The Wall Street reform act offers strong protection from retaliation to employees who are whistle-blowers, according to Tennessee attorney Cynthia Gibson. The law applies to all corporations, not just Wall Street traders.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act provides extensive protection of whistle-blowers when they report violations of SEC regulations. Employees on foreign soil as well as within the U.S. are protected when they file a good-faith complaint. So are employees of subsidiaries or affiliates of publicly traded companies.
The Dodd-Frank Act specifically prohibits an employer from using an arbitration agreement to resolve retaliation complaints.
The financial rewards provide an incentive for an employee to go straight to the SEC with complaints, rather than addressing them with the employer first. Attorney Gibson suggests that corporations may want to offer monetary (more…)
The Hawaii Civil Union Law, signed by Governor Neil Abercrombie on February 23, 2011 goes into effect on January 1, 2012. It permits same-sex or opposite-sex couples to enter into civil unions. The Hawaii Civil Unions provide many of the same benefits as marriage under state law, although they are not recognized by federal law.
Although specifics on the bill are sketchy, it appears that employers will have to extend the same benefits to civil partners as to spouses of employees in Hawaii.
Across the nation, employers are telling workers to hang up and drive. Many employers are banning the use of cell phones while driving, and it appears likely that OSHA, the federal worker safety agency, will require such a ban within the next few years. Other strategies including the newest cell phone technology can help employers limit liability from cell phone use and improve productivity.
Employers may be liable for an accident caused by an inattentive employee on company business or driving a company vehicle. The potential liability exceeds $10 million if a texting employee causes the death of several people, especially children. This is true whether the employer furnishes the phone or not. Personal as well as work-related calls can be a liability for the employer.
Cell phone usage while driving is a major hazard, causing many traffic accidents each year. Traffic accidents are the major cause of fatal workplace accidents, so it makes sense for companies to ban the use of phones altogether. Some employers have gone further and banned the use of phones in other situations, including on factory floors, in restaurants and other workplaces. Such a ban increases safety and productivity. As long as the ban applies to all employees in similar jobs, it is not illegal discrimination.
Texting while driving is a particular problem among younger employees, according to New Jersey attorney Steven Adler. The potential liability for employers is enormous. He suggests that employers train every worker on the company cell phone policy during orientation, and regularly remind workers, especially younger workers, of the policy.
The newest cell phone technology can aid employers in enforcing a ban on cell phones while driving. Many phones have (more…)
The National Labor Relations Board or NLRB recently sued an employer when a worker was fired for ranting about her supervisor on Facebook. Although the case was settled out of court, the employer had to pay a hefty financial settlement to the employee for infringing on her rights to free speech.
Under federal law, employees are permitted to discuss wages, working conditions and hours with their coworkers and others. This right is protected under the freedom of speech in the Constitution, and in Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act or NLRA. That law gives employees the right to join together to improve working conditions, within a labor union or outside of a union.
State law is also an issue. Several states prohibit an employer from firing a worker based on legal conduct on the employee’s own time. These states include California, Connecticut, New York, North Dakota and Washington.
Apparently, the NLRB has decided that when an employer forbids negative remarks on Facebook, the employer violates the employee’s rights to discuss working conditions under the NLRA.
In the case before the Supreme Court American Medical Response or AMR, a Connecticutambulance company, had a policy forbidding employees from posting negative remarks online about the company or supervisors. Employee Dawnmarie Souza violated that policy in a Facebook update disparaging her supervisor, posted on her own time. A customer (more…)
Federal agencies are focusing on I-9 audits resulting in civil and criminal prosecutions of employers who hire undocumented workers, rather than immigration raids to round up and deport illegal aliens. I-9 audits are conducted by ICE, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
Retail giant Abercrombie and Fitch recently paid penalties of $1.04 million after an I-9 audit of stores in Michigan – even though they had not hired a single undocumented worker. The company relied on an internally developed software program to produce and track I-9s. The software omitted an essential question, requiring the employee to attest to citizenship or legal immigration status. Because this feature was omitted, the company did not have a valid, complete I-9 form on even one employee in the state.
In California, a company president faces criminal charges for hiring illegal workers after an I-9 audit. As ICE seeks civil and criminal penalties against executives and managers, an I-9 audit is no longer merely an annoyance.
Even if no criminal prosecution occurs, violators can face fines of $100 to $1,100 per employee for even the simplest of I-9 errors. The majority of I-9 audits occur as a result of tips by disgruntled employees, or violations of other employment regulations.
Employers can use a variety of techniques to avoid penalties and criminal prosecution during an I-9 audit: (more…)