A number of employers, even experienced or sophisticated employers sometimes believe, (or fool themselves in believing), some common myths about what is legal when it comes to employees. Here are the some of the most common:
MYTH #1 “Oh, I’ll just put her on salary then I don’t have to worry about tracking her hours or paying overtime.”
In order to be exempt from overtime an employee needs to be paid on a salary basis but that employee must also perform duties that fit into one of the white-collar exemption categories. That means the individual must be an executive, an administrator or professional. Learn the legal requirements here.
MYTH #2 “My pay practice is fine because my employee agreed to voluntarily work overtime hours at straight time.”
Employers must pay non-exempt employees overtime at time and one half for all hours worked over forty in a workweek. Employees cannot waive the protection of this statute. Even if the employee never complains, when an audited by the United States Department of Labor the employer will be ordered to pay the overtime and possibly liquidated damages and civil money penalties.
MYTH #3 “If a group of my employees start complaining too much about conditions around here I can just fire them—after all they are at-will employees.”
The National Labor Relations Act protects the right of employees to engage in concerted activity. That concerted activity includes the right to get together as a group and discuss wages, hours and working conditions and complain to the boss about them, (and even go on strike!) The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) enforces the National Labor Relations Act and the law even applies to non-union companies. Get familiar with the National Labor Relations Act here.
MYTH #4 “Wage rates are confidential and I can fire anyone who discloses his wage rate to a co-worker.”
See the debunking of MYTH #3 above—employees have the right to discuss among themselves their wages, hours and working conditions.
MYTH #5 “My employee handbook is fine, I got it from a trusted source and I had my regular attorney review it.”
Years ago many attorneys could competently review an employee handbook for employment law compliance. Now we have an activist NLRB that is declaring illegal certain language contained in most employee handbooks. Common handbook sections on at-will employment, confidentiality, arbitration, after hour access to company premises, solicitation and distribution are being attacked as being in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. Be sure an attorney who carefully follows the NLRB and is well versed in labor law reviews your handbook.