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Washington D.C. Employment Law Blog

Understanding the Fair Labor Standards Act

In the workplace, the employers tend to have the upper hand. Employees need to maintain their employment in order to pay their bills, provide for their basic needs and take care of their families. Employers, knowing how much employees rely on and need their employment, may attempt to take advantage of employees in certain situations. For this reason, the federal government has passed certain laws, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, that help protect employee rights.

The Fair Labor Standards Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation related to employee rights. In general, its provisions relate to the minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and youth employment standards. The FLSA applies to private sector and government employees in the state, local and federal levels. The latest minimum wage provided for in the FLSA was established in July 2009. It mandates that all employees must be paid, at a minimum, $7.25 per hour. Individual states can set the minimum wage higher. In Washington, it's currently $9.47 for adult employees.

Statistics about pornography and sexual harassment at work

When many Washington, D.C. residents think about sexual harassment, they may not think about sexually explicit materials that may constitute harassment. This could be many things, but generally, sexually explicit materials are photos, or anything similar, -- of pornographic nature. These images are not allowed in the workplace. Despite this, some employees do engage in inappropriate online activity during work hours.

When an employee is engaging in inappropriate activity, this behavior could result in another employee feeling sexually harassed. This may happen intentionally, such as when an employee shows another employee pornographic content. Or, it could happen unintentionally. For example, an employee walked by and witnessed another employee viewing pornographic content on his or her computer.

Victory for senior executive in wrongful termination case

In the employment context, employers generally hold the majority of the power and have the upper hand. This does not mean that employees do not have rights, but enforcing those rights sometimes requires a legal battle, as is often the case with wrongful termination. Although employers have a great deal of discretion in hiring and firing decisions, they can take actions that constitute discrimination or other forms of wrongful discharge and their allegations justifying the termination should be supported by evidence.

As reported in the Washington Post, Alan Lescht & Associates recently enjoyed a victory in connection with their representation of a senior executive in the General Services Administration. The client, James Weller, had been fired in 2012 for his participation and involvement in a conference that was later determined to be an example of extreme government waste. At issue in the case was the knowledge held by Weller with regard to the event's planning and funding. The administrative judge initially found for Weller on the grounds that Weller did not have adequate knowledge of the problematic aspects of the conference for his participation to constitute misconduct warranting termination. Although the General Services Administration appealed that ruling, the appeal board upheld the lower court's ruling on the grounds that the GSA did not provide any evidence to support its claims that Weller was guilty of misconduct.

New year of office socials is coming. Are you ready for issues?

The holidays are over. How did you fare? As we have noted previously, holiday times can create some tricky situations, especially when it comes to office partying. Considering that 2015 with all its holidays is upon us, and that office social events may not be limited to celebrations just around those times, perhaps it might be a good time to revisit the issue in a bit more depth.

The crux of the problem is that office parties present us with what amounts to a juxtaposition of social constructs that have a way of butting up against each other. This is not just the case in Washington, D.C. 

Employees have rights in wage and hour disputes

In many workplace situations, the employer has the upper hand. The employer is often the one who decides when and if the employment will end and the employer has the power of pay over the employee. However, there are wage laws, including minimum wage, that help protect the rights of employees. Before an employee can effectively exercise those rights, however, the employee must be aware of those rights.

You, as an employee, likely have a strong feeling that indicates whether or not you have been wronged at work but you may not fully understand why or how. Maybe you have been forced to work overtime and then denied your overtime pay. Or maybe you have been the victim of wage theft -- when an employer fails to adequately pay you for the time you have worked. There are many different ways that your rights may be violated when it comes to wages and hours. Wage and hour disputes may include disputes over contracts or the misclassification of employees.

Report on Senate bill addresses sexual harassment

Having a comfortable workplace environment is one of the most important things for professional sucess and personal lack of stress. There are many different things that can exist or occur in the workplace that can create a hostile working environment, instead of a comfortable one. One of the most common, but often unreported or unrecognized, problems in the workplace is sexual harassment. However, sexual harassment is increasingly becoming recognized as a serious workplace problem, so many companies and employers are beginning to take proactive steps in response, including Capitol Hill.

Sexual harassment training became a part of the recent spending bill passed by the Senate when the report accompanying the bill recommended sexual harassment training for all congressional staffers. The recommendation, while not officially "law," calls for the development of online sexual harassment program, as well as briefings on ways the new training can be disseminated among staffers. Democratic Representative Jackie Speier originally wanted to add an amendment on sexual harassment training to the appropriations bill but was unsuccessful with that effort. Although the recommendation in the accompanying report is not as forceful as the amendment, the Representative hopes that it will help reduce instances of sexual harassment on Capitol Hill.

What actions constitute workplace discrimination?

For most people, their jobs and employment constitute the majority of what they do each day. Employment is a central part of people's lives and it is for this reason that there exist laws to protect the civil rights of employees. Many of these laws relate to workplace discrimination. Although discrimination is common throughout society and it occurs for many different reasons, some types of discrimination are especially problematic in the workplace and are therefore prohibited under the law. Not all types of discrimination are prohibited, however.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the agency that enforces many of the laws related to employment discrimination. The types of workplace discrimination prohibited under federal law include the following: religious discrimination; discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, pregnancy, national origin, race/color, sex or genetic information; retaliation; equal pay/compensation; harassment; and sexual harassment.

Age discrimination is unlawful discrimination

The workplace is likely where the majority of Washington D.C. residents spend most of their waking hours. For this reason, the environment and atmosphere in the workplace can have a profound effect on employees' mental states and overall health. Unfortunately, many people have to cope with a hostile work environment or job loss due to unlawful discrimination. One of the less commonly discussed, but nevertheless common, forms of unlawful discrimination is age discrimination.

In general, age discrimination does not refer to any kind of discrimination related to age; instead, it refers to discrimination against older workers, specifically those aged 40 or older. There is a specific law, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which expressly prohibits discrimination against people based on their being 40 or older. The ADEA is a federal law. Some individual states may have laws that protect against discrimination against younger workers, but generally the laws focus on older workers.

Supreme Court case focuses on employee rights of pregnant women

Employment is a central component of people's lives and ability to provide for themselves and their families. For this reason, federal and state governments have passed various laws intending to protect a wide range of employee rights. Some examples include laws protecting against wrongful termination or employer retaliation. Other laws focus on preventing or providing legal remedies for illegal workplace discrimination. One of the groups that continues to struggle for equal treatment and adequate rights in the workplace is pregnant women, as demonstrated by a recent Supreme Court case.

In 2006, a UPS driver became pregnant and provided her employer with a letter from her doctor recommending that she avoid lifting heavy packages. UPS did not agree to give the female driver light-duty work temporarily while she was pregnant, however. A lawsuit resulted that focused on the employer's obligations to accommodate light-duty work requests in such situations under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Although the company asserted that it only provided light-duty work options for specific groups of employees-those injured on the job, those with a condition covered by the ADA, or those who had lost the federal certificate needed to drive commercial vehicles-the attorney for UPS was unable to provide an example of a non-pregnant employee who had requested, but was denied, light-duty work when questioned by Justice Ginsburg. The Supreme Court should issue a decision in the case by June.

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