How Should Employers Handle Office Romance?
By Nancy Castor Sprattlin
Office romance has become quite common in our modern workplace. Although romantic relationships between coworkers may proceed without incident, the complications with office romance may sometimes create legal risks for employers. This is particularly true for relationships between supervisors and subordinates which may give the impression that employment decisions are based on factors other than merit. Showing a preference for a love interest or paramour has been rejected as basis for legal claims of discrimination or harassment, however claims such as systematic favoritism and sexual harassment have long been recognized as legitimate causes of action.
Although some employers ban office romance, a complete prohibition can be a challenging rule to enforce. It has been shown that employers with well-drafted workplace romance policies are generally in a better position to defend against discrimination, harassment, and favoritism claims than employers that don’t. Therefore, an employer’s first step in minimizing risks and protecting itself against such claims is to address workplace romance issues through realistic and consistently-enforced policies and practices. In some instances where a company becomes aware of a consensual relationship between employees, a "love contract" can also be an effective way to mitigate potential negative consequences. However, the use of love contracts does have a few drawbacks.
Should You Pay Your Employees if You Close Your Business Due To Inclement Weather
by Nancy Castor Sprattlin
We have had a series of snowstorms across the country and here in Georgia, the snow and resulting icy roads have caused the closing of businesses and schools. As an employer, the question remains: whether you should pay your employees if you close your business due to inclement weather.
The answer is: it depends! Employers do not have to pay HOURLY non-exempt employees for hours that are not worked. However, as a business incentive (to keep morale or retain employees) employers may allow such employees to use sick, vacation, or PTO time, but are not required to do so under the law. Employers are NOT permitted, however, to deduct pay for hours/days not worked for SALARIED exempt employees and must provide such employees their regular salaries if they work any part of the week.
Top 6 Strategies To Minimize The Risks of Workplace Violence
by Nancy Castor Sprattlin
Employers have legal and ethical obligations to promote a work environment free from threats and violence. Some situations are beyond employers' control and are simply not preventable. However many situations can be prevented by doing some or all of the following:
Adopting a workplace violence policy and prevention program AND communicating the policy/program to your employees.
Providing regular training in preventive measures for all new/current employees, supervisors, and managers.
Fostering a climate of trust and respect among workers and between employees and management.
Supporting, not punishing, victims of workplace harassment and providing assistance programs.
When necessary, seeking the assistance of outside resources, including threat-assessment psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals.
Doing pre-employment screening. While pre-employment screening is an obvious means of preventing workplace violence, it must, however, be consistent with privacy protections and anti-discrimination laws. There are many other creative means that may be helpful! Please contact us today to discuss further.
The Season To Be Jolly Soon Approaching, Employers Beware!
By Nancy Castor Sprattlin, Esq.
November is here, thus the holidays are right around the corner! It is that time again when employers must grapple with the dilemma as to whether to hold a holiday party for their employees. Holiday parties are a legal minefield for employers! It goes without saying that there is always a risk involved in holding company-sponsored events, especially if alcohol is served. Serving alcohol definitely compounds the problems typically encountered by employers during Company parties, particularly holiday parties. Such problems involve everything from excessive drinking to inappropriate jokes to sexual advances to physical injuries and fatalities resulting from fighting and/or driving while intoxicated. As a result, we recommend the following 7 quick tips to minimize legal liability as you prepare for your holiday parties:
1. Do not serve alcohol; instead have a catered lunch or early dinner with non-alcoholic beverages at the office.
2. If serving alcohol, consider serving only wine (and perhaps beers) as well as non-alcoholic alternatives with the meal. We highly recommend inviting spouses and significant others.
3. Hire professional bartenders and make sure you instruct them to report anyone who they think has had too much to drink. Ensure that bartenders are complying with the law. Your supervisors or managers should NEVER be used as bartenders during Company parties!!!
4. Provide accommodations (i.e. arrange for Company paid car service or even a hotel room) for any employee who feels that he/she is too intoxicated to drive home.
5. Managers should be instructed to monitor their subordinates to ensure they do not drink too much.
6. Do not hang or allow employees, particularly managers, to hang mistletoes at the party!
7. If the big guy, Santa, makes an appearance at the party, do not encourage employees to sit on his lap in jest or for pictures, particularly if a manager or corporate officer/director is Santa. Sorry Santa!
Nationwide Injunction Issued Putting On Hold FLSA Salary Increase Rules - What Does It Mean For Employers?
By Nancy Castor Sprattlin, Esq.
It seems employers may have received an early holiday present from a judge in Texas. Judge Amos Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas has issued a nationwide injunction stopping the implementation of the new rules applicable to the White Collar Exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The new rules, originally scheduled to go into effect on December 1, 2016, would have required employers to raise exempt employees ' salaries to meet the new threshold of $913 weekly or $47,476 annually or reclassify them as non-exempt. Essentially, the rules have now been delayed for employers, for now!
What does this injunction mean for you, employers? Employers may now have options depending on whether they have already taken steps to implement the new rules. If you have already made changes and communicated them to employees, it would be best to consult with employment law counsel prior to changing anything back. If you have not yet made any changes, you no longer need to make those changes by December 1, 2016. We will continue to keep this website updated on this issue. But, in the interim, feel free to contact us 404.410.3075 (Direct) or 770.952.5000 (Firm) with any questions or any request for an audit to ensure compliance.
The DOL Has Released Final Rules On New Threshold For Exemption From Overtime
by Nancy Castor Sprattlin
The U.S. Department of Labor has finally released its final rules on the new requirements for exemption from overtime. The good news is that the new rules will not become effective until December 2016, so you and/or your corporate clients have time to prepare accordingly. Currently, exempt employees such as qualified administrative employees, supervisors, and professionals making at least $23,660 a year or $455 a week are exempt from time and a half overtime pay for work done beyond 40 hours a week under the Fair Labor Standar ds Act. The new rules will significantly raise the threshold pay to $47,476 a year /$913 a week. Arguably, more employees will become eligible to receive overtime pay from their employers when the new rules become effective in December. The DOL plans to update the earnings requirements for exemption every three years, making it likely that the threshold will be more than $51,000 a year by 2020 and that even more workers will join the non-exempt fold.
You can access the White House's Press Release by clicking on this link