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New Jersey Employment Law Blog

Is it illegal for your boss to make you work 'off the clock?'

Your boss has a habit of telling you he needs you to stay an extra half hour or more to "finish up" whatever you're working on, but he tells you to clock out at 5:00 because the company has cracked down on overtime pay. Maybe your boss tells you at 4:55 p.m. on Friday that you did something wrong and have to stay late to fix it. However, she says you can't show on your timesheet that you worked overtime because it's your fault that you didn't get it right the first time.

These are just a couple of examples of employees being expected to work "off the clock." For many people, such as those who are hourly or non-exempt workers, it's illegal. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that non-exempt employees be paid overtime when they work over 40 hours a week.

Can you keep a former employer from giving a bad reference?

You didn't leave your job on good terms with your employer. In fact, you were terminated. You have to list your former employer on your resume and applications since you were there for years. However, you're concerned about what your old boss will say when he's called by people interested in hiring you.

Many people think that former employers are only allowed to give basic information like employment dates, job titles and salary. Indeed, a lot of companies make it a policy not to give out more information than that to avoid any chance of a lawsuit. But can they legally say more -- a possibly derail your chances of getting another job? They can.

Employment protections for domestic violence, stalking victims

Victims of violence or other kinds of abuse by a spouse or romantic partner may not realize that they may be entitled to protection against employment discrimination under the law. However, they may be – specifically, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Unfortunately, many employers don't realize that these laws can be applied to employees and applicants who have been or currently are subjected to domestic violence, including dating violence, stalking and sexual assault.

Can a shift change be retaliation?

You probably know that it's unlawful to retaliate against an employee for filing a human resources complaint or taking steps to communicate their concerns. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for employees to face retaliation after doing so.

Retaliation is the most common claim of discrimination within the federal sector. It is one type of discrimination that the Equal Employment Opportunity Act protects you against and something that you should watch out for if you decide to make a complaint at work.

Didn't get your overtime? That's a problem to address

You worked overtime for the last three weeks, but when you got your paycheck, you were surprised to see that some of the overtime wasn't listed. You have to clock in manually each day, and you made sure that all your time stamps were written down and printed out, so you could easily tell your employer that your wages weren't right.

When you told them that you were missing around 10 hours of overtime on your check, you were surprised by their response. They said you were paid at a normal rate, because you weren't scheduled for those hours. As a result, they didn't think you deserved overtime, since they hadn't authorized it.

What can (and can't) employers ask people with disabilities?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), last year, less than 20% of people with disabilities were employed. The majority of them were not in the workforce. For those who are, however, the picture isn't a rosy one. The unemployment rate last year for people with disabilities was more than double that of people without disabilities.

Many people with disabilities have to deal with the fear and ignorance of potential employers. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), they are required to provide reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities as long as it doesn't present an undue hardship to the business. An undue hardship could be a significant cost or disruption to the operation of the business. Typically, the best way to find out what kind of accommodations an employee needs is to ask them.

Workplace discrimination regulations extend to hiring

Workplace discrimination can begin long before someone gets into the workplace. It too often keeps people out. That's why there are laws regarding what kind of information employers can request during the pre-employment process.

Generally, employers can only ask for information that is relevant to a person's job qualifications. This typically prohibits them from seeking information about a person's race, gender, religion and other protected characteristics.

'Microaggressions' in the workplace can take their toll

Often, workplace discrimination isn't as blatant as someone using an ethnic slur or telling someone they aren't qualified for a job because of their race, gender, age or disability. Many employees -- particularly women, people of color, and LGBTQ and disabled people -- are subject to what are called "microagressions" on a regular basis.

The term got some notoriety recently on social media when an actress called out former Glee star Lea Michele for making her experience on the show "a living hell" through "traumatic microaggressions." Michele apologized, saying her actions weren't based on the other actress's race, adding, "that's not really the point. What matters is that I clearly acted in ways which hurt other people."

Can you be fired for social media posts?

Many people vent about anything and everything on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms. If you're venting about the incompetent colleague you're stuck on a project with or mocking your employer, however, you could find yourself unemployed. Even if you're sharing good news, like a new product your company is going to be rolling out, you could be violating corporate policies.

Even political opinions or other sentiments shared online (or captured on someone else's phone and shared on social media) can cost you your job. We've all seen instances of someone who posted a racist comment online or was caught on video harassing someone. It doesn't take long for the "Twitterverse" to identify them and their employer and call for them to lose their job. If a company finds itself publicly embarrassed by an employee's words or actions, it may feel it has no choice but to terminate them.

Workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians is illegal

The justices of the Supreme Court of the United States entered a ruling on the 1964 Civil Rights Act Title VII on June 15. The high court panel ruled 6-3 that any discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) workers is unlawful. The panel decided that federal guidelines that refer to 'sex' discrimination being illegal should extend to cover a person's "gender identity" or "sexual orientation."

Congress must ultimately rewrite the law to reflect this new language. The U.S. Supreme Court justices have made it clear how they interpret the law, though.

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