As an employer, you will eventually have to referee employee disputes or settle one against you, possibly through litigation or by appearing before a regulatory board. Your company’s morale can plummet, and the work environment can become toxic if you do not address problems right away.
Whether you must terminate a troublemaker or defend a wage and hour dispute, a Johns Creek employment disputes lawyer can assist you. Let a skilled attorney at Sparks Law help navigate the tricky waters of Georgia law and regulatory agency rules.
According to Georgia Code Section 34-7-1, an employer generally does not have to give an employee any reason for termination unless an employment agreement says otherwise. However, one of the most pervasive complaints employees lodge after termination is for discrimination. Employees are discriminated against if they are singled out because they belong to a group with a characteristic different from others and are mistreated.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) monitors and sanctions employers whose workers file discrimination complaints against them. Employers should be aware that the EEOC has identified protected classes that must be treated the same as all other employees. These classes include:
Discrimination laws are tiered. Employers with fewer than twenty employees have different benchmarks for implementing protocol than businesses that employ twenty or more people and government employers of any size. Employees who believe they are being discriminated against can file complaints with the EEOC. A skilled Johns Creek attorney could represent a client in court or before the EEOC board to settle disputes involving workplace discrimination.
The EEOC also presides over harassment complaints. Although these could include any actions that make the workplace intolerable for employees, most harassment complaints stem from sexual conduct. Anyone who has authority over other workers cannot threaten or reward that worker based on sexual favors. Additionally, sexual harassment need not be overt, and off-color jokes that make another worker uncomfortable could also lead to legal complaints.
When a fellow worker harasses another, management is expected to have a system to investigate and settle these disputes. Failure to do so puts management at risk of sanctions by the EEOC. A local attorney could help draft an employee handbook that details how employers will resolve harassment disputes.
Employers must keep impeccable employee records, including a log of hours worked so that pay disputes can be settled with evidence. Although the Georgia Department of Labor (DOL) has set the state’s minimum wage at $5.15 per hour, the federal minimum wage is higher, at $7.25 per hour. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Georgia employers usually must pay employees the higher amount. Some exceptions, for example, tipped employees and students, apply.
Failure to pay the minimum wage and overtime when appropriate can land an employer before the Wage and Hour Division of the state or federal Department of Labor. Employees can also file lawsuits, which can be costly and time-consuming for a business. In these scenarios, advice from a Johns Creek lawyer who focuses on employment disputes could be crucial.
As an employer, you will probably face myriad disputes when employees question their wages or claim they are being discriminated against or harassed. Putting a protocol in place can help avoid these issues and create a positive work environment.
A Johns Creek employment dispute lawyer could draft policies and procedures, as well as represent you in court or before a regulatory board if need be. Call Sparks Law today for a consultation.