Small Business Employment Issues - Free Enterprise

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A New York federal court complaint, filed last week, alleges that Jay Z's company, Tidal, discriminated against an employee who was returning from maternity leave. The complaint alleges that the day after the new mother explained to her boss that she needed a private room to pump milk in, she was terminated.

The terminated employee had only returned to work for one week before being terminated. During that week, she did use a private office to pump. However, she was allegedly told that she should stop and pump in a bathroom (which is a violation of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act). The lawsuit was filed under both state and federal civil rights laws, as well as for breach of contract and an intentional tort.

If you thought that having employees based overseas might save you a few bucks come tax time, think again. As a general rule, U.S. social security and Medicare taxes still apply to any wages earned as an employee outside of the United States.

There are, however, some exceptions to that general rule, and the IRS has recently issued an update to its FICA rules for employees of American companies working abroad. Here's what you need to know.

If you're running any business and you're not using arbitration whenever possible, you're making a mistake. Arbitration agreements should not just be used for customers, but also for employees and even vendors if possible.

As a startup, you need to run as lean as you can, even if you are flush with venture capital money. And that means cutting costs at every opportunity. While certain unorthodox expenses are absolutely necessary (how are you going to attract good talent without a foosball table in the breakroom?), arbitration agreements can save companies from not just large financial losses, but also from intangible losses.

Sometimes an employee just doesn't work out. Although the employee you want to fire may need the job, as an employer, you have a business to worry about. Running a business requires making the tough decisions, which includes firing employees.

However, many small business owners become concerned about the legal liability of firing an employee. It may feel rotten to have to fire someone, but unless there was something more going on, there is nothing illegal about terminating employees for valid business reasons, such as poor performance, downsizing, or restructuring.

Now that the holiday season is upon us, small businesses need to make sure they are ready to handle just about anything. Before the holiday rush begins, small business owners should take some time to develop a crisis management plan to be ready in case of emergencies, and to minimize risks.

Crisis plans should not only include what to do in case of fire, flood, storms, or other natural disasters, but should also include situations like shootings, theft, overcrowding, fights, and injuries. While each of these situations should be handled differently, below are 5 legal tips to help every small business owner devise a crisis plan.

As hackers and cyber attackers get more sophisticated, preventing digital security breaches in business becomes more difficult. As soon as the good guys find a way to stop one virus, the bad guys write another two. Over the past few years, cyber attackers have set their sights on businesses that rely on digital data to operate. The goal in a ransomware attack is to gain access to the business's computer systems, then encrypt the business's files, and require the business to pay a ransom in order to have their files un-encrypted.

Ransomware targets can range from individuals to small businesses, big businesses, and even government agencies. Because every business is different, each business needs to create a digital security policy and digital emergency plan to protect the business and the business's employees.

It's hard to come up with a more polarizing and vitriolic presidential election in recent memory. Families were pitted against each other; Facebook friendships torn asunder; and, it seems, bosses playing resignation chicken with their employees.

Grubhub CEO Matt Maloney took a decidedly anti-Donald Trump tack in an email to employees, daring those who don't agree to "reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here." Maloney added, "We do not tolerate hateful attitudes on our team." Does that mean Maloney will go stalking through the office, cubicle by cubicle, firing Trump voters?

You work hard to hire the best employees. But are you working hard enough to keep them? As it turns out, getting a great staff into the office is only half the battle. Not only do you have to make your company attractive to applicants, you have to make it a great place to work and stay long-term.

Running a successful small business means fostering a fantastic work environment that attracts, and retains, the best talent. So here are three ways to do just that.

Starting January 1, 2017, employers in California will now face liability under the Fair Pay Act if they are found to have discriminated in setting wages based on race or ethnicity, as well as gender. When the Fair Pay Act initially went into effect on January 1, 2016, the act only applied to gender-based pay disparities. While prior state and federal laws did protect against this type of injury, the Fair Pay Act provides a more direct cause of action for aggrieved individuals, as well as tighter regulations for employers, in an attempt to eliminate this type of civil rights violation from even occurring in California.

For small to large business owners, this law means taking a look at your current employment policies to make sure you are in compliance, as well as reviewing your current payroll to make sure prior decisions did not run afoul of new rules. In addition to expanding the Fair Pay Act to also include race and ethnicity, the new law will also prohibit employers from using an employee's salary history to justify a current disparity in compensation.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a settlement with Safeway, Inc. that will require the nation-wide grocery chain to rehire a food clerk and pay $27,000 in damages after she was fired following a work-related injury. The settlement sheds light on the kind of accommodations employers are required to make for injured employees and how long those accommodations are necessary.

Here's a look at the EEOC's settlement and the lessons for small business owners.