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When Is a Contractor Not a Contractor?

When is a contractor not a contractor? According to the law, it's when the worker is actually an employee. With the advent of the gig economy, (Uber, Door Dash) this issue is more prevalent than ever. This trend doesn't just apply to small or fledgling companies. In fact, this year, for the first time in its 20 year history, Google employed more contractors than employees.

So is your new worker a contractor or an employee? The answer is complicated and may be surprising.

Nike Accused of Gender Discrimination in Lawsuit

Nike has been hit again for alleged discriminating working conditions, this time biased against women. Two former employees. Kelly Cahill and Sara Johnston filed a class action lawsuit in Portland's federal district court, claiming they were subject to hostile working environments, which the company failed to address, and paid less with fewer opportunities than their male counterparts, despite having equal comparable performance. The suit accuses Nike of violating the Federal Equal Pay Act, the Oregon Equal Pay Act, and the Oregon Equality Act.

Give Me a Break! But Can You Make Me Take One?

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Similarly, you can give an employee a break, but you can't make her take it.

According to the federal Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA), employers are not required to give employees lunch breaks at all. State laws differ, and there should be mention of breaks in a company handbook. But how about going the other way? Can an employee be forced to take a lunch break? This must either be mandated by state law or written in the company handbook, and even then, it cannot be forced upon the employee in every instance.

So, when does bad behavior warrant a six-figure settlement, spark an FBI investigation, constitute criminal stalking, and lead to a three-year prison sentence, but not rise to the level sexual harassment at work? When your employer is United Airlines, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC sued the airline last week on behalf of a female flight attendant who claims a male pilot posted nude and sexually suggestive photos (some including her work uniform) of her online for over a decade without her permission. The woman filed numerous lawsuits and human resources complaints, but United concluded the pilot's actions did not constitute sexual harassment in the workplace. Even after the EEOC's lawsuit, the airline asserted it "will vigorously defend against this case."

You want to foster an environment at your small business where all of your employees and customers feel comfortable. But political conversations, especially in the current climate, have the potential to cause some civil unrest in the office. And when those conversations center around the minimum wage and the right to unionize, they can get especially uncomfortable for workers and management.

In-N-Out thought it had the right idea when it invoked a blanket ban on "any type of pin or stickers" to prohibit employees at an Austin location from wearing "Fight for $15" buttons in solidarity with a nationwide campaign for a $15 per hour minimum wage, the right to form a union without intimidation, and other improvements for low-wage workers. But the company went too far, according to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. So, what does that mean for you and your small business?

While most small businesses aren't required to provide healthcare benefits to their employees, many choose to do so in order to attract and retain the best employees. However, even if you don't need to offer health insurance to your employees, once you do, federal law prohibits you from discriminating in your health benefits coverage based on an employee or dependent's gender, race, age, national origin, religion, or disability, and many states and local municipalities also prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

But what if some of the healthcare choices made by your employees conflict with your religious beliefs? Could you end up paying for care and procedures you don't agree with? Or are there religious exemptions to your employees' health care benefits?

Of course, you need to pay your employees while they're clocked in and doing work, but it turns out you might have to compensate them for off-the-clock work as well. The California Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Starbucks was required to pay their workers for minutes they spend performing works tasks off-the-clock, even if only for a brief time, if that task is routine like locking up, setting alarms, and sending reports.

So, what does the ruling mean for employers?

Taco Bell had itself a little problem. Apparently, employees were taking their discounted meals and complimentary drinks home to family and friends. So, the Bell instituted a rule requiring discounted meals be consumed on the premises. Because the meals were also consumed during employees' lunch breaks, this effectively meant that if employees were on their lunch break, and utilizing their discount for a meal, they were required to remain on-site during their lunch breaks.

But the State of California has its own rule, requiring that employers relinquish control of their employees during breaks. So, did Taco Bell's on-premises discount policy make their employees' meal breaks not breaks at all? Not according to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

You know it's happening -- employees are staring out their windows, wistfully wondering how the summer is going by so quickly. So why not get them out of the office for a little fun in the sun? If you haven't already planned a summer BBQ or office picnic for your staff, it's a great way to foster both personal and working relationships and give your employees a much-needed break from the monotony.

But company outings aren't just food and fun and games -- they can be fraught with legal liability if you don't do your research, plan ahead, and handle the situation well. Here are three things to think about before getting your staff out of their seats for a BBQ, picnic, or other summer outing.

Are Walmart Cashiers Entitled to Sit Down?

Employees already complain that going to work is a pain, especially when they have to stand up for long hours. Many workers are fed up, and have filed a host of class action lawsuits to gain the right to use a chair to sit during their shifts in instances where it is work appropriate.

Are workers legally entitled to sit down? A lawsuit by Walmart cashiers seeks to ensure that the answer to this question is "Yes."