Tag Archives: employment

Federal Court Puts New Overtime Rules On Hold

On November 22, 2016, a federal district court in Texas issued an preliminary injunction pausing the implementation of the new overtime rules set to go into effect on December 1, 2016.  The overtime rules significantly raised the salary requirements for employees to be exempt from overtime under the EAP (executive, administrative, professional) exemption.  You can read my post about that here.

The preliminary injunction does not permanently stop the rules – it is a temporary brake.  The judge’s order is the first in what is likely a series of legal challenges and decisions.  We can expect the US Department of Labor (“DOL”) to challenge the judge’s preliminary injunction with some form of an expedited appeal.  Meanwhile, though, the judge’s order puts a break on the new salary requirements.

Employers should avoid a knee-jerk reaction to the injunction.  Whether to put any changes on hold, or to keep or remove any changes already made, should be done carefully.  Both the legalities and business considerations (such as the affect on employee morale) must be considered.  Employers also should stay alert in case the judge’s order changes, the order itself is suspended, or is reversed.  An employer that does not pay attention does so at that employer’s peril.

Please contact us with any questions.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

This post provides general information only.  This post is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to be legal advice about your situation.  Laws change and your situation may be different.  You should consult with a licensed attorney for legal advice specific to your circumstances.

© 2016 Matthew D. Macy

Misclassifying Your Workforce Can Bite

A business owner and her lawyer are having lunch.  They were talking about Uber’s troubles.  Uber, the ride-share business, faced lawsuits over Uber classifying its drivers as independent contractors.  We now join the conversation in progress.

Business Owner:  Why does it matter whether someone is an employee versus an independent contractor?

       Lawyer:  Costs and liability are big reasons.  Whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor affects overtime entitlement, benefits, liability exposure, taxes, unemployment, worker’s comp, and which employment laws apply.  Making a mistake in classification can be costly.

Business Owner:  How so?

            Lawyer:  Take overtime for starters.  An employer is responsible for paying overtime if the worker is a non-exempt employee, even if the employer calls the worker an independent contractor.  A worker who successfully sues that he was an employee entitled to overtime that was not paid can get the unpaid wages, interest, liquidated damages, any penalties under state law, and his attorney’s fees and costs.  Then there are the attorney’s fees spent by the employer.

Business Owner:  That is not cheap.

            Lawyer:  That is not all.  There can be the audits, tax issues, etc.  The employee does not need to sue for that to happen.

Business Owner:  Oh, bother.  How do I properly classify someone?

           Lawyer:  There are several tests by the various governmental agencies and the courts.  You will have to pick the ones that apply to your business.  There are common themes between the tests, thankfully.

Business Owner:  Such as?

            Lawyer:  A written independent contract usually is important.  What has to be in the contract will depend on which test you need to satisfy.  Then there is control.  How much control the employer has over the who, what, when, where, and how of the job is considered.  Who provides the tools and materials also affects the outcome.  Then there is the risk of loss among other factors.

Business Owner: Any worker has a risk of loss.  The worker can be fired for doing a bad job.

            Lawyer:  There is more to the risk than that.  Who stands to lose money on a particular job is considered.  Here is an example that helps explain this.  Assume you and a painting company agree on a flat price of $3,000 for the company to paint your house.  You pick the paint, the finish, and agree on a schedule.  The painting company supplies the painters, the tools, and manages the painters and the pace of work.  The painting company, however, underestimated its costs and lost $200 because its total costs were $3,200.  The painting company’s employees are entitled to their wages regardless.

Business Owner:  What now?

            Lawyer:  Let me know if you want to go over how you classify your workers.  Any other questions?

Business Owner:  How come it seems like we are reading a script?

            Lawyer:  Because we are.

This post provides general information only.  This post is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to be legal advice about your situation.  Laws change and your situation may be different.  You should consult with a licensed attorney for legal advice specific to your circumstances.

© 2016 Matthew D. Macy

Maximize Your Options under the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016

Trade secrets are valuable. The owner of a trade secret must take reasonable measures to protect the trade secret. The reason measures can include limiting access on a need-to-know basis and the agreements put in place. For example, when an employer sues an employee for stealing a trade secret, the court will ask whether the employee signed a trade secret or confidentiality agreement. Not having an agreement would be a serious setback for the employer.

A well-drafted trade secrets agreement is useful, while a poorly drafted agreement can backfire. Anyone using those agreements should regularly review the agreements for updates. For example, in May 2016, the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (“DTSA”) became law. The DTSA opens the federal courts to more civil cases over trade secret misappropriation. The DTSA also imposes a notice requirement on employers. An employer that fails to comply with the notice requirement, when required, will limit what the employer could recover under the DTSA.

Employers that use trade secrets or confidentiality agreements need to have a notice of the whistleblower protections in the DTSA. The requirement applies to contracts entered into or renewed on or after when the law came into effect.  The employer also can comply by having the agreement cross-reference a policy document that has the required notice.  What is unclear is whether the notice can be a summary of the whistleblower rights, a repeat of the statute, or something else.

An employer that does not include the notice when required will not be able to get punitive/exemplary damages or an attorney’s fee award on a DTSA claim in a lawsuit against an employee. Regardless of whether state law or the contract covers that “gap,” it makes sense for an employer to include the notice when required to preserve as many options as possible.

It pays for an employer to review its agreements going forward for DTSA compliance, and to make sure the agreements still meets the employer’s needs. The recent DTSA gives employers and others an excuse to review their agreements.

We are happy to assist employers and others with their policies, procedures, and agreements. Feel free to give us a call.

This post provides general information only. This post is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to be legal advice about your situation. Laws change and your situation may be different. You should consult with a licensed attorney for legal advice specific to your circumstances.

© 2016 Matthew D. Macy

An Overtime Bedtime Story

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod formed the Wooden Shoe Company to build custom fishing boats.  They are both owners and employees of the company.  A debate erupted between them whether they would be exempt from overtime as business owners.  The boys called the lawyers at Goldnet, Silvernet & Moon to answer the question.  This is what they learned.

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), a business owner qualifies for the “white collar” exemption to overtime as an executive employee, regardless of the amount of salary, if: (1) the employee owns at least a 20% bona fide equity interest in the business; and (2) the employee is actively engaged in the management of the business.  “Actively involved in management” is considered on a case-by-case basis.

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod applied the test to their situation.  All three boys had bona fide equity interests in the company, and they all met the requirement to be actively involved in the management of the company.  Wynken owned 50% of the company, Blynken owned 40%, and Nod owned 10%.  Wynken and Blynken qualified for the business owner exemption.  Nod, however, did not qualify for the business owner exemption because he owned less than 20% of the company.  The boys then checked whether another exemption applied to Nod.

What is the takeaway?  Just owning any percentage of the business will not automatically exempt the employee from overtime.  There is an ownership minimum and a requirement to be involved in management.  All may not be lost if the owner-employee does not qualify for the business owner exemption.  Another exemption could apply; otherwise, the owner-employee is eligible for overtime.

Employers also should remember that state laws could expand eligibility for overtime beyond the rules under the FLSA.   Please contact us if we can be of assistance.

This post provides general information only.  This post is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to be legal advice about your situation.  Laws change and your situation may be different.  You should consult with a licensed attorney for legal advice specific to your circumstances.

© 2016 Matthew D. Macy