Employer Disputes – When to Contact an Attorney
With today’s very tight employment situation, employers have more leverage over their workers than at any time in a generation. Workers, for their part, find themselves with less bargaining power – in many fields, employers and employees alike know very well that if an employee leaves, the company will have a pile of applications to choose from within days.
Unfortunately, employers have occasionally tried to exploit their workers vulnerability – and sometimes break the law to do so. But the laws haven’t changed. Employers still have the same responsibility they always had to comply with federal and state labor laws, and that doesn’t change with the unemployment rate. Employers must still pay required overtime, for example, and comply with anti-discrimination laws at both the federal and state level.
Failure to Pay Overtime, Failure to Pay Minimum Wage
At the federal level, the Fair Labor Standards Act governs wage and hour practices. With a few exceptions, such as food service workers who earn tip income, the current law establishes a federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for hourly employees. It also requires employers to pay overtime of 1.5 times the normal base wage to hourly employees for hours worked over forty in a given work week. For food service and other tipped employees, the employer must also cover any shortfall if tips are not sufficient to bring the employee’s pay up to the federal minimum wage.
Contact an attorney if you are experiencing any of these violations:
- Your employer forces you to work for below minimum wage,
- Your employer doesn’t take taxes out of your income,
- Your employer doesn’t provide you with a W-2 or Form 1099 documenting your earnings.
- Your employer forces you to stay late, working “off the clock,” or work through your lunch break.
- Your employer owes you unpaid wages or overtime.
- Your employer fires you for complaining about violations.
- Your employer misstates your job description, listing you as management, a supervisor, or professional employee for the purpose of avoiding paying overtime.
- You are a salaried employee and your employer reduces your weekly salary for time out of the office.
Injuries & Illness
If you work for an Alabama employer other than the state or federal government, and your employer has five or more employees, you should be covered by workers compensation insurance. Workers compensation protects you in case you get injured on the job or at a work-related function. Without it, you might not be able to collect the costs of treatment and lost wages from your employer, even if you win a lawsuit against them.
Employers occasionally try to get around workers compensation laws to avoid the expense associated with workers compensation premiums. Contact an attorney under these circumstances:
- You get injured or sick as a direct result of your employment.
- Your employer asks you to work for cash and doesn’t withhold taxes from your income.
- Your employer doesn’t provide you with a W-2 or 1099 Form at the beginning of the year.
- Your employer does contracting work but does not hold a current contractors' license, or does work for which the company does not hold a license.
- Your employer does not hold your job open for a minimum of 12 weeks following a workplace injury.
Family Medical Leave
Another federal law, the Family Medical Leave Act, requires certain employers to provide unpaid time off to individuals who request to take time off work to care for an immediate family member who is sick or hurt. The law also requires employers to grant leave if it’s the worker himself or herself who is sick or hurt. The FMLA also requires employers to grant a brief leave to workers immediately after the birth or adoption of a child. The law doesn’t apply across-the-board: Certain very small employers are exempt from the FMLA’s requirements. Contact an attorney if any of the following applies:
- You are considering making a request for unpaid time off to care for yourself or an incapacitated family member.
- Your employer refuses to grant unpaid leave for the purpose of your own personal recovery from illness or injury, or to care for an immediate relative.
Armed Forces Reserve and National Guard Members
If you are a member of the reserve component of the armed forces, federal and state law prohibit employers from discriminating against you on the basis of your military service. Your employer must also grant unpaid leave if you are placed on orders, whether the funding source is federal or state.
If you are ordered to active duty – whether you volunteered or not – your employer is generally required by law to grant you that leave upon request - potentially for up to five years. Your employer generally must also keep your job or another job of equal or greater seniority or status open for you upon your return from active duty. Furthermore, under the “elevator principle,” the Uniform Servicemembers’ Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) generally requires that you receive every promotion, pay raise, pension benefit or other incident or benefit of employment or seniority that you would have received had you never left.
Contact an attorney if any of the following applies:
- Your employer discriminates against you because of your military status.
- Your employer refuses to grant time off to attend drills, annual training or other military events.
- Your employer requires you to take vacation days or paid time off out of your allowance to attend military events. You may do so, but your employer may not require it.
- Your employer does not allow you back to work upon your return from active duty, or offers you a lower position than you would have held had you never left.
In addition to prohibiting discrimination, federal law prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of sex, age, race, religion or national origin. Federal law also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employ applicants with physical or mental handicaps. Some states also specifically prohibit employers from discriminating against other categories of people as well. Contact an attorney under the following circumstances:
- You believe you were not hired, passed over for a promotion, demoted or subject to unfair treatment because of your sex, age, race, religion or national origin.
- A prospective employer asks questions during a job interview that may indicate an intent to unlawfully discriminate. For example: You apply for an administrative position and your employer asks you if you are planning on becoming pregnant any time soon.
- You believe your employer has established or maintains a hostile work environment for any protected class of people.
How To Pursue a Case
Don’t let employers take advantage of you by violating the law! If you believe your employer has run afoul of the law, your first step is to contact a qualified attorney with experience in employment law, licensed in your state. At Burke, Harvey & Frankowski, LLC, there is never any charge for a completely confidential appointment to go over your case. At this initial meeting, an experienced attorney will go over the facts of the case, help you determine if you have an actionable claim, or a claim you may be able to get a favorable settlement on, and then help you determine your options. There is no charge unless you actually decide to retain our services. In some cases, we may be able to work on contingency, meaning you pay nothing unless we can actually help you recover damages.
When you contact us for a free consultation, you will work directly with a lawyer with a proven record of success in cases like yours. You will know that your rights and interests are being protected by a true professional. You will know that your lawyer truly cares about what happens to you and your family.
We invite you to call our Birmingham offices today at 205-588-8671. Clients elsewhere in Alabama and in Tennessee, Georgia or Florida should feel free to call us toll free at 888-880-9046 for honest answers to important labor and employment law, or to schedule an appointment.