Shavitz Law Group – Are you getting paid when you work through your meal breaks?

Blog Source: Shavitz Law Group

No matter which industry employees work in, taking a complete and uninterrupted meal break is nearly impossible. This is exacerbated in our modern world where it seems like everyone is constantly on call and connected. Co-workers email and text each other nearly all day. Employees may stop to take a meal break but then get interrupted by a co-worker who needs help addressing a work issue or customer matter. But, that employee never completes their meal break. Employees often take unpaid meal breaks and do not get paid when they work during those breaks.

Did you know that employers must pay employees for meal breaks that are interrupted for work? Employees must be completely relieved from duty for the purposes of eating their meals. If you work during a meal break, your employer must pay you for that time.

If you are made to work during any part of your unpaid meal break – including communicating with co-workers about work matters – or if you have any other issues with not being paid for all time you work, we are here to help. Please contact the Shavitz Law Group at (561) 447-8888 or visit us at http://www.shavitzlaw.com for a free, no obligation review of your circumstances and consultation regarding your rights.

YOU EARNED IT, NOW LET’S GO GET IT.

Gregg Shavitz, Shavitz Law Group, 951 Yamato Rd Ste 285, Boca Raton, FL and 800 3rd Ave, Suite 2800, New York, NY. Lawyers licensed in states including FL, NY, NJ, and TX. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based on advertisements alone.

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Shavitz Law Group – Employers could pay penalties for not paying Overtime

Blog Source: Shavitz Law Group

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are required to pay all overtime-eligible (non-exempt) employees overtime at a rate of one-and-a-half times employees’ regular rate of pay for all overtime hours worked (absent limited exceptions). Frequently, employers fail to do so in a myriad of ways: by making employees work off-the-clock, by interrupting their meal periods, by improperly rounding their time punches or by manually adjusting their time entries. While doing this may result in employers saving a little money in the short term by cheating employees out of their rightfully earned wages, this practice can ultimately become costly.

The reason failing to pay overtime wages can become so costly is because the FLSA provides for “liquidated damages.” Liquidated damages are equal to the amount of back overtime wages owed. An employer can only avoid paying liquidated damages if it can prove that its failure to pay overtime wages was made in “good faith.” Because this is a difficult burden to meet, if an employer is found to have wrongfully deprived its employees of overtime pay, it may be responsible for double back pay to the employee. The double damages policy is designed to be severe by nature in order to hopefully discourage employers from breaking the law when it comes to overtime wages.

If you believe that you were wrongfully denied overtime pay, do not hesitate to contact us at info@shavitzlaw.com or at (800) 616-4000 for a free evaluation of your claim.

YOU EARNED IT, NOW LETS GO GET IT.

Gregg Shavitz, Shavitz Law Group, 951 Yamato Rd Ste 285, Boca Raton, FL and 800 3rd Ave, Suite 2800, New York, NY. Lawyers licensed in states including FL, NY, NJ, and TX. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based on advertisements alone.

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Shavitz Law Group – What’s Up with WFH and Overtime?

Blog Source: Shavitz Law Group

Nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, “working from home” or “WFH” is part of our everyday language. The virus seemed to come out of nowhere and forced many employers to rush into remote working arrangements. Because of this, many did not have time to prepare or to consider the legal ramifications of WFH.

With the transition to a remote workforce, the traditional 9-5 workday seems to have morphed into a 24-7 working arrangement. Personal and work life has blurred as the phone, computer and other devices constantly ping workers at all hours, with many employers expecting instantaneous responses. Remote employees, most of whom are just grateful to still be employed during the recession, often feel compelled to be available to their employers around the clock. Not surprisingly then, remote employees often report working longer hours than ever before as work blends into home life. Even more often, these employees are not paid for all hours worked, as their employers either (1) fail to properly track their time, (2) believe that the ”luxury” of working from home allows them to contact their employees at any time, but not pay for that time, or (3) simply do not understand that responding to an employer’s communications – whether via email, text, video chat, IM, or any other electronic communication platform – constitutes “work” within the meaning of the law.

To ensure they are paid all time worked, employees should record all hours on the employer’s timekeeping system. If the employer does not have a timekeeping system, or if the system does not permit an employee to enter time outside of regularly scheduled hours, the employee should then keep a record of all time worked outside of regularly scheduled hours and report that time to their employer at the end of the work week.

If your employer is refusing to pay you for all time worked – including time spent responding to communications outside of your regular shift or after normal business hours – or for any other questions regarding pay or overtime, don’t hesitate to contact Shavitz Law Group at (561) 447-8888 or visit us at http://www.shavitzlaw.com for a free, no obligation review of your circumstances and consultation regarding your rights.

YOU EARNED IT, NOW LETS GO GET IT.

Gregg Shavitz, Shavitz Law Group, 951 Yamato Rd Ste 285, Boca Raton, FL and 800 3rd Ave, Suite 2800, New York, NY. Lawyers licensed in states including FL, NY, NJ, and TX. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based on advertisements alone.

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Shavitz Law Group – Looking Forward to Potential Employment Law Changes in 2021

Blog Source: Shavitz Law Group

2020: it’s been a very tough year. Our country is still suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment levels are high and people cannot return to work “as normal” given the challenges of the virus spread and containing it.

There’s reason to be optimistic for the future, though. Recently, multiple companies announced vaccines that appear to be very successful in controlling the virus. If these vaccines prove successful, we can look forward to getting the coronavirus under control next year and returning to life as it was pre-pandemic.

What does that mean for employment law? With the new administration entering the White House, you can anticipate that many new employee-friendly laws will be proposed. Some potential laws that we predict are:

● Mandates for businesses to provide personal protective equipment to employees to keep them safe going forward;
● Protections for workers who are working from home to ensure that they are being paid for all time worked and companies are accurately tracking their hours worked;
● Preventing companies from forcing workers to give up their rights to bring cases in court through one-sided arbitration agreements;
● Laws eliminating the gender pay disparity between men and women; and,
● Laws creating universal paid sick days and 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.

We also anticipate a large-scale investment program to bolster small businesses that suffered during the pandemic. This investment will allow small businesses to get back on their feet and grow the local economy, which, in turn, will lead to increased employment and a stronger economy.
This year has brought enormous heartache and pain to countless Americans. Yet, the future remains bright. Together, we will overcome this virus, stronger and more resilient than ever.

If you have questions about whether your employer is violating the new federal requirements, or if you have any other employment concerns, please do not hesitate to call the Shavitz Law Group for a free consultation at (800) 616-4000.

YOU EARNED IT, NOW LETS GO GET IT.
Gregg Shavitz, Shavitz Law Group, 951 Yamato Rd Ste 285, Boca Raton, FL and 800 3rd Ave, Suite 2800, New York, NY. Lawyers licensed in states including FL, NY, NJ, and TX. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based on advertisements alone.
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Shavitz Law Group- Floridians’ Message Loud and Clear: Raise the Wage

Blog Source: Shavitz Law Group

Previously, we reported that Floridians would be given a choice on the November election ballot to increase the state’s minimum wage from $8.56 per hour to $15 per hour.  Millions cast their vote, and over 60 percent of Floridians said YES to Amendment 2, increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour — joining California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.

While this certainly impacts Floridians’ bottom lines, the change will be gradual.  The minimum wage in Florida will increase to $10.00 per hour starting on September 30, 2021.  Every September 30th thereafter the minimum wage will increase by $1.00, reaching $15.00 per hour on September 30, 2026.  Every year afterward the minimum wage will be reviewed for additional, potential adjustment by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. 

Make sure to keep the wage increase schedule in mind to ensure you are being paid every dollar you are entitled to for every bit of your hard work.  If you have any questions about how this change in Florida’s wage laws affects your minimum wage or overtime wage rights, don’t hesitate to contact Shavitz Law Group at (561) 447-8888 or visit us at http://www.shavitzlaw.com for a free, no obligation review of your circumstances and consultation regarding your rights. 

YOU EARNED IT, NOW GO GET IT.

Gregg Shavitz, Shavitz Law Group, 951 Yamato Rd Ste 285, Boca Raton, FL and 800 3rd Ave, Suite 2800, New York, NY.  Lawyers licensed in states including FL, NY, NJ, and TX.  The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based on advertisements alone.

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Why is the HUBzone program prone to abuse, and how can it be improved?

It is no secret that crime occurs disproportionately in areas that are economically underdeveloped. Individuals who have few employment opportunities still need to pay their bills and meet their basic needs, and often stable employment is scarce or nonexistent in those neighborhoods. As a crime-reducing and neighborhood-building initiative, the federal government has sought to encourage the growth of private business and local employment in impoverished areas.

In an attempt to alleviate poverty, the Small Business Administration enacted the Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) program. HUBZones form part of a diversity program meant to locate headquarters of small businesses in distressed areas and have them hire residents from those disadvantaged neighborhoods. Ideally, this will spur local economic growth, encourage entrepreneurship, and provide stable employment opportunities for residents. In return, the federal and participating local governments allow HUBZone companies to gain preferential access to government contract opportunities.

Unfortunately, companies often lie to get the bidding advantage and either don’t put the headquarters in the disadvantaged neighborhoods or don’t hire the people from those neighborhoods. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed the SBA HUBZone application process and found that it was dangerously prone to abuse. In fact, when they extended their investigation, they found that 10 firms in the Washington D.C. area alone were falsely claiming HUBZone status.

In a national review, the GAO identified 19 additional firms in Texas, Alabama and California that were illegally participating in the HUBZone program. In one notable instance, an Alabama firm gave a false address as its primary headquarters. When federal investigators arrived at the address, they did not find a bustling local business, but a housing unit in a residential trailer park.

The government’s oversight and holes in the HUBZone program resulted in a total value of $187 million worth of federal contracts going to businesses that never intended to benefit underdeveloped communities. In response to rising levels of fraud and on the recommendation of the GAO, the SBA created a Suspension and Debarment Taskforce charged with identifying fraudulently certified companies and expelling them from government business. This program has been moderately successful, but further review and constant vigilance will be necessary to ensure that HUBZone contracts go to areas that will truly benefit from them. If fraud within the program can be reduced, the positive effects on underdeveloped communities could be life-changing for the families that call them home.

The government, however, is looking for people to report this fraudulent activity and catch those companies that cheat to gain taxpayer dollars and rob the people in those area of economic opportunities and can provide a finder’s fee if successful prosecution occurs.

For more information, or to determine how to market your services in civil litigation law, please contact Paul Herrmann at paul@pherrmannlaw.com or at 410-703-4993.

Reporting fraud under the False Claims Act

Qui tam lawsuits provide a way for whistleblower protection under the False Claims Act, which rewards whistleblowers in cases where the government recuperates funds that have been lost in fraud.

The Department of Justice has successfully used the False Claims act in order to target bad actors in the financial industry to recover misappropriated government funds. A majority of these cases involve financial institutions that do business in the home mortgage industry. They can also involve Medicare and Medicaid fraud, defense contractor fraud, and others.

When the government brings a False Claims Act lawsuit, the suit will apply a civil penalty of anywhere between $5,500 and $11,000 for each false payment that the federal government makes, plus three times the amount of damages the government sustains because of the fraudulent claims for payment. Also, as the vast majority of these cases are brought by whistleblowers, called “relators,” under the statute, defendants are also liable for the attorney’s fees and costs incurred by relator’s counsel. Criminal penalties and liability are also possible. When fraud is in play, it may not be too far of a bridge to gap to hold individual bad actors criminally liable.

If you’re considering blowing the whistle, what does this mean for you? As a private citizen, you may sue an individual or a business for fraud without this lawsuit being leaked to anyone else involved. This sealed lawsuit assures protection to the plaintiff in the cases. If the defendants are found liable, they must pay damages, which can be as much as three times the government’s losses, as well as penalties incurred.

Contact a Qui Tam or False Claims Act lawyer if you are considering blowing the whistle. It takes courage to be a whistleblower, especially when the wrongdoer is your employer. Having a strong advocate will make all the difference.

For more information, or to determine how to market your services in Qui Tam law, please contact Paul Herrmann at paul@pherrmannlaw.com or at 410-703-4993.

How to file a whistleblower complaint

In general, employers are legally granted protection from workplace retaliation, meaning that an employer cannot take adverse action against workers for a number of reasons, including: firing or laying off, blacklisting, demoting, denial of benefits, making threats or reducing pay or hours.

Since 1989, the Whistleblower Protection Act has protected federal whistleblowers who report government agency misconduct. If an agency takes, or threatens to take, retaliatory action against an employer, they have violated the Whistleblower Protection Act. If you believe that your employer has violated the act, you have the right to speak with a qui tam attorney who can help you file a complaint against your employer.

You must file your complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration up to 30 days after the reprisal. Under the OSH Act, employees may file complaints with both the state and federal OSHA. Complaints filed under any other whistleblower statute must be filed directly with the Federal OSHA.

You can file your whistleblower complaint online, by fax/mail, or by telephone. The online Whistleblower Complaint Form will forward your complaint to appropriate state plan if it was submitted in a state with an OSHA-approved plan.

OSHA will conduct an interview with each complainant in order to determine the need for an investigation, and they will ask for the employee’s work and/or benefits to be restored should the evidence support the claim of discrimination.

For more information, or to determine how to market your services in employment law, please contact Paul Herrmann at paul@pherrmannlaw.com or at 410-703-4993.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – Champion of American Workers has died at the age of 87

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg championed the rights of everyone who struggled for equality – women, yes, as well as minorities, the marginalized, and workers.

As a young lawyer, Ginsburg herself was discriminated in the workplace. Although she graduated at the top of her law school class at Columbia, employers repeatedly rejected her. As Ginsburg later mused, “Not a law firm in the entire city of New York would employ me…. I struck out on three grounds: I was Jewish, a woman and a mother.”

This experience let to Ginsburg’s her early work with the ACLU. In a landmark case, Ginsburg successfully argued to the Supreme Court ruling that discrimination in the workplace on the basis of gender is unconstitutional — a revolutionary concept at the time.

After assuming the bench, both her opinions and her dissents shaped the lives of American workers in fundamental ways.

While it’s extremely difficult to choose exactly which cases were the most influential, here are three cases that demonstrate well Justice Ginsburg’s passion for the American people.

Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. led Congress to pass of one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation in the past twenty years.

As she read her dissent in Ledbetter from the bench, Justice Ginsburg called on Congress to act. Her passionate call for justice resulted in the passage of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to allow more time for workers who have faced pay discrimination to file complaints.
The Ledbetter case demonstrates that even Justice Ginsburg’s dissents had profound implications for American workers.

Shelby County v. Holder

Ledbetter was one of Justice Ginsburg’s many landmark cases… and in fact, some of her most notable opinions were dissents.

In the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder case, Alabama’s Shelby county challenged Section 4b of the 1965 Voting Rights Act – a section that required states with a history of voter suppression to receive attorney general approval before making any voting law changes (otherwise known as “preclearance”)

This section of the voting rights act was intended to stop voting discrimination across the country, but especially in states like Alabama and Texas.

However, Shelby County argued that section 4b was outdated and unconstitutional in the 21st century – and a weak 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court agreed with them.

In a scathing dissent, Justice Ginsburg wrote that “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

Obergefell v. Hodges

The landmark 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges gave same-sex couple the right to marry in all 50 states.

During oral arguments, Justice Ginsburg eviscerated her opponents, arguing against Justices John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy’s notion that same-sex marriage would weaken the institution of marriage.

She said, “All of the incentives, all of the benefits that marriage affords would still be available. So, you’re not taking away anything from heterosexual couples. They would have the very same incentive to marry, all the benefits that come with marriage that they do now.”

Justice Ginsburg’s work as a litigator, as well as her outspoken support for LGBTQ+ rights, paved the way for this case.

Ultimately, in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Every American worker – indeed, every person in this country — has benefitted from Justice Ginsburg’s work to ensure equality for all.

For more information, please contact Paul Herrrmann at paul@pherrmannlaw.com or at 410-703-4993