How to Handle Workplace Complaints

Workplace complaints happen every day - whether it’s sexual harassment or unequal pay or creating a hostile work environment. When employees bring concerns to their employers of potentially illegal behavior, or perhaps just behavior that not in line with the company’s values, the company’s decision of what to do next sets the tone for the outcome and the resolution. Companies often turn first to human resources (HR) when faced with these situations. HR as a fact finder can be problematic for 2 reasons: 1) small companies often don’t have appropriately trained HR personnel or 2) HR risks losing credibility when they act as fact finders for internal complaints because they are perceived as too close to the relevant parties (witnesses or decision makers). Consequently, I recommend that clients hire a third-party investigator.

Read More

Freedom of Speech at Work?

Despite what you may have read in the news lately in stories surrounding the election or NFL player protests, the First Amendment does not provide a private employee with the right to free speech or freedom of expression at work. Rather, the Constitution’s right to free speech only applies to the government’s attempts to restrict speech. Even then, it’s not absolute.

Employees who work in the private sector do not have First Amendment protection for their speech in the workplace. So, does this mean that you as a private-sector employer can take the absence of a direct First Amendment right as providing free rein to discipline, terminate or retaliate against employees for their speech in the workplace? Well—you guessed it—it depends.

Read More

Pay Now or Pay Later: Can You Hire an Unpaid Intern?

With summer here many companies plan to bring on summer interns who are home from college. It’s not uncommon for interns to even approach you about working unpaid because they want the experience. Regardless of the intent, the Department of Labor (DOL) regulates the paying of interns in the way it regulates the pay of all employees.

In January 2018 the DOL adopted a primary-beneficiary test which replaced the previous six factor test for for-profit employers. This new test is more forgiving to employers as it looks at the totality of the circumstances, as opposed to requiring that each factor be met (as was the previous case).

Read More