Chances are that no matter how large or small your business is, if you employ other people, you are always at risk of an employee lawsuit. Employment litigation is burdensome for any business enterprise, as a lengthy court battle can drain time and business resources as well as divert your attention from daily operations.
To help prevent employee litigation, Arizona employers should implement preventative measures in these categories where employment litigation is most common:
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) governs employment standards in the U.S., and many employee lawsuits are triggered by FLSA violations such as failure to pay overtime by misclassifying employees as exempt from overtime pay. The federal and state regulations governing employment are numerous and ever-changing; with the assistance of an expert in business litigation and employment law, you can ensure your business complies with the labor laws that govern your relationship with your employees.
Anti-Discrimination Law Compliance
Federal law prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, religion, color, sex (including pregnancy), age, national origin, disability, citizenship status, and genetic information. Arizona law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability or national origin. In addition, some municipalities have local discrimination laws. Phoenix and Tucson prohibit discrimination on the basis of marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
To avoid a discrimination lawsuit, it is essential that business owners codify their commitment to fairness and nondiscrimination with formal company policies. Supervisory staff must be properly trained in nondiscrimination practices and the company must demonstrate an ongoing commitment to fairness in the workplace.
Leave Law Compliance
Under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Arizona companies that employ 50 or more employees for at least 20 weeks must provide qualifying employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period without affecting their job status for:
- the birth or adoption of a child;
- care of a seriously ill immediate family member; or
- care of the employee’s serious health condition.
The FMLA was also amended to require employers to provide 26 weeks of unpaid leave to military family members—a spouse, parent, child, or next of kin—to provide care for a wounded veteran. To qualify for FMLA leave, an employee must have worked for the company for at least 1,250 hours during the last year.
Equity in Compensation
While it is legal to compensate employees based on prior work experience, pay history or even an existing relationship, paying people who perform the same job differently can lead to litigation. Employees working the same job should have similar salaries and any difference should be based on documented performance.
The more rules your business has, the more likely it is that someone will violate them. When it comes to the workplace, you should only establish rules that are vital to the smooth operation of the business. When you make rules that can be considered by some as discriminatory—such as a strict dress code that could conceivably violate religious freedom—you increase the risk of an employee lawsuit.
At Williams Mestaz, L.L.P., we focus our efforts on representing your business interests throughout the duration of your case. When you need help that only an experienced business litigation attorney can offer you, contact Williams Mestaz, L.L.P., at (602) 256-9400.