Monthly Archives: June 2017

Labor Law as Applies to Confidentiality

With all the new information concerning HIPAA, which is scheduled to be fully implemented by April of 2005. you need to be aware of the confidentiality laws that govern your practice. One aspect of confidentiality concerns employment law. There are federal and state guidelines that address employment and discrimination laws.

The common law governs the relationship between employer and employees in terms of tort and contract duties. These rules are a part of agency law and the relationship between Principle (employer) and Agent (employee). In some instances, but not all, this law has been replaced by statutory enactments, principally on the Federal level. The balance and working relationship between employer and employee is greatly affected by government regulations. The terms of employment between management and the employee is regulated by federal statute designed to promote employer management and welfare of the employee. Federal law also controls and prohibits discrimination in employment based upon race, sex, religion, age, handicap or national origin. In addition, Congress has also mandated that employers provide their employees a safe and healthy environment to work in. All states have adopted Worker’s Compensation Acts that provide compensation to employees that have been injured during the course of their duties for the employer.

As I mentioned above, a relationship that is closely related to agency is the employee. and principle-independent contractor. In the employer-employee relationship, also called the (master-servant relationship), the employer has the right to control the physical conduct of the employee. A person who engages an independent contractor to do a specific job does not have the right to control the conduct of the independent contractor in the performance of his or her contract. The contract time to complete the job depends upon the employer’s time frame to complete the desired task(s), or job. Keep in mind that the employer may still be held liable for the torts committed by an employee within the scope of his or her employment. In contrast an employer ordinarily is not liable for torts committed by an independent contractor, but there are instances when the employer can be held liable for the acts of the independent contractor. Know your laws governing hiring a person as an independent contractor.

Labor law is not really applicable to your practice of Chiropractic in a practice setting. We will concentrate on employment and discrimination law. There are a number of Federal Statutes that prohibit discrimination in employment based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, age and handicap. The main framework of Federal employment discrimination law is Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but also the Equal Pay Act, Discrimination in Employment Act of 1973, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and many Executive Orders. In all cases each state has enacted laws prohibiting the same discriminations as Federal Statutes.

Equal Pay Act: This act prohibits an employer from discriminating between employees on the basis of sex by paying unequal wages for the same work. The act also forbids the employer from paying wages at a rate less than the rate at which he pays for equal work at the same establishment. Once the employee has demonstrated that the employer pays unequal wages for equal work to members of the opposite sex, the burden of proof shifts to the employer to prove that the pay difference is based upon the following:

1. Seniority system
2. Merit system
3. A system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production
4. Or any factor except sex.

Remedies may include recovery of back pay and enjoining the employer from further unlawful conduct and or sizeable fines.
Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, or national origin in hiring, firing, compensating, promoting, training or employees. Each of the following could constitute a violation prohibited by the Act:

1. Employer utilizing a proscribed criteria in making an employment decision. Prima Facie evidence would show, if the employee was within a protected class, applied for an open position and was qualified for the position, was denied the job and the employed continued to try to fill the position. Once these criteria’s are established, the burden of proof shifts to the employer to justify a nondiscriminatory reason for the person’s rejection for the job.

2. An employer engages in conduct which appears to be neutral or non-discriminatory, but continues to continue past discriminatory practices.

3. The employer adopts rules, which are adverse to protected classes, which are not justified as being necessary to the practice business. The enforcement agency is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It has the right to file legal actions, resolve action through mediation, or other means prior to filing suit. Investigate all charges of discrimination and issue guidelines and regulations concerning the enforcement policy of discrimination law.

The Act provides three defenses: A bona fide seniority or merit system, an occupational qualification or a professionally developed ability test. Violations of this act include: enjoining the employer from engaging in unlawful conduct, or behavior. Affirmative action and reinstatement of employees and back wages from a date not more than two years prior to the filing of the charge with the EEOC.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1976: This Act prohibits discrimination in hiring, firing, salaries, on the basis of age. Under Title VII it address all these areas and ages, but it is especially benefits individuals between the ages of 40-70 years. The language in this act is substantive for individuals between 40-70 years of age. The defenses and remedies are the same as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Employee Safety: In 1970 Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act. This Act ensured that every worker have a safe and healthful working environment. This Act established that OSHA develop standard, conduct inspections, monitor compliance and institute and enforce actions against non-compliance.

The Act makes each employer to provide a work environment that is free from recognized hazards that can cause or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to the employees. In addition, employers are required to comply with specific safety risks outlined by OSHA in their rules and regulations.

The Act also prohibits any employer from discharging or discriminating against an employee who exercises his rights under this Act.
The enforcement of this Act involves inspections and citations for the following:

1. Breach of general duty obligations
2. Breach of specific safety and health standards
3. Failure to keep proper records, make reports or post notices required under this Act

When a violation is discovered, a written citation, proposed penalty, and corrective date are given to the employer. Citations may be contested and heard by an administrative judge at a hearing. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission can grant a review of an administrative law judge’s decision. If not, than the decision of the judge becomes final. The affected party may appeal the decision to the US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Penalties for violations are both civil and criminal and may be as high as $1000.00 per violation per day, while criminal penalty be imposed as well for unlawful violations. OSHA may shut down a business for violations that create dangers of death or serious injury.

Worker’s Compensation: Most actions by injured employees against an employer are due to failure of the employer to use reasonable care under the circumstances for the safety of the employee. In such actions the employer has several well-established defenses available to him. They include defenses of the fellow servant rule. This rule does not make an employer liable for injuries sustained by an employee caused by the negligence of a fellow employee. If an employer establishes that the negligence of an employee contributed to the injury he sustained in the course of his employment, in many jurisdictions the employee cannot recover damages from the employer. Voluntary assumption of risk is the third defense. An employer in most jurisdictions is not liable to the employee for harm or injury caused by unsafe conditions of the premises if the employee, with knowledge of the facts and understanding the risks involved, voluntary inters into or continues in the employment of the employer.

Keep in mind that all states have enacted Worker’s Compensation Acts. These statutes create commissions or boards to determine whether an injured worker is entitled to receive compensation. Defenses above are not available in most jurisdictions to employers in proceeding under these statutes. The only requirement is that the employee be injured in the course of his employment.

Fair Labor and Standards Act: This act regulates the employment of child labor outside of agriculture. This act prohibits the employment of anyone less than 14 years of age in non-farm work. Fourteen and Fifteen years old may be employed for a limited number for hours outside of school hours, under specific conditions of non-hazardous occupations. Sixteen and seventeen year olds may work any non-hazardous jobs. Eighteen and older person may work in any job. This Act imposes wage and hour requirements upon covered employers. This act provides for a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay.

3 Things Employees Should Know About Employment Law

It is an unavoidable demand of running any business that an employer must have a good knowledge of employment law whether they are self employed and/or employ other staff. They should have an awareness of the rights of the employee, the employer themselves and where each party stands in the unfortunate event that the normal working relationship breaks down. This article addresses the five key areas that employers and HR departments need to consider when dealing with employment law in the UK.

1. How You Define Employees and Employers
It is important, before delving into the intricacies of employment law to have a clear idea of the parties that are involved and how their roles should be defined.

    • Employed vs Self Employed: This distinction can be less apparent than you may think. If a worker has agreed to provide a service/work under contract for an organisation then they will be a worker employed by that organisation unless the organisation is actually employing the services of that individual’s business, in which case the worker is self-employed and thus not a direct employee of the organisation. An example of such a scenario would be a contractor who offers his services to an employer via his own business rather than agree a direct contract of employment himself.

    • Part Time vs Full time: This is a heavily contextualised concept as the hours a full time employee works in one organisation could be the same as the hours worked by a part time employee in another. Once an organisation has set the hours that a full time employee is expected to work, a part time employee is defined as a worker employed on the same contractual basis but for reduced hours. The key thing to remember here is that part time employees should not be treated any less favourably in comparison to their full time counterparts purely because of the difference in hours that they work, unless their hours are a justifiable factor in the decision process. For example, pay should always be awarded on a pro-rata basis for part time workers in comparison to an equivalent full time role. Employees have the right to challenge and demand written explanations if they think that they are being treated differently on this basis alone.

  • Temporary vs Permanent: This distinction depends upon the contract of employment which we will discuss later on. The temporary or fixed term worker will have a contract which agrees their employment for a fixed period of time as opposed to an ongoing permanent relationship. As with part time workers, temporary workers must not be treated any differently to their permanent counterparts purely on the basis that they are on fixed term contracts.

2. Statutory Rights
These are the rules that govern and provide the framework for how you will need to deal with your staff from the start of the recruitment process to the cessation of the contract of employment. They cover not only the definitions of employment types mentioned above but every other area of individuals’ rights in the work place. They are too broad and detailed to discuss in their entirety here but, in summary, include:

Pay

  • Minimum Pay – Rates for over 16s, varying for different age groups
  • Equal Pay – Contracts for women employees must include the same pay and benefits as that of a man in an equivalent role
  • Pay Slips – To be itemised and provided before or on the date of pay
  • Discrimination – Employees must not be discriminated against based upon “protected characteristics” such as age and sex. Provisions must be in place for disabled workers
  • Equality Act 2010 – Employers do have the right to choose between two candidates of equal ability on such a characteristic if it is under-represented amongst their staff

Working Hours

  • Maximum Working Week – 48 hours, regular breaks etc. Opt outs can be agreed but not demanded
  • Flexible Working – Parents of children up to 18 years old have a right to apply to changes to their hours and work location which an employer can only refuse if specific circumstances are met
  • Parental Leave
  • Maternity Leave – 26 weeks ordinary and 26 weeks additional entitlement
  • Paternity Leave – 2 weeks entitlement with additional 26 weeks when mothers return to work

Absence

  • Sickness – Statutory sick pay entitlement etc
  • Compassionate Leave – Employees have a right to time off (but not pay) if they have illness or death in the immediate family

Whistleblowing – Protection for some disclosures in specific circumstances which would otherwise breach the employee’s contract.

Workplace Health & Safety (see below)

Redundancy – When an employee’s role is no longer required.

  • Statutory Pay
  • Notice Period
  • Relocation Opportunities

TUPE – Conditions of employment must be transferred in the event of a take over.

Pensions – Most employers must offer employees a stakeholder pension provision.

Dismissal & Disciplinary

    • Unfair Dismissal – The employer must have a fair reason (e.g., employee conduct) to dismiss an employee with 1 years employment and must follow a fair dismissal procedure. Some reasons for dismissal will qualify to be considered as automatic unfair dismissals such as union action, time off for parenting etc

    • Wrongful Dismissal – Notice must be given by all parties (unless a fixed term contract is lapsing) as set out in common law

  • Constructive Dismissal – If an employer breaks the terms of a contract and consequently forces an employee’s dismissal

Retirement – The Default Retirement Age is ultimately due to be scrapped by Oct 2011 although there are certain measures already in place to reach this end (Retirement is therefore no longer a fair reason for dismissal).

One of the most essential things to remember with statutory rights is that they are regularly changing. As an employer or HR worker you must remain familiar with the latest developments.

3. The Contract
Perhaps the most important element of any employer-employee relationship is the contract of employment. All parties will have certain statutory rights as mentioned above but the finer details and practicalities of the relationship will be contained in the employment contract. The contract will determine the procedures to follow in the event of staff under-performance or disciplinary proceedings, any employee benefits and concessions above and beyond their statutory entitlements (e.g., maternity leave, compassionate leave) and ultimately the conditions and processes of releasing staff either through dismissal, redundancy or resignation.

Completed Contract of Work With Good and Right

With the right to employment comes another essential related right which is the right to choice of one’s employment. The right to choice of one’s employment gives the freedom to people to undertake work of their own choice and not toil in the field in which they do not wish to put their labor. Laboring against the will of one’s self can be considered to be forced labor which is illegal in UAE and most of the other countries in the world. Employment contract is an agreement between the employer and the employee where the employee agrees to work for the employer for a fixed period of time and for a specific job – role. Employment contracts sometimes do not fix the duration of employment in which case the contract is known as an undetermined contract whereas determined employment contracts are contracts that bind the employee to the employer for a fixed period of time. Employment contracts are not considered as forms of forced labor as both the employee and employer willingly enter into it but in the long run it may be considered as forced labor as the main aim to fix a duration is to ensure that the employee does not leave the employment before that duration even if he wishes to and therefore once the employee signs an employment contract he has to work for the employer for the number of years fixed by the employment contract and the employee loses his right to leave quit the employment before that period. Though this is not considered forced labor it is in reality a different form of forced labor behind the veil of an enforceable contract.

In the United Arab Emirates the right to employment and all related rights enumerated in its rich constitution is only limited to the nationals of the United Arab Emirates whereas the rest of the people who live here as expatriates have to solely depend on employment contracts and therefore become the victims of the veiled forced labor. The present article discusses the regulations enumerated in the labor law1 for ending the employment and the consequences of breach of employment contracts of fixed duration.

According to the labor of the UAE the employer may on grounds enumerated in article 120 of the federal law no.8 of 1980, rescind the employment contract without giving notice. The grounds enumerated for rescinding of the employment without notice are as under:

1. In case the worker assumes a false identity or nationality, or submits false certificates or documents.

2. In case the worker had been appointed under probation, and the dismissal had taken place during or at the end of the probation period.

3. In case the worker commits an error resulting in colossal material losses to the employer. In such cases the Labor Department should be notified of the incident within 48 hours of the knowledge of the occurrence thereof.

4. In case the worker violates the instructions related to the safety at work or in the work place, provided that such instructions were written and posted in a prominent location, and that the said worker is notified thereof if he be an illiterate.

5. In case the worker fails to perform his main duties in accordance with the employment contract, and thereafter fails to remedy such failure despite a written investigation on the matter and a warning that he would be dismissed in case of recidivism.

6. In case the worker divulges any of the secret of the establishment where he works.

7. In case the worker convicted in a final manner by the competent court in a crime relating to honor, honesty or public ethics.

8. In case the worker is found in a state of drunkenness or under the influence of a narcotic during work hours.

9. In case the worker assaults the employer, responsible manager or co – worker during the work hours.

10. In case the worker remains absent without valid cause for more than twenty non – consecutive days in one year, or for more than seven consecutive days.

In case none of the above circumstances described applies to a case yet the employer terminates the employment of the worker without notice before the expiration of the determined employment contract, the employer has to provide compensation to the employee for the same. The compensation amount that is provided to the worker by the employer is in lieu of the damages suffered by the worker due to the premature termination of the employment. The law provides for a limitation to the amount of compensation which is limited to the total wage due for the period of three months or for the remaining period of the contract, whichever is shorter, unless otherwise stipulated in the contract. Therefore this provision is subject to the terms of the contract. Many times the contract has liquidated damages fixed for specific breaches; in such cases the damages awarded do not exceed nor are less than the liquidated amount.

Similar provisions are also provided in case the worker decides to leave the employment before the expiration of the employment contract. The worker may leave the employment before the expiration of the contract without notice if the following circumstances prevail:

1. In case the employer breaches his obligations towards the worker, as set forth in the contract or the law.

2. In case the employer or the legal representative thereof assaults the worker.

In case the two circumstances mentioned above do not prevail and yet the worker leave the employment prior to the expiry of the employment contract, the worker is be bound to compensate the employer for the loss incurred by him due to the rescission of the contract. The compensation amount is limited by the law to not exceed the wage of half a month for the period of three months, or for the remaining period of the contract, whichever is shorter, unless otherwise stipulated in the contract. Thus here too the terms of the contract if any regarding this matter shall be made applicable in a manner similar as it is explained above regarding termination of employment contract by employer.

These provisions mentioned above hold good only to the citizens of UAE, for the rest of 88% of the population the provision stipulated in article 128 of the law2 applies. Article 128 provides that in the event of a non – national worker to leave his work without a valid cause prior to the end of the contract with definite term, he may not get another employment even with the permission of the employer for a year from the date of abandonment of the work. It further provides for a warning for the employers that they may never knowingly recruit the worker or retain in his service during such period. The Non – national workers may be exempt from such penalties if they can secure an authorization of the original employer and after submitting such authorization in the ministry of labor and social affairs, attain the consent of the ministry for the new employment.

The following are the composition of employment and severance pay

In prior articles I have alluded to the fact that many people think being an entertainment lawyer is a romantic existence. Yet the brass-tacks principles of employment law and the harshness of employee severance and termination scenarios often overtake that romanticism. Being an entertainment lawyer entails a lot more than hanging-out with talent backstage or on the tour bus. In prior articles I have also alluded to the fact that artists often have “day jobs” providing their paying employment to subsidize their artistic ventures. As a New York entertainment attorney who grew up in a show business family in the midst of performers, I’m used to this. Most of these artists intend to abandon these day jobs, with or without an employment severance package, once they get signed to a development deal, record contract, or otherwise “make it”. But what happens in the meantime? What if an artist works for a company that intends to jettison him or her as an employee, rather than the other way around? What if the company counts on using an employment severance package as a hedge against risk of an after-occurring wrongful-termination lawsuit?

These past few years have comprised a particularly bad time in terms of employee and contractor lay-offs and firings. As a working entertainment lawyer in New York I have seen many artists and others downscale and change jobs in recent years. Many situations which used to prompt a severance package to materialize in the prior decade, do not do so any longer. The fact of the matter is, a large proportion of employees and other workers misplay the handling of their job exit, if and when it occurs in the employment law context. In the interests of employee and worker empowerment before the blue-ink dries on the release and settlement agreement or other severance documents, this article follows. Though written by me as a media and entertainment attorney working with entertainers, the same principles apply to employment work in other industries and sectors.

I suppose that the first rule of employee empowerment is fairly pedestrian-sounding, but vitally important. An employee must read and review every employment document pertaining to his or her job and career, carefully – including the following disclaimer. The employee should secure counsel promptly, if he or she sees any legal issue looming on the horizon which may affect the employee’s career or rights – including legal issues relating to employment and severance packages. As an entertainment lawyer friend and entertainment law professor of mine used to say, “every deal is different”. What applies in one employment context may not apply to the next one. The employee must make sure that he or she seeks individualized legal advice as to any important matter pertaining to the employee’s career or rights generally. It is not uncommon that a soon-to-be-terminated worker starts calling attorneys as soon as offered an employment severance package.

There are attorneys, entertainment attorneys and otherwise, who routinely handle “employee-side” legal matters. A number of attorneys may be able to do so affordably for even a modestly-compensated employee, in the context of a severance proposal or otherwise. An employee-side lawyer should be accustomed to representing people who have limited financial resources, and this is a particularly-familiar fact-pattern for an entertainment lawyer handling artist-side work. There are parallels. And, assuming that one is not a lawyer, one should no sooner handle one’s own legal work than handle one’s own dental or medical needs oneself. The severance and employee-exit scenario most often entails some analysis of employment legal issues governing the exit. Given the economic realities faced by those in the artistic world, all entertainment lawyers need to be familiar with these employment legal issues.

The employee should remember that most employers themselves have in-house or outside attorneys. Indeed, the employment, severance, settlement, release, and exit documents are most often drafted by these attorneys. They may be entertainment attorneys, employment attorneys, litigators, or generalists. However monikered, often an employee’s securing of his or her own counsel is the only way to equilibrate the proverbial scales of justice in a severance or other job-related scenario. Exploitative and even abusive treatment of employees is unfortunately rampant in the employment law context, including at the time of worker exit – particularly in highly-competitive cities like New York and Los Angeles, and in highly-competitive industries like entertainment and media as any entertainment attorney will tell you. The good works and lessons taught by historical pro-labor figures like Samuel Gompers should not go for naught. The employee should not look to the employer, or the vicissitudes of chance, to protect the employee and the employee’s own legal rights in the workplace or in the context of a severance or other exit from employment. Rather, the employee should empower himself or herself, and should not be inhibited in seeking out the advice and opinions of those professionals who handle employee-side legal work for a living.