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New Jersey Employment Law Blog

Employee misclassification and the benefits you're missing

As an employee, you're in line to receive a variety of benefits. However, should your employer misclassify you as an independent contractor, you'll miss out on many benefits, along with other privileges.

Here are just some of the benefits you could lose out on:

  • Health insurance: Employees are likely to be in line to receive health insurance. And in most cases, at a discounted price. However, if you're a contractor, you won't qualify, so you'll have to buy on your own.
  • Retirement account: For example, many employers offer the ability to save through a 401(k) account. Adding to this, some even match your contributions up to a certain level. As a contractor, you're responsible for your own retirement savings, without a match.
  • Ineligible for unemployment insurance: You hope that you never find yourself out of work, but it could happen. If it does, it's nice to know that you qualify for unemployment insurance. While employees are eligible for this benefit, contractors are not.

Is that sexual harassment or just flirting?

Flirting with members of the opposite sex happens all the time. It happens in schools, at the bar, at work or over the phone. It's often something people embrace and enjoy. It can be thrilling, and it's the way that many relationships progress from just being friends into something more.

The trouble is that the line between flirting with someone and sexually harassing that person is not always quite as clear as people think. One person may just think that they're flirting with a co-worker and trying to get them interested in a relationship, while the other person may think that they're being sexually harassed or working in a hostile environment.

Do independent contractors ever qualify for overtime pay?

As someone who works as an independent contractor or subcontractor, your income largely depends on the projects you accept. Your rights and obligations are different from those who have a formal, ongoing relationship with an employer as employees.

Contractors have to pay their own taxes and provide their own tools and materials. Working as a contractor can mean that you don't have any kind of employer-sponsored benefits and that your income may be irregular. As such, contractors typically charge more per hour than employees who have similar skills and educational backgrounds.

Sexual harassment takes on many forms

When most people think about sexual harassment in the workplace, inappropriate touching is the first thing that comes to mind. And while that's one of the most common forms of sexual harassment, there are many others that you need to be aware of.

Here are some of the many forms sexual harassment can take on:

  • Inappropriate touching: As noted above, this is common. It can include any type of touching, such as a co-worker who puts their hands on your shoulders and makes you uncomfortable.
  • Inappropriate language: It may not be as intrusive as touching, but that doesn't make it right. For example, if a supervisor makes crude remarks about your body or appearance, it can be a form of sexual harassment.
  • Sexual harassment via email or text: Not all sexual harassment takes part in a face to face environment, such as your office. This can also occur via email or text -- and is much more likely today with the advancement of technology. An example would be a boss who sends you sexually charged text messages.
  • Continually asking you on a date: It's not sexual harassment if a co-worker asks you for a date. However, if you turn them down and they continually come back for more, it can soon lead to this illegal behavior.

How to deal with a job loss the smart way

Losing your job suddenly can bring a huge amount of chaos into your life, and you may now have worries regarding how you will be able to continue paying rent or keep up with your mortgage payments. You may also have concerns about being able to afford basic living expenses in the weeks or months to come.

Losing a job is never easy, but there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with it. Allow yourself a day or so to come to terms with the loss, but also make sure that you are thinking about how you can make the best out of the situation. Following are some smart things to do in the aftermath of a job loss.

What types of workers are most apt to be sexually harassed?

Sexual harassment is, unfortunately, a far too common phenomenon in the workplace. Some types of workers tend to be more vulnerable to sexual harassment more than others.

The risk of sexual harassment tends to be higher in places in which a person works for tips.

What protections do you have under the Fair Labor Standards Act?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is one of many pieces of federal legislation that provides workers in almost every state including New Jersey with standardized, bare minimum rights or protections.

Any employer covered by FLSA must pay their nonexempt employees (hourly workers) overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a given week. The overtime rate of pay must be at least 1.5 times the employee's standard one.

No, you can't be discriminated against because of your hair

On your first day of work, you made sure to look your best. You knew that your workplace didn't allow unnatural hair colors, so you took out your bright, pink braids and opted for a more natural blonde. You had your new braids installed just a day or two before you went in, so you knew that they looked fresh and that you looked put together.

You were shocked when you arrived and your employer asked if you thought your hair was appropriate for work. In your mind, there was nothing unusual about it. On top of that, you'd put in extra time to abide by the same rules as others in making sure your hair wouldn't stand out in bright or unnatural colors.

Discriminated against for your age? You may have a claim

You've been in your field for around 30 years. You've worked hard to move up the ladder and get to where you are today. Of course, many things have changed in your workplace over the last three decades. The way employees are treated, how you complete your work and many other aspects of your work have changed.

One thing that you never thought would be an issue was having trouble keeping your job because of your age. In the past, you always focused on hiring older workers with more experience and education. Today, the company seems to be focused on hiring new workers with minimal experience. They can be molded and trained in a way that older workers can't, you overheard one person state.

Can an at-will employee also be wrongfully terminated?

It can create a significant economic hardship if you're fired. A loss of a job can make it hard for a worker to find future employment. You should realize that not all terminations are lawful though. If you've been fired from your job due to retaliation or discrimination, for example, then you may have fallen victim to wrongful termination. While it may not be easy to file a lawsuit in such instances as an at-will employee, it's not completely out of question.

New Jersey is an at-will employment state much like the many others here in this country. At-will employees are those that an employer can fire without notice and without having to give a valid reason. Generally, employees have a right to quit with little or no notice, and employers are typically afforded the same privilege.

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