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Employee Rights Archives

Employees, Not Independent Contractors

Among the many methods used by businesses to cheat workers is that of misclassification. By calling a worker an independent contractor, rather than an employee, companies can avoid a host of legal responsibilities, including the need to provide a safe workplace, pay proper wages and cover things like unemployment and worker's compensation. Misclassifying workers has grown alongside the practice of legitimately using contractors to provide labor. It is a sign that many employers are happy to cut costs at the expense of the communities they serve, even if doing so endangers workers and violates the law.

Respecting Religion In The Workplace

The New Jersey State Law Against Discrimination requires employers to provide reasonable religious accommodation to workers. The U.S. Constitution and the New Jersey State Constitution both guarantee people the right to observe the religion of their choice. In the employment setting, religious accommodation is an acknowledgement that employees come from different faiths and should not be restricted from practicing their religion without good reason. Any sincerely held religious belief is entitled to, at the very least, a discussion of ways your employer can accommodate.

Retaliation Guidelines Under Review

According to Equal Employment Opportunity laws, retaliation is "when an employer unlawfully takes action against an individual in punishment for exercising rights protected by any of the EEO laws." The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) does not handle all types of retaliation, but a significant percentage of the claims it handles are based on these allegations. EEOC data shows that 43 percent of the bias charges it handled for private sector employers were based on accusations of retaliation.

Gender Discrimination And Appearance Policies

Can you be fired for gaining a few pounds? According to the New Jersey Supreme Court, apparently the answer is yes. The issue arose based on the practice of an Atlantic City casino of firing cocktail waitresses if they gained more than 7 percent of their body weight. A group of "Borgata Babes" eventually tired of being embarrassed and harassed as part of regular weigh-ins and filed turned to the law to put a stop to the discrimination. Unfortunately, the practice was condoned by the court system based on the notion that the casino applies the rule to both male and female employees. That ignores the fact that there is no evidence that the men who work as bartenders are weighed as frequently, or even at all.

Subcontracting And Employment Law Violations

There are valid business reasons for a company to hire another company to provide a workforce. A company whose labor needs may change quickly might prefer the ability to quickly scale up or scale down without it impacting payroll. Such arrangements can also help employees who are able to find steady work through temp agencies or other subcontractors. There are serious problems with subcontracting, however. It can be used as a tool to deny workers proper wages, including overtime benefits. It can shield bad actors from the legal consequences of their actions. The rise in popularity of these arrangements has naturally led to an increase in the abuse of workers. The Department of Labor' Wage and Hour Division has released new guidance regarding the acceptable use of subcontracted employees.

Gender And Gender Identity Discrimination Guidelines

New York City is releasing new guidelines to help combat discrimination against people based on gender or gender identity. The New York City Human Rights Commission has put forth specific rules explaining just what amounts to discrimination. The rules cover discriminatory practices that often target gay and transgender people. The guidelines will apply to a large percentage of businesses, as well as to landlords and other employers.

Alcoholism Is A Protected Disability And Employers Must Accommodate It

Recently University of Southern California head football coach Steve Sarkisian filed a lawsuit against the university alleging that he had been wrongfully terminated because of his disability, alcoholism. This raises the interesting question as to whether alcoholism is a protected status and what obligations employers have towards alcoholic employees.

The Gender Component Of Age Discrimination

Age discrimination is a serious problem in the employment world. New Jersey and federal laws protect workers from adverse employment actions based on age. A recent study indicates that age discrimination might often be another form of discrimination in disguise. According to the National Economic Bureau of Research, women are substantially more likely to be discriminated against based on age than men. The study suggested that age discrimination is largely another way to penalize female workers.

New Jersey Employment and Civil Rights Trial Lawyer Discusses Missouri Court's decision that it's ok to call a gay employee "cock sucker" and ask if he has AIDS

James Pittman sued the Kansas City based Cook Paper Recycling Corporation last year, alleging that he was fired in 2001 after 7 years. His theory was that he was fired because he was gay. A lower Missouri court had previously dismissed Pittman's suit, and a three panel appeals court upheld that ruling last week (the week of October 26th) in a "split decision." Two Judges were in the majority and said that the Missouri "human rights act" covers only gender, and not sexual orientation.

Insurance Company Gives Good Advice To Employers

To hear some employers tell it, avoiding lawsuits for employment law violations is incredibly complex. The truth is that many violations of worker rights involve employers trying to save money or avoid the hassle of firing obviously inappropriate personnel. It is not difficult for employers to obey the state and federal laws protecting employees. Many simply choose not to. An insurance company whose clients include many small- and medium-sized businesses recently conducted a study of employee lawsuits against employers. The advice that came out of that study is that simple measures all employers should have in place would prevent many of these lawsuits.

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