Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Your Employer Wants To Indoctrinate You With Their Politics

I recently found out about an organization called the Job Creators Network, which some big CEOS are involved in like Roger Ailes (you know, Faux News), David Hernandez of Liberty Power (formerly with, Enron), and other big corporate heads. Their major goal in life seems to be to indoctrinate employees into voting against their own interests.

Well, that's not what they say. They say:
America’s employees, particularly non-union employees, are an untapped reservoir of support for free enterprise. Job Creators Network’s E2E Communication Program leverages employee support by providing employers across America with the tools, materials, and guidance they need to educate their employees about the impact of government policies on their jobs, pay, benefits and families. E2E promotes a better-informed public by educating employers about information they can legally provide to their employees. A well-informed public is the best defense against bad public policy.
That's right. Your employer is going to do you the huge favor of telling you how to vote. They want you to be well-informed. They have an Employer To Employee Communications Program with a toolkit for employers to explain how to "educate" you on important issues.

They have a helpful website for employers to relay their political message to employees. Here's a good summary of the message. Unions = Bad. Minimum Wage Increases = Bad. Affordable Care Act = Bad. Regulations = Bad. Personal Injury Suits = Bad. Employers = Good. Big Business = Good. Let's reduce taxes on your poor boss and eliminate those nasty unions, regulations and employment laws.

If you buy into this, I have some land to sell you west of me (west of me is the Everglades). I find the whole concept of employers indoctrinating employees in politics terrifying. They have you captive, and now they get to fling propaganda at you at will. If they have their way if you complain about your exploding Pinto you'll have to do indentured servitude at Ford for 10 years as punishment for your chutzpah. We'll be back to company stores, locked fire-hazard sweat shops, and child labor in no time.

You can expect the indoctrination to ramp up as we get closer to the elections. If you want real information about how some of these issues affect employees and don't want to buy into the big corporate propaganda, here are some places you can look to get pro-employee information.

Of course, you can always check here if you want to know what's the latest in employment law. You can also check out my weekly column over at AOL Jobs.

Don't buy what your employer tells you is best for your wallet. They care about what's best for their wallet, not yours. Educate yourself and get informed about the issues before you vote.

Friday, September 19, 2014

States With Pro-Employee Laws: Domestic Violence Victim Workplace Protection

Or, States That Don't Suck For Employees Part V

Massachusetts was the latest state to enact a law requiring employers to give victims of domestic violence time off work without penalizing them. Since I frequently raunch on Florida for being so anti-employee, I decided to write today to give my home state props for being one of sixteen states that have laws protecting employees who become domestic violence victims.
  • Massachusetts' law requires employers with 50 or more employees to give up to 15 days off for medical attention, securing new housing, court proceedings and other needs related to the domestic violence.
  • New Jersey's law, passed last year, says an employee/victim is entitled to time off for treatment or counseling, and also says they have to be allowed to attend legal proceedings, civil or criminal, relating to the incident.  
  • California law says an employer can't fire an employee for being a domestic violence victim, and it also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to secure the workplace for the victim's safety. Employers with 25 employees or more must grant victims reasonable leave to deal with court dates and other issues relating to the domestic violence.
  • Florida law grants domestic violence victims up to 3 days of protected leave. Employers cannot discharge, demote, suspend, retaliate or otherwise discriminate against an employee for exercising their rights to domestic violence leave. To our legislature's credit, this law has been in place since 2007, so we were a whopping 7 years ahead of pro-employee Massachusetts for a change. Miami-Dade County has an ordinance providing for up to 30 days of protected leave.
  • Colorado provides up to 3 days of leave if the employer has 50 or more employees.
  • Connecticut provides for up to 12 days of leave and bans discrimination against domestic violence victims.
  • Washington DC has a sliding scale for leave depending on how large the employer is.
  • Hawaii also has a protected leave, the amount of which depends on the size of the employer. Employers can't discriminate against victims and also must provide reasonable accommodations.
  • Illinois law requires reasonable accommodations, prohibits discrimination and 8 - 12 weeks of protected leave, depending on the size of the employer
  • Kansas law says employers can't discriminate against domestic violence victims who need time off.
  • Maine law grants reasonable protected domestic violence leave.
  • New Mexico provides up to 14 days of protected leave.
  • New York state prohibits discrimination against domestic violence victims. New York City and Westchester County require reasonable accommodations for domestic violence victims.
  • North Carolina prohibits discrimination against victims for taking reasonable domestic violence leave.
  • Oregon requires employers with 6 or more employees to grant reasonable leave and prohibits discrimination. Portland also requires protected domestic violence leave.
  • Rhode Island prohibits discrimination.
  • Washington provides reasonable leave. Seattle has its own leave ordinance and also bars discrimination.
  • Philadelphia provides leave depending on the size of the employer.
A proposed federal law to protect domestic violence victims from discrimination at work went nowhere. Wouldn't it be good to have some uniform protections? Who the heck is against protecting domestic violence victims? Do we really think that getting beaten up should be grounds for termination? 

A pretty good summary of state laws up through June 2013 is here. It should also be noted that many states have laws protecting crime victims from being punished for missing time from work to testify in criminal proceedings.

Friday, September 12, 2014

States With Pro-Employee Laws: Paid Sick Leave

Or, States That Don't Suck For Employees, Part IV

Oh, sure, if you're lucky enough to qualify for Family and Medical Leave, you may or may not get some paid time off if you have a serious medical condition. You're paid under that law if you have any paid sick leave or vacation time, and then the rest of the leave is unpaid. However, whether or not you get any paid sick time is up to your employer.

That is, unless you live in a state beginning with the letter C.

California became the second state in the nation to mandate paid sick leave under the law signed this week. Most employees will accrue three paid sick days per year, at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. San Francisco and San Diego already had a mandatory paid sick leave ordinance in place.

Connecticut was the first state to mandate sick leave. Employers with 50 or more employees, unless they are non-profits, must provide 1 hour of sick leave per 40 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year of paid sick time to service workers.

Massachusetts may break the C trend because voters there will get to approve a paid sick leave law when they vote in November.

Five cities in New Jersey have paid sick leave ordinances. So have two cities in Oregon. New York City has a paid sick leave law, along with Seattle and Washington, D.C.

The U.S. is the only major Western country without any law requiring paid sick leave for employees. Of 22 countries studied, we are the only country that provides zero paid sick leave for a worker undergoing a 50-day cancer treatment and we're 1 of only 3 countries that does not provide paid sick days for a worker missing 5 days of work due to the flu.

Making workers come to work sick is bad for everyone. It spreads illness and results in crappy morale. Hopefully more states (or even Congress) will wake up soon.

Friday, September 5, 2014

States With Pro-Employee Laws: Crackdown On Misclassification

Or, States That Don't Suck For Employees, Part III

With wage theft rampant and employers trying to figure out ways to not pay employment taxes (and avoid application of employment laws), many employers try to say, "Boom! You're an independent contractor now." They shove an independent contractor agreement in front of an employee and stop paying employment taxes. The employee is told to take it or hit the road.

While the handy-dandy SS-8 form that IRS has is a good tool for employees to force employers to correctly classify them, some states have taken larger steps to protect employees against greedy employers who break the law. Here are some states that have stepped up to stop misclassification:

Misclassification is a serious problem for employees, but it also hits the states and taxpayers in the wallet in the form of unpaid taxes, unemployment compensation contributions, and worker's compensation premiums. I don't understand why every state isn't cracking down on misclassification, so maybe someone can explain it to me. Any legislators out there want to tell me why they're pro-misclassification?