Employment Laws We Could Be Breaking Without Knowing

Employment Laws We Could Be Breaking Without Knowing

Companies are a bit like ships made up of a multitude of moving parts. The captain isn’t necessarily required to know about each individual cog and gear during his day-to-day activities guiding the vessel, but they each have important functions and are governed by specific regulations that need to be followed. A company’s operations are similarly built from a combination of a lot of different activities, many of which are governed by U.S. and state employment laws.

Employers are expected to stay on the right side of these rules, but there might be a few they’ve never encountered before. So, let’s take a look at some of the laws we could be unintentionally breaking.

Punitive Paychecks are Prohibited

Let’s say you have an employee that accidentally breaks an expensive piece of company equipment. You should be able to deduct the value of that item from their paycheck as recompence, right? No. Employers are prohibited from docking employee pay for things like damages, mistakes, or even poor performance under Indiana law. The only time deductions like these can take place is if prior consent was given by the employee, like during the hiring process or contracting. Note that employers can still fire employees for major mistakes though, but they still must be paid for all hours worked.

Misclassifying Employees

Employers aren’t the ones who get to decide whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee, only the Department of Labor (DOL) can make that determination. If an individual is misclassified, it can be costly for business owners. Therefore, the safe bet is to use the DOL’s own tools to make that classification. Search online for the DOL independent contractor tests to help you, or if you’re really stuck you can request the IRS decide.

Short Breaks are Paid

There’s a lot of confusion out there about compensation for employee break time. Federal law establishes that for meal breaks (typically 30 minutes or longer) employers are not required to pay employees or count that time towards their total hours. However, for short breaks (usually under 20 minutes) employers are required to compensate their employees and that time must be included in their total hours and overtime hours. Both Indiana and federal laws do not require that breaks be provided, but if short breaks are provided they must be paid.

Leaves Don’t Have to be Paid

Individual states have all kinds of different laws with regard to what types of leaves from work are required to be paid and which aren’t. In Indiana, the rules are pretty simple. Employers are not required to pay for basically any forms of leave. Vacation time and sick time benefits are not required by law, and things like state holidays, jury duty, time off to vote, and bereavement days are not required to be compensated.

When You Can, And Can’t, Discipline Online Activity

You can’t fire an employee for complaining about your company on their social media platforms, even though you may want to. The National Labor Relations Act gives employees the right to engage with one another in “protected concerted activity,” meaning they’re able to freely discuss things like wages, benefits, working conditions, ideas for improvement, and more. This act covers online correspondence, even if it’s just people airing their grievances or other negatives. It’s worth noting though that employers can fire individuals who make false or slanderous statements, or commit harassment, discrimination, or bullying, as these are not covered by the labor relations act.

Where You Can, And Can’t, Conduct Searches

As a general rule, an employer can search company property but not areas considered to be personal property. So, for example, company vehicles can be searched at any time but an employee’s personal vehicle cannot. Things like work lockers and desks can also be searched, but personal bags, purses, and individuals cannot. If an employer believes an employee is possessing something illegal in their car or in their pockets, they cannot search those areas or detain the employee (that would be false imprisonment). Instead, they should call law enforcement. On a related note, employers are allowed to monitor their facilities with surveillance equipment, including phone calls, as long as workers are informed. But they are not allowed to surveil private areas like bathrooms and changing rooms.

Business owners should always be keeping an eye out for legislative changes that could impact their employees because new developments are established every year. If you’re unsure about the rules and how they apply to your firm, Indiana’s DOL is a great resource for answers. We’ll also be keeping you up to date in future issues and on our website.



This article is for informative purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.

Sources: Indiana DOL, U.S. DOL, OSHA, U.S. News & World Report, IN.gov, Avvo, Nolo, Employment Law Handbook, FindLaw

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Category Features, Rule of Law