EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE
In today’s business climate, employers must become more and more expert on laws that govern their employees: from discrimination, to wage-and-hour, to recordkeeping and privacy.
Record Highs in Discrimination Lawsuits
Employers constantly face the threat of employment discrimination lawsuits under federal and state laws. According to the EEOC, the number of federal discrimination charges has significantly spiked in the last 5 years.
Employment discrimination cases can raise claims of racial discrimination, age discrimination, gender discrimination, disability discrimination, pregnancy discrimination and retaliation. They often relate to alleged discriminatory termination, failure to hire, denial of promotion, retaliation, or an allegedly hostile work environment (“workplace harassment”).
The key to most employment discrimination cases is whether the employee can prove that they were intentionally discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment based upon a protected category (race, color, gender, age, religion, disability, pregnancy or national origin).
In a majority of cases, the only way the plaintiff/employee can establish intentional discrimination is by showing circumstantial evidence that a “similarly situated” employee outside of the protected category was treated more favorably under similar circumstances. If the plaintiff cannot present sufficient evidence, however, the defendant/employer may be able to prevail in the case on a motion for summary judgment without the need for a trial
Employer “Best Practices”
Employers should keep detailed records of their employment decisions, conduct audits of their employment practices, and receive training on the various and changing areas of employment law.
Claims also may be minimized by developing sound policies and procedures, and by consistently enforcing them. We believe one of the best employment practices available is to apply employment policies and make employment decisions consistently and fairly—then keep meticulous records of those decisions.
Wage and Hour Issues
Employers also may face claims from the Department of Labor and/or suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act (the FLSA) for alleged failures to pay overtime or minimum wages, improper FLSA exemptions, or related claims.
While these areas of law are each the subject of a much more detailed discussion, Florida businesses can and should conduct audits of their pay practices to catch any wage and hour issues before getting sued. The United States and Florida Departments of Labor have useful information and tools on their websites at www.dol.com and www.stateofflorida.com.
Archer Bay PA attorneys advise employers on employment law matters and defends companies sued for alleged employment discrimination. We are committed to providing our clients the most current methods for preventing and defending employment claims in an effective and efficient manner.