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6 ways Many Employers Break the law (and What You can do About it)

Most people know they have some rights at work, but it can be difficult determining which actions are legal and which actions could give your employer a legal cause to terminate your employment.

While many employers understand and comply with labor laws, other employers regularly violate employment laws, knowingly or unknowingly.

The Law Offices of Going and Plank has put together a list of six ways that employers in Lancaster County often break state and federal labor laws. Review these infractions and see how your employer is doing.

1. Forbidding Employees to Discuss Salary With Co-Workers

Many employers either discourage or expressly forbid salary discussions among employees. However, employers are prohibited from imposing pay secrecy policies and cannot prevent most employees from sharing or discussing wages or salaries. The basis of the National Labor Relations Act is to enable employees to effectively organize or unionize by discussing wages and uncovering potential inequities, and the law applies to almost all types of workplaces.

2. Not Paying Overtime

Some Pennsylvania employers will tell you they “don’t pay overtime” to anyone. However, the decision to pay overtime is not decided by the employer, but mandated by law. Jobs are divided into two categories: exempt and non-exempt. If your job is categorized as non-exempt, your employer must pay you overtime (time and a half) for all hours you work beyond 40 in any given week. Additionally, you must be paid if your employer requires you to be on call or to respond to requests and calls after hours. And it is illegal for your employer to ask you to do any work “off the clock.” If you suspect your employer is breaking overtime laws, or shorting you on wages, contact Going and Plank to discuss your situation.

3. Reprimanding You for Complaining About Unfair Policies or Practices on Social Media

The National Labor Relations Act protects your right to talk to people about your wages and working conditions, and those rights extend to sharing this information on social media. The National Labor Relations Board has repeatedly ruled that limiting or prohibiting employees’ ability to use social media as a communication tool violates the employees’ rights to engage in “protected concerted activity” and that workers have the right to say negative things about their jobs in public forums without risk.

However, you are not protected from posting personal gripes or making maliciously false statements about your employer or activities at your place of employment.

4. Treating Independent Contractors Like Employees, or Trying to Classify Employees as Contractors

Employers who use contractors instead of employees are relieved of the responsibility to pay benefits, vacation pay, unemployment insurance, or overtime. That’s why it’s sometimes tempting for employers to hire someone as a contractor, instead of as an employee. Contractors are not obligated to work on-premise or to be told where the work can be done, or during which hours it must be completed. A contractor is not beholden to a single employer, and cannot be prohibited from working for other employers simultaneously. A contractor employs their own staff and hires and fires their own staff without input from an employer.

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If you are a contractor, you should not have a business card identifying you as an employee of the company, nor should you represent yourself as an employee to potential customers or clients.

If your company controls when and where you work, does evaluations, or requests you to represent yourself as an employee to customers or clients, you’re probably legally classified as an employee. If you feel that you have been misclassified, contact the team at Going and Plank to discuss your options.

5. Not Following Employee Handbook Policies

Pennsylvania is an employment “at-will” state, meaning that an employer can terminate an employee at any time, for any reason, with or without cause, unless there exists an employment contract, law or public policy that says otherwise. An employee handbook may create an employment contract if it includes an indication that the employer intended it as such with acts such as including specific policy statements and not reserving any right to revise the handbook at any time for any reason. Some employers require employees to sign a paper saying the handbook has been received. Sometimes, the handbook is never provided, sometimes it is revised and updated versions are not provided. Sometimes employers violate provisions in the handbook, including pertinent and specific information about benefits, discrimination, harassment, sick leave, personal leave, and Family and Medical Leave policies.

Ask your employer if they have a handbook and request a copy. Spending time with the handbook will help you understand the benefits to which you are entitled and the best ways to deal with concerns,  conflicts or legal complaints. If you believe that the handbook creates a contract and your employer has violated that contract, then contact Going and Plank to discuss your options. To find out more about employee handbooks, read more by clicking here. 

6. Pressuring Employees to Promptly Sign Employment Contracts and Agreements

Many employees will be asked to sign a variety of employment contracts and agreements at the beginning of their employment or at different stages in during employment. These may include non-compete covenants, non-disclosure agreements, confidentiality agreements, employee handbooks, and severance agreements.

You are legally entitled to time to review any agreement to ensure you understand it and are not signing away basic employment rights. Before you sign any employment contract, ask an employee rights lawyer from Going and Plank to review the contract in order to clearly identify the terms and any issues that may work unfairly against you. Don’t sign any employment contract if it contains any language that you do not understand!

What to Do if Your Employer is Violating Employment Laws

It’s helpful to start from the assumption that your employer does not realize they are breaking the law. Approach your manager and bring any concern that you may have to his or her attention calmly, in a non-confrontational way. For example, if your employer asks you to sign a contract by the end of the day, you can respond,  “I am legally entitled reasonable time to review a contract thoroughly, so I’m going to need a few days to look this over, is that a problem?”

If the non-confrontational approach doesn’t work, then it may be time to consult with an employment lawyer to explore your options. Contact the team at The Law Offices of Going and Plank to assist you in discovering and protecting your rights as an employee.

Why are Workers’ Compensation Claims Denied in Pennsylvania?

What is Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is actually a type of insurance. Employers are required by Pennsylvania law to carry workers’ compensation insurance, often called workers’ comp. When employees are hurt on the job, they may incur medical expenses, miss work, or suffer long-term consequences. Employees who are injured or disabled in connection with their job are usually eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits which may include recovering lost income, payment of medical bills and, in some cases, a lump sum settlement.

Workers’ Compensation in Pennsylvania

Each state has a slightly different plan. In our state, The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act requires most employers to compensate employees for lost income and medical expenses. If you’ve been hurt on the job, you may also qualify for potential lump sum settlements. Until 2011, small businesses were exempt from carrying workers’ compensation insurance. In 2011, a measure was signed that expanded the availability of workers’ compensation coverage to all types of small businesses, including sole proprietors, partners in partnerships, and members of limited liability corporations.

However, many workers’ compensation claims in Pennsylvania are denied. While not all denials can be successfully overturned, scheduling a free consultation with an attorney from Going and Plank may be your first step towards getting the compensation you deserve.

Why are Workers’ Compensation Claims Denied?

There are many reasons workers’ compensation claims are denied in Pennsylvania. Each case is different, and no one policy covers all situations. However, there are some circumstances that are especially problematic for employees and insurance companies. In these cases, insurance companies are more likely to deny your claim. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you navigate complicated situations. Here’s a list of some of the common reasons workers’ comp claims are denied.

Denied Because of Lack of Witnesses

Without a witness, it’s easier for insurance companies to claim your accident never happened, or to claim it happened elsewhere. If you make a claim without the proof of an eyewitness, insurance companies will question your claim, and many such claims get denied. If you’ve been hurt at work, but no one saw your injury, Going and Plank may be able to build a case, especially if you told co-workers or supervisors about your injury when it happened, if there are witnesses who saw you before or after the accident, or if you left work that day to seek medical attention. Contact us for a free workers’ comp consultation.

Denied Because You Didn’t Report Your Injury Immediately

Sometimes employees get hurt at work and consider it a minor injury. You may put off reporting your injury until you realize it’s a larger issue. Whenever you experience any type of seemingly minor injury at work, such as a bumped head or a sore joint, report it immediately even if you feel it’s a minor mishap. Often small injuries develop into major medical issues, so cover your bases and report all incidents, big or small. Even if you waited to report your injury, you may still be entitled to workers’ comp. Contact us at Going and Plank for a free consultation.

Denied Because of Inconsistent Accounts

If your version of your injury if different from the accounts given by witnesses, co-workers, supervisors or medical professionals, your workers’ comp claim may be denied. If you feel others are deliberately misrepresenting your injury, or that you are being treated unfairly, contact us at Going and Plank to schedule a free consultation.

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Denied Because You Filed a Claim After You Were let go or Fired

Even small injuries at work can quickly escalate into bad situations. It’s important to report work injuries immediately. If you miss working for a few days after your injury to rest up, even if you take sick days, your employer may decide to fire you in the interim. In fact, some employers will fire you because you were hurt on the job, to avoid a claim. Insurance companies often think that if you waited to file a claim until after the termination, it’s an attempt at revenge. If this is your situation, contact us at Going and Plank to discuss your choices.

Denied Because a Medical Exam Detects Illegal Drug use in Your System

After a work-related accident, some employers require a test for illegal substances. Your workers’ comp claim can be denied if drug use led to an increased chance of an accident. However, certain exceptions may apply. Schedule a free consultation with a workers’ comp attorney to weigh your options.

Denied Because You Refuse to Issue a Recorded Statement

Employees may be asked to make a recorded statement for the insurance company, but you are not legally required to make this statement. Since recorded statements can be used against you, it’s smart to consult a workers’ comp lawyer at this point.

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When you retain Going and Plank to represent your interests, we will take the time to thoroughly analyze your claim in order to ensure that lost income is recovered, medical bills are paid, and a lump sum settlement is fully and expertly considered. Click here to schedule a free consultation. 

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