Being a business owner is a huge responsibility – personally, financially, emotionally, organizationally, legally….there are so many boxes that need to be checked, and so many things that fall on your shoulders alone. One aspect of running a business that often gets pushed to the back burner is following employment law guidelines. If you want to avoid a possible lawsuit, ensuring that you are abiding by the employment laws set forth by the state of Utah is crucial.
We know that it can be overwhelming trying to understand all the legal language and nuances. As experienced employment law attorneys, here are some common employment law violations we have seen business lawyers encounter that we want you to be aware of so you can prevent lawsuits and other legal issues!
- Denial Of Overtime/Unpaid Wages
The state of Utah does not have their own overtime wage laws, but they abide by the Fair Labor Standards Act which states that any hours worked above a standard 40-hour work week must be compensated with one and one half times an employee’s standard rate of pay. It is your responsibility to ensure you are accurately paying your employees when they work overtime in order for your business to remain compliant! The same goes for any unpaid wages as well. Your employees come to work with the expectation that they’ll be accurately compensated for the work that they do and withholding any wages (overtime or not) from your employees is illegal under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
If you fire an employee, Utah Code § 34-28-5 says that their unpaid wages become due immediately, and you must pay the wages to the employee within 24 hours of the time you let them go.
Despite federal law that prohibits discrimination against anyone based on their national origin, race, color, religion, disability, sex, and familial status, discrimination continues to occur in the workplace. Not only is it morally wrong, but illegal to treat an employee differently on the basis of any characteristics that are protected by law. Workplace discrimination doesn’t come in one form and can be classified as harassment, retaliation, and more. Under the Utah Antidiscrimination Act, it is illegal for you to deny, hire, promote, demote or terminate anyone based on their protected characteristics. You also cannot pay an employee less than another based on anything other than performance.
As an employer, you should know that if an employee has probable cause for workplace discrimination from a supervisor or manager who works under you, you could still be held personally liable as the employer, and the employee has the right to file a lawsuit against you and your company. This is known as vicarious liability. By ensuring that you’ve created a welcoming, non-hostile work environment for your employees and instilling proper expectations for anyone in a position of power, you can avoid workplace discrimination claims.
- Wrongful Termination
Wrongful termination is an extension of workplace discrimination that happens frequently. In fact, at least 150,000 people are wrongly terminated every year from their job. Wrongful termination is described as being fired for an illegal reason, which may involve violation of federal anti-discrimination laws or a contractual breach. Some specific examples of wrongful termination include:
- Firing an employee because they’ve become pregnant to avoid having to pay them for maternity leave.
- Firing an employee who wants to or has reported a workplace harassment incident.
- Firing an employee who has a contract that says they cannot be fired without cause but the employer not providing a cause.
- And more.
While you as an employer might feel you have a justified reason for the termination of an employee, legally, you might not. Legal counsel can help advise you on decisions like this.
- Workplace Harassment
Workplace harassment is another branch of discrimination that includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Verbal Harassment – Verbal harassment is hostile or offensive speech. This can include derogatory comments, slurs, suggestive comments, profane language, and more.
- Sexual Harassment – Sexual harassment is classified as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
- Racial Harassment – Racial discrimination is harassment based on the color of one’s skin color, race, etc. It could be jokes or remarks about someone’s hair texture, refusal to share a workspace, or more.
- Gender Harassment – Gender harassment is any kind of discriminatory behavior towards someone based on their gender or gender expression. An example would be a certain gender being made fun of or even passed over for a promotion because they don’t fit the traditional gender norms for that position.
If you’ve committed an act of harassment against an employee, they have the right to make a legal claim against you. Also, vicarious liability is applicable with workplace harassment as well. An experienced employment lawyer can help you better understand what classifies as workplace harassment.
- Unsafe Work Environment
As an employer, one of your major responsibilities is ensuring a safe work environment for your employees. The Utah Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973 requires Utah employers to create a workplace that is free from recognized safety hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to their employees. Some examples of a possible unsafe work environment include but are not limited to the following:
- Blocking emergency exits
- Not providing necessary safety equipment to employees when necessary
- Not following safety procedures and protocols
- And more!
How Green Legal Group Can Help You
If you are an employer who wants to ensure that you are following the employment laws set forth by the state of Utah, as well as refraining from violating such laws, you should seek legal counsel from our employment lawyers. We can help you understand Utah’s employment laws, how to follow proper procedures, and explain your legal rights as an employer. We can also handle complaints as they arise. Don’t wait to get advice that can save your business from jeopardy. Call Green Legal Group today for a free 30-minute consultation.