Common US Employment Law Violations

    There are many people in the United States that have excellent, fair employers – yet there are also those whose workers’ rights are violated each and every year in regards to underpayment, overtime and rest break violations. For this reason, it is important to know your rights and find a great employment law attorney.

    There are several employment law violations that are more common that others in the US, and the first one of these is lack of overtime payment. The particular law that applies will depend on the state, but in some cases, employees can be told that they are not entitled to overtime payment when they actually are.

    In all cases, workers are entitled to overtime payment if they do not meet all the of a particular overtime exemption’s requirements. Furthermore, some people may be compensated for overtime, but this sum may be far lower than the amount that they are legally entitled to. In this case, finding a good unpaid overtime lawyer is an ideal solution.

    In addition to the lack of overtime payment or the miscalculation of overtime payment that disadvantages the employee, there are other common employment law violations which employees need to be vigilant of. One of these is failure of the employer to give additional pay when it is required by law.

    This does not only apply in regards to overtime, but also in other situations when an employee is legally entitled to be compensated for not taking an unpaid meal period – working instead due to the employer’s demands – or not taking other legally required rest breaks. In some state law, workers are entitled to extra pay in these situations.

    If you are an employee who frequently is required to skip rest breaks or unpaid meal breaks, then it is strongly recommended to seek the assistance of a unpaid overtime lawyer who will be able to provide you with guidance. This is one way of assuring that you know your rights and will be able to assert them for you and your family’s benefit.

    Another common violation of employment law is that statutory employees are classified instead as “independent contractors”, which denies them a number of rights that they should be entitled to. These rights include minimum wage, overtime and a variety of other protections provided by state and federal law.

    This miscalculation can be a genuine error on the part of the employer, but it can also be a calculated business move that severely disadvantages the worker. Again, seeking the advice of an employment attorney or a unpaid overtime lawyer will help clear up this issue and help each determine whether they have been misclassified as an independent contractor.

    Lastly, employees may be entitled to certain rest breaks and meal times which the employer does not provide. There may also be failure to provide vacation pay, all of which result in the employee receiving far less than they deserve at the unjust benefit of the employer. Again, if the employee suspects their rights are being violated, it is advised to seek legal help.

    These are just a few of the most common violations of workers’ rights in the US – from lack of overtime pay to miscalculation of employee status, these will also have a huge effect on the lives of employees and their families. This can mean less income, fewer breaks and longer hours than is legally allowed.

    It is important for every worker in the country to know their rights and to seek professional help in defending them when necessary. This ensures a fairer workplace and one where employees can work safely and securely and be adequately financially compensated for their contribution to the company that they work for.

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The Top Five Questions About Overtime

Chances are if you’re working you will have been asked by your employer to work overtime. A lot of us can do overtime without knowing the laws behind it, but we may still have questions. This article will address five of the most common questions about working overtime in the UK.

1. What is overtime?

2. Is overtime legal?

3. Does it always have to be paid?

4. What is unpaid overtime?

5. Can you be made to do overtime?

What is overtime?

Overtime is the time you work over and above your contracted hours. For example, if you are contracted to work 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday (40 hours) and you stay late to cover for someone who hasn’t arrived for their shift or to get a project finished, this extra time working is classed as overtime.

Is overtime legal?

Yes, overtime is legal and a lot of us do it.

However, there are rules regarding how much overtime you can do. Legally, you should not work more than 48 hours in a week. If your overtime means you are working more than 48 hours a week then it could be illegal. There is a way around this, a written agreement signed by both the employer and employee; if you and your employer sign an agreement saying you are happy to work over 48 hours a week then this is legal.

Does it always have to be paid?

Maybe.

Each employer has their own policy regarding pay for overtime; you should check your contract or your employer’s terms of business to find out yours.

What is unpaid overtime?

Unpaid overtime is the overtime that you work but do not get paid for. You are effectively working for free when you do unpaid overtime.

Unpaid overtime is perfectly legal as long as your average pay for the total hours you work does not fall below the national minimum wage (£7.20 in the UK). If you end up doing so many hours that your average wage drops below £7.20per hour then the amount of overtime you are doing becomes illegal.

Example: If you work 40 hours a week and earn £328.00 each week your hourly rate works out at £8.20 per hour.

This means you can work 45.5 hours per week legally and 5.5 of those can be unpaid overtime.

If you worked 46 or more hours per week and still only made £328.00 per week then you would be doing an illegal amount of overtime as you would be earning £7.13 per hour, or less depending on the amount of overtime you worked.

Can you be made to do overtime?

You can be asked to do overtime, paid or unpaid.

You should refer to your contract if you are unsure what your employer can or cannot ‘make’ you do. Each employer has different policies and you may have already agreed, by signing the contract, to do overtime if asked. In that situation, refusing to do so could be seen as a breach of contract or misconduct.

However, if your contract is silent on overtime and you are asked to do some and refuse, you should not be sacked, especially if what is being asked is unreasonable. However, you can be noted as being uncooperative by your employer, which could work against you if a redundancy situation arises.

It is important to find the right balance of being a good, helpful employee and not having your employer take advantage of you.

In conclusion, you should now have a clearer understanding of what overtime is and what is legal and illegal regarding the amount you can work.

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Public Pension Plans Struggle to Meet Funding Obligations

Low interest rates are one of several factors contributing to higher levels of unfunded pension liabilities at state and county pension plans across the country.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest U.S. public pension plan with 1.8 million total members covered by 3,000 employers, reported a 0.6 percent net return on investments for the 12-month period that ended June 30, 2016.

The California State Teachers Retirement system (CalSTRS), which manages retirement funds for California’s 896,000 public school educators from 1,700 school districts, reported a 1.4 percent net return for the 2015-16 fiscal year ending on June 30, 2016.

Both California funds have a target annual return of 7.5 percent. CalPERS and CalSTRS had $62 billion and $74 billion in unfunded liabilities, respectively, as of the 2013 fiscal year, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. CalSTRS now states that it is on track to achieve full funding by the year 2046.

The New York State and Local Retirement System reported an average rate of return of 0.2 percent for the fiscal year on March 31, 2016, compared to its stated goal of 7 percent.

The Oregon Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) reported a 2 percent investment return in 2015, compared to its goal of 7.75 percent, resulting in an increased liability of $3 billion.

A 7.7 percent average rate of return is now the target set by most state and county pension funds across the country, according to a 2015 report by the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College estimates that every 1 percent decrease in investment returns results in a 12 percent increase in liabilities.

The inability of state and municipal pension plans to properly fund current liabilities at the same time that rates of return are falling is causing significant underfunding. The situation is putting pressure on public pension managers and elected officials across the country.

New public pension accounting standards are also bringing more attention to underfunded municipal liabilities. The Government Accounting Standards Board issued GASB Statement No. 67, Financial Reporting for Pension Plans, and No. 68, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pensions in recent years. The new reporting standards for government-administered pension plans took effect for reporting periods after June 15, 2013 under Statement No. 67, while new employer reporting standards followed one year later under Statement No. 68.

The Pew Charitable Trust reports that as of 2013, states owed almost $1 trillion in unfunded pension benefits as well as $587 billion in unfunded retiree health care liabilities. Looked at another way, Wilshire Consulting estimates that state pension obligations are only 75 percent funded as of 2013, despite that fact that most states strive to maintain an 80 percent funding level.

The State of Illinois alone has $101 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $56.4 billion in unfunded retiree health care benefits, according to The Pew Charitable Trust. Illinois is listed by the Trust as having the third highest level of debt and unfunded retirement costs as a share of state personal income (after Alaska and Hawaii) as of 2013. In June 2016 Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the credit rating of some of the state’s general obligation bonds to Baa2, down from Baa1, which is two units away from junk bond status.

The City of Chicago is struggling with its own pension challenges. The City’s Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund, which covers 70,000 workers, reported that unfunded pension liabilities more than doubled to $18.6 billion at the end of 2015 from $7.1 billion a year earlier. Moody’s reduced the city’s credit rating to junk bond status in 2015.

Municipalities are responding with a wide range of measures to increase pension funding, reduce benefits, and cut expenses. Representative actions include the following.

Chicago implemented a property tax hike in 2015 to better fund the police and fire retirement funds. The mayor also seeks an increase in water and sewer levies as a means to support municipal retirement benefits.
Pennsylvania officials are evaluating a range of pension plan changes, including the possible adoption of less expensive 401(k)-style plans.
Connecticut now devotes 10% of its budget toward unfunded pension liabilities, which doubled in the past decade.
Oregon plans to increase pension funding rates, which is likely to translate into expense reductions such as teacher lay-offs, larger class sizes, and public safety cuts.
Detroit’s municipal bankruptcy was settled, in part, with pension cuts of 4.5 percent approved by certain retirees. Benefit reductions were also seen in the areas of cost-of-living adjustments and health care costs.
Pension Funding Litigation a Certainty

As states and municipalities struggle to fund pension obligations in a low interest rate environment, court battles in New Jersey, Illinois, California and Michigan may serve as precedent for similar challenges likely to unfold across the country.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Johnson, Ph.D., J.D., is a highly experienced ERISA expert. As a former ERISA Plan Managing Director and plan fiduciary for a Fortune 500 company, Dr. Johnson has practical knowledge of plan documents as well as an in-depth understanding of ERISA obligations. He works as an expert consultant and witness on 401(k), ESOP and pension fiduciary liability; retiree medical benefit coverage; third party administrator disputes; individual benefit claims; pension benefits in bankruptcy; long term disability benefits; and cash conversion balances.

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Raising a Grievance: Six Steps to Raise a Grievance at Work

It is unfortunate, but events may happen during the course of your employment that you are not happy about. Some of these events will be minor and, while irritating, are not something worth making a fuss over. Others, however, may be more serious and it is important to know what to do in these situations.

In some situations, all that will be necessary will be an informal chat with your supervisor or boss. But in others more formal action may be required, such as raising a grievance.

Definition: A grievance is a concern, problem or complaint that an employee will raise with their employer.

All procedures relating to grievance situations should be:

Fair and transparent
Set down in writing, in specific and clear language.
Rules and procedures should be explained;
This article will explore the six steps in raising a grievance at work.

Let your employer know
Raise a formal grievance
Your employer will investigate your grievance
Grievance meeting should
Employer’s decision
Appeal
Each company will have its own Grievance Procedure. You can find it in the Office Manual or the Terms of Business or your contract. If you cannot locate the procedure, then you should ask your HR department, or your supervisor or the office administrator, as they should be able to guide you to it.

In light of each company having its own procedure the information below is generalized.

Step One: Letting your Employer Know

It will not be possible to resolve a situation if you do not tell your employer about it. You will need to make them aware. It is advisable to do this informally at first, as it gives you and your employer the opportunity to resolve the issue quickly.

Step Two: Raise a Formal Grievance

If step one cannot be done, or has failed for any reason then you should raise a formal grievance. This should be done without unreasonable delay and in writing. Your written grievance should set out, what has happened, how/why it has upset you, and what you feel should be done to resolve the issue.

Step Three: Investigation

Your employer then has the opportunity to investigate your grievance. A formal investigation can involve meetings with staff and witnesses and/or the accumulation of documentary evidence. Your employer must fully investigate your grievance in order to make an informed decision about the matter.

Step Four: Grievance Meeting

A meeting should then be held with you (you are allowed, by law, to be accompanied if you wish) and your employer, to discuss your grievance and the evidence and/or statements your employer has gathered. This meeting should be held promptly, without unreasonable delay.

You should use this meeting as an opportunity to explain the grievance in as much detail as possible and how you think the situation can be resolved.

Step Five: Your Employers Decision

Once the meeting has concluded your employer will take the time to decide what action can or should be taken, if any. Keep in mind it is entirely feasible that your employer may uphold your grievance but state that there is nothing which can be done to resolve the situation. This decision will be confirmed to you in writing, this letter should also contain details about appealing the decision, including the time limits you must act within.

Step Six: Appeal

If you are not happy with the decision you may have the right to Appeal.

You can only Appeal the decision if you feel certain evidence was not looked at properly or misunderstood. You cannot Appeal just because you are not happy with the decision, you must have a solid reason for thinking your employer made the wrong decision.

In conclusion, if a situation arises at work it is always best to attempt to resolve the issue informally first. But, if this is not possible or unsuccessful then you should raise a formal grievance. Your employer will then formally investigate your grievance. After the investigation is complete a meeting will be held to discuss your grievance and a decision will be made as to whether or not your grievance is upheld and what action can result from the decision. If you believe that the wrong decision was made because the evidence was not properly evaluated at you can Appeal the decision.

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