Employee Liability Exposure
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Employee Liability Exposure

January 2016

Getting labor and employment issues right is critical, because of the liability exposure associated with those issues.

State and federal wage and hour divisions can, acting upon just one complaint or random investigation, audit all payroll related matters for all employees. This includes an in-depth inspection of I-9 forms, payroll records, overtime rates, and exemption status. The investigators are also authorized to speak with you, your management team, and your current and former employees about wage and hour related matters. A standard investigation can include the past two years, and an extra year for those violations of wage and hour laws that are deemed to be willful and intentional. Both state and federal laws also provide for the possibility of liquidated damages, civil fines, and other serious ramifications in addition to the back wages that may be due to past and current employees.

State and federal civil rights agencies also have the authority  to investigate Townships based on either a targeted audit or a complaint. Unlike the wage and hour investigations, which, in some ways, are not as obtrusive to the work place and obvious to other staff, civil rights investigations are obvious. These investigations are often disruptive to the workplace because investigators tend to ask questions of a more sensitive nature. Depending upon the results of the investigation, the Township may reach a resolution with a complainant or the agency, receive a notice of dismissal of any complaint, or face a lawsuit by the agency for alleged civil rights violations.

These laws are widely applicable, both at the state and federal level. Michigan's public sector labor law applies even to those townships whose employees are not organized into a union. See our previous E-Letter on this subject by clicking here

At the federal level, it is becoming more and more clear that the labor laws apply not only to union employees, but also to employees discussing their wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment in the office--and even those who are discussing such things on Facebook. Facebook and other similar social media sites are the new "water cooler," where employee gripes should be expected. By and large, they must be allowed to do so without repercussions.

For more information about these guidelines, be sure to attend the 2016 Michigan Township Association Conference& Expo, where Helen E. R Mills will be discussing "Rethinking Employment Issues & Policies" on Wednesday, January 20 from 2:45 pm to 4 pm.

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