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Common Mistakes that Lead to Employment Law Problems

The relationship between an employer and their employees is heavily regulated. Employees are guaranteed lots of different protections and rights, and the laws creating these protections aren’t always clear or easy to understand. Therefore, it’s fairly easy to find yourself in violation of one, which can leave you subject to a lawsuit from a disgruntled worker, especially for small businesses who may not have a human resources department. Here are four mistakes that employers often make that could leave them liable for a lawsuit.

Misclassifying Employees/Contractors

This is a particularly large problem for small businesses, who often try to bring people onboard as “independent contractors” in order to avoid being required to pay for workers’ compensation insurance as well as numerous other taxes. The problem is, workers who function in employee-like roles can still hold you liable and sue for misclassification. This is especially true for taxation purposes: make sure you know what the IRS has to say about contractors vs. employees to avoid a tax liability problem.

Failing to Implement an Employee Handbook

You’ve decided to bring employees on board, which is fantastic, but what are they expected to do? Are they required to meet a certain goal each week? Do they have to work a certain number of hours? What are performance minimums? These and loads of other questions can all be answered by implementing an employee handbook. Giving this document to new hires not only details rules that employees must follow and policies that will be enforced, but employees receiving the book indicates they understand and are willing to comply, which makes termination for breaking these policies less subject to scrutiny.

Mishandling Break Times

Georgia law is surprisingly lax when it comes to meal and rest breaks throughout the day. In fact, state laws do not require that employees are given any sort of rest or meal breaks, unlike many other states. However, most companies provide these breaks as a customary measure, and that means careful documentation is mandatory. Federal law requires that employees are paid for short breaks (five to 20 minutes), while meal breaks of 30 minutes or more may be unpaid provided employees may use this time as they wish. Failing to pay for short breaks or mishandling break times to unfairly adjust pay is against the law.

Mishandling Complaints

Employers are required to respond to complaints about what’s happening in their workplace. This means if an employee comes to you to report harassment, discrimination, or misconduct, you are required to not only keep a record of the complaint, but respond to it within a reasonable amount of time. Reasonable efforts must also be made to accommodate disabled employees, per the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If you find your business facing a lawsuit for one of these common employment law mistakes, call an Atlanta employment attorney at Buckley Beal, LLP at (404) 471-3725 for a case evaluation!
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