Labor laws in the U.S. and New Jersey were enacted to increase workplace safety and the ability of employees to organize to fight for better wages and benefits. These laws are critical for protecting employees in the workplace and were initially passed during the early 20th century following some horrific incidents in which people were killed at work because of the lack of safe conditions. Employers that fail to adhere to the important labor laws can face lawsuits and receive financial penalties. Employees who believe their employers are violating the labor laws should talk to an experienced employment attorney at Swartz Swidler.
Why it is important to know your rights under the labor laws
Employers are required to comply with labor laws. However, some companies try to evade labor laws through illegal workplace practices. Knowing your rights under these laws can help you to protect yourself. If your employer violates the labor laws, it can be assessed stiff penalties of up to $10,000, and some people might face jail time. If your employee rights are violated, your employer could be ordered to pay you back pay and front pay as well as damages for lost benefits. Your employer could also face punitive damages and be ordered to pay your attorney’s fees. Below are some of the most important labor laws you should know.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Many people don’t understand how the FMLA works and what their rights under it are. The FMLA covers all private-sector employers that have at least 50 employees working within 75 miles of each other. Covered employers are required to grant eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for their serious medical conditions or those of their close family members in a 12-month period. Eligible employees are those who have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours for the employer during the prior 12 months and have been employed by the covered employer for at least 12 months before requesting leave.
National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
Under the NLRA, employees have a right to organize and form a union. They also have the right to engage in concerted activity for mutual aid and protection and are permitted to talk about the terms and conditions of their jobs, including their wages. The NLRA’s protection of concerted activity also extends to employers that do not have unionized employees. Under the NLRA, you have the right to talk with your coworkers about a collective bargaining agreement and to negotiate with your employer about your salary and your workplace conditions.
Affirmative action requirements from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP)
The Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs issued two affirmative action rules to protect veterans and people with disabilities in 2013. Federal contractors and subcontractors are required to achieve a goal to hire qualified people who have disabilities. Contractors that have 100 or fewer employees must hire 7% of their total workforces from qualified individuals with disabilities. Larger employers must meet hiring goals of hiring 7% of the total employees within each job group. Contractors and subcontractors must also have benchmarks for hiring veterans. If you are a protected veteran or an individual with a disability, these rules offer some protection when you apply to work for a federal contractor or subcontractor.
Employee misclassification and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Some businesses hire independent contractors to complete different tasks at their companies. However, some businesses misclassify people as independent contractors when they should be classified as employees. Independent contractors have to pay both their and their employer’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and they are not entitled to the benefits that other employees receive. This makes it important for you to determine whether you have been correctly classified as an independent contractor or if instead should be classified as an employee.
Some employers also misclassify employees as exempt employees instead of non-exempt employees. Under the FLSA, employers must pay at least the state’s minimum wage and overtime at a rate of 1.5 times the regular hourly rate when a non-exempt employee works more than 40 hours in a week for each hour worked above 40. If your employer has misclassified you as exempt when you should be considered to be a non-exempt employee, you have the right to file a wage and hour claim against your employer to recover what you should have been paid.
Whistleblower protection through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
The OSHA issues safety regulations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act and enforces them in workplaces. Employees have the right to report safety violations to OSHA and to participate in investigations, and employers are prohibited from retaliating against people who blow the whistle. If your employer violates the law and retaliates against you because of your report of safety violations or your participation in an OSHA investigation, you have a right to file a retaliation lawsuit against your employer.
Companies must comply with the workplace safety rules issued by OSHA. When they do not, they can face stiff fines and other penalties.
Child labor laws
People under the age of 18 are protected by child labor laws. Employers that hire minors must comply with these laws to keep minors safe in the workplace and also to prevent their work from interfering with their schooling. Minors also can only work a set number of hours, and those who are 14 or younger are limited to working in only specific types of jobs, including newspaper deliveries, acting, performing, working certain agricultural jobs, or working for their parents. Children under the age of 18 also cannot use certain types of equipment or machinery at their jobs.
Talk to Swartz Swidler
If you believe that your employer has violated the labor laws and your employee rights, you should talk to an experienced employment lawyer at Swartz Swidler. Call us today for a free consultation at (856) 685-7420.