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Monday
Oct062014

ICYMI: Our Social Media Posts This Week -- Oct. 5 - 11, 2014

Below is a review of the posts (on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) from the past week.  You can check out the full posts by clicking on the links.

In the post on Sunday 10/5/14, we talked about what to do if a key customer files for bankruptcy protection. If the customer filed under Chapter 11, do you continue doing business with the customer or not? NOTE: If it filed under Chapter 7, it has (or will shortly) cease business operations so this is not really an issue. To start, you must decide how important that customer is to your business. Since it filed under Chapter 11, it can continue operating, including paying for all ordinary course goods and services after the bankruptcy filing. If the order is for something not in the ordinary course, you might want to get Court approval first. Also, if the customer owed you money for goods or services provided prior to the bankruptcy filing, you will want to file a claim and try to get paid (at least something) on account of that debt; you may want to get legal assistance to ensure that it is properly and timely filed. Be aware that the decision on whether to continue the relationship after the bankruptcy filing may not be in your hands; if there is a contractual relationship, you may be required to continue to fulfill your obligations, at least until a certain point in the future.

TAKEAWAY:  A customer’s bankruptcy filing is not necessarily a death knell for you – consult a bankruptcy attorney to find out the questions to ask and your possible answers.

The post on Monday 10/6/14 talked about a suit alleging discharge for requesting time off during pregnancy.  The suit was brought by a meat company worker.  She alleges that she was began employment in early 2011 and told her supervisor of her high-risk pregnancy just over 2 years later in 2013. At that time, she handed in a doctor’s note and requested FMLA leave. She alleges that harassment by her supervisor and another supervisor started soon after and that she was discharged about a month later in retaliation for the FMLA leave request.

TAKEAWAY:  If an employee is legally entitled to FMLA leave, do not stand in the way or retaliate – you will not come out a winner in the court of law or public opinion.

On Tuesday 10/7/14, the post was about 5 common employee pay mistakes (and how to fix them). Yes, we are talking about the Fair Labor Standards Act here and how it permeates the employment relationship. So what are some common mistakes and their fixes? (1) Misclassifying workers. This is huge. Make sure you know if your workers are employees or contractors and, if the former, whether or not they are exempt from overtime compensation. (2) Forgoing a wage and hour audit. It is better to do it yourself (with the possible assistance of legal counsel) than to have it done for you by a worker as part of his/her lawsuit. This will also help you with #1 above. (3) Miscalculating hours actually worked. This can affect pay, paid time off, and other things. Consider pre- and post-shift work, work during breaks, and automatic timesheets (just to name a few). Other fix to these items and the other 2 common mistakes are in the post.

TAKEAWAY:  Mistakes happen, but you can try to minimize them by properly paying your workers from the beginning.

The post on Wednesday 10/8/14 talked about what the numbers on your credit card really mean. Yes, they actually mean something. They help route the transaction through the proper card network and then to the appropriate financial institution for authorization. Ordinarily, the first 2 numbers are for the card provider (AmEx cards start with 34 or 37, Visa with 4, MasterCard with 5, Discover with 6, gas cards with 7, and airline cards with 1). The remaining numbers are explained in the post.

TAKEAWAY:  You don’t need to memorize your credit card number(s), but it’s good to know what the string of numbers is for and what information it is providing about you.

On Thursday 10/9/14, the post gave 6.5M reasons to properly classify your workers. Remember #1 on the common pay mistakes list in our post from this past Tuesday? Well, one company didn’t and now may have to pay up to $6.5 million for improper classification (contractors instead of employees). Some of the things that the Dept. of Labor and IRS will look at in classification are listed in the post (including control, training, exclusivity, and chance for profit and loss).

TAKEAWAY:  Don’t pay for someone to tell you that you’ve done something wrong; properly classify your workers (as employees or contractors) from the start.

The post on Friday 10/10/14 was what the Beatles can teach us about employment law. It’s a humorous twist, which we all need at times, but oh so true when you think about it. The post starts by talking about employees who tell others “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. Then HR gets to deal with whether or not it is welcome, violates policy, etc. Then what about when an employee says “Help! I need somebody!” Yep, HR should start thinking “We Can Work It Out” and looking at possible obligations and actions under both the FMLA and ADA. What if employees are thinking “Will you still need me? Will you still feed me? When I’m 64”. HR is then on “The Long and Winding Road” of possible age discrimination. Is that all? Of course not. In keeping with the themes of previous posts this week, we also can learn about proper pay. What if the employee works “Eight Days A Week”? (OK, that’s a stretch …). Other lessons are in the post.

TAKEAWAY:  The post says it best. If a mistake is made, remember that money “Can’t Buy Me Love”, but it can usually buy a reasonable settlement.

Finally, the post yesterday 10/11/14 provided 3 strategies for defending low-value debt collection lawsuits (a follow-up to our recent post about whether or not you should attempt debt collection lawsuits by yourself, without the assistance of an attorney). Low-value is still some value, which may be more than you have or you probably would have paid the debt in the first place. So what can you do? You can try to settle with the creditor for some amount less than what is owed. You can hire an attorney to fight the suit. The chance of success varies but it is possible; know, though, that you may well end up paying the lawyer as much or more than the amount of the debt just to make the suit go away (so you may want to go back to the settlement option). A third option is to file for bankruptcy protection.  While you do not need an attorney to file bankruptcy, this is not a simple solution and should be seriously considered only after discussing all of your options and circumstances with a bankruptcy attorney.

TAKEAWAY:  If faced with a lawsuit, know what your options are (consulting with an attorney may well be worth that small fee) and which option might be best for you under your circumstances.

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