BlackBerry Use May Entitle You to Overtime Pay

ist1_6313560-isolated-smart-phone-in-left-hand.jpgAccording to Business Insurance, the Chicago Police Department is being sued by a sergeant on the force for overtime that he asserts was earned while using his smart-phone while he was off the clock. The lawsuit is a proposed class action.

Pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), nonexempt employees are to be compensated for time spent working over forty hours per week. This work does not necessarily need to be required by the employer. It can be work merely for the benefit of the employer. Thus, the existence of a smart-phone and its subsequent use off of work hours by a nonexempt employee may cause overtime pay issues for the employer.

In this case, the sergeant with the department alleges that he was provided the smart-phone for the purposes of accessing voice mails, work related emails, and department texts. He claims that much of the department work was accomplished with use of his smart-phone. Therefore, he is seeking overtime pay for the time he spent working beyond the forty-hour work week.

Interestingly, the very smart-phone will be the key piece of evidence in any overtime pay case under these circumstances. The electronic records of the smart-phone will provide a court information to determine the amount of work an individual was working off the clock.

It should be noted that the FLSA does have an exception for “de minimis” overtime, meaning actions which would require minimal or insignificant time. However, employers should be aware that this time could create significant liability in a class action scenario.

Employers should implement policies limiting use of smart-phones during the regular work week or limit smart-phone use to exempt employees in order to avoid overtime issues with nonexempt employees.

Where employers are getting the benefit of a nonexempt employee working overtime through the use of smart-phones, they should be required to compensate the employee for his time. Why not?

Do you believe you are entitled to overtime pay? We invite you to contact our office for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights.

EEOC Time Limitations to File A Charge of Discrimination

Our firm receives many calls with questions about discrimination claims. However, unfortunately, some individuals miss the time limits for filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC. Prior to filing a job discrimination lawsuit against your employer, relating to the laws enforced by the EEOC, you are required to file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. It is important to know that you only have a limited amount of time to file this Charge of Discrimination.

As discussed on the EEOC website, you must file a charge within 180 days from the day the discrimination occurred. You will have 300 days “if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis.” Keep in mind, the time rules for filing a charge of age discrimination is different. The filing deadline will only be extended to 300 days “if there is a state law prohibiting age discrimination in employment and a state agency or authority enforcing that law.”

Please note, however, individuals working for the federal government or those applying for federal jobs have a different process for filing a charge of discrimination. They must contact an EEO counselor within 45 days. There are exceptions that may extend the time limit.

In any event, the EEOC suggests that you file a charge as soon as you have determined that that is what you would like to do. The EEOC warns that even if you attempt to resolve a dispute with your employer through means such as filing a grievance or mediation the time limits for filing a charge will generally not be extended. Alternative forms of resolution can, however, take place at the same time the EEOC processes your charge.

Also, you should keep in mind that the time frame includes holiday and weekends. Further, if your deadline to file a charge falls on a holiday or weekend, you will have until the next business day to file your Charge of Discrimination.

The EEOC suggests that should you have any questions with regard to the amount of time that you have left to file the charge you should contact an EEOC field office.

The lesson in this is that if you are a victim of employment discrimination you must act swiftly if you wish to pursue a lawsuit against your employer. Otherwise, you may miss important EEOC deadlines. If you believe that you are a victim of employment discrimination and would like to consult with one of our attorneys, we welcome your call.

Federal Laws Which Prohibit Job Discrimination

Our office often receives calls from individuals regarding employment discrimination and we thought it may help our blog readers if we outlined several federal laws which prohibit job discrimination. As you will see, these laws are meant to protect individuals from discrimination in the workplace, whether it be in the private realm or within the local, state, or federal government.

1) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VIII): This act specifically prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

2) Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA): The act addresses the situation where men and women who perform substantially the same work in the same establishment and prohibits unequal pay based upon sex.

3) Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA): Age discrimination aimed at individuals who are 40 years of age are older are protected by this act.

4) Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA): This act prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals who have disabilities. This act applies to the private sector as well as in state and local governments.

5) Section 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: These laws specifically protect disabled individuals from employment discrimination by the federal government.

6) The Civil Rights Act of 1991: This act provides monetary damages where there is intentional employment discrimination.

Unfortunately, individuals often do not realize that there are specific laws which protect them from workplace discrimination. If you believe that you may have been discriminated against in your workplace, please do not hesitate to contact our office to discuss your legal rights. We offer a free initial consultation and welcome your call.

Sears, Roebuck Settles Disability Bias Lawsuit

According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Sears, Roebuck and Co. (Sears) has agreed to settle a class lawsuit for the sum of $6.2 million and other remedial relief. It was alleged by the EEOC that “Sears maintained an inflexible workers’ compensation leave exhaustion policy and terminated employees instead of providing them with reasonable accommodations for their disabilities, in violation of the (Americans with Disabilities Act).”

This lawsuit arose after the EEOC investigated a charge of discrimination filed by a former Sears service technician, John Bava. It is said by the EEOC that after Bava was injured on the job, leaving him with a disability, Sears did not provide Bava with an accommodation to return to work, despite Bava’s repeated attempt to return to work. In fact, once Bava’s leave expired, it is said that Sears terminated Bava’s employment. The EEOC says that Pre-trial discovery concerning Bava’s claims uncovered the fact that Sears had terminated hundreds of other employees who had taken workers’ compensation leave, failing to consider reasonable accommodations to return these employees to work.

Sears has agreed to an injunction preventing future violations of the ADA and retaliation against employees. Sears has also agreed to “amend its workers’ compensation leave policy, provide written reports to the EEOC detailing its workers’ compensation practices’ compliance with the ADA, train its employees regarding the ADA, and post a notice of the decree at all Sears locations.”

The EEOC says that the significant cost of the settlement to Sears was warranted, as they found “well over a hundred former employees who wanted to return to work with an accomodation, but were terminated by Sears.” The court has approved the consent settlement decree and is scheduled to hold another hearing to determine the fairness of the distributions that will be made to individuals.

It is unfortunate that often workers injured while working with a company have a hard time returning to work because the company refuses to offer them accommodations. The disabled worker, disabled as a result of their employment, is thereafter considered a burden to the company and often fired as a result. Our law firm has experience representing injured workers in workers’ compensation disputes as well as employees who have been discriminated against. If you would like to discuss your legal rights, we welcome your call and will provide a free consultation.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Files Age Discrimination Suit Against AT&T

According to The New York Times, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed an age discrimination lawsuit against AT&T. Specifically, it is alleged by the EEOC that AT&T, the largest telecommunications provider in the United States, “discriminate(s) against older employees by denying them the chance to be rehired solely because they left under early retirement plans.” This discrimination caused older workers to not have the same opportunities when applying for re-employment as younger workers would have with AT&T.

The EEOC alleges that AT&T has had this policy of discrimination since 2006, causing the exclusion of older workers from being re-employed with the company solely as a result of their age, with no regard to their qualifications. It is unknown how many workers this discriminatory practice harmed; however, the early retirement programs have involved over 50,000 individuals. Of course, the workers affected would be only those who sought re-employment with AT&T.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court in Manhattan. Although AT&T would not comment specifically on the lawsuit, they did note that “AT&T makes diversity and inclusion a top priority.”

Especially in this economy, many older workers are having to return to the workforce after retirement. These workers should be afforded the same opportunities as younger workers. Do you believe that you are a victim of age discrimination or are you unsure? If you would like to discuss your legal rights, contact our office for a free consultation.