employment law that can impact their business, their employees and their bottom line.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, nor should it be relied upon for legal or tax advice. If you have any specific legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, please consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.