On Monday, I asked my readers the same question posed by Walter Olson at Overlawyered: “If I could press a button and instantly vaporize one sector of employment law…”? The results are in, and the FLSA (my choice) and the FMLA are the clear winners.
Right now, particularly in Connecticut, there are multiple laws an employer must consider when an employee is absent, particularly for an injury on the job. Among them: ADA, CFEPA (Connecticut’s version of the ADA), FMLA, CTFMLA (Connecticut’s version of the FMLA), Connecticut Workers Compensation laws, and Connecticut’s new Paid Sick Leave law…. Trying to figure those out shouldn’t take a law degree, and yet, they do.
On Twitter, Pat Richter agrees:
I despise the FLSA for my clients…. There are so many complicated requirements, classifications, exemptions, etc., employment lawyers can barely get them straight. How do you think that struggling small business owner down the street who is truly doing his best to do the right thing, but made a simple, honest mistake on record-keeping or classification or calculating overtime feels? Even when employers do everything right (which, because the law is so complicated and detailed, is admittedly rare), it’s too expensive to fight the case. It’s also too risky to fight it, since one tiny slip up could result in a large attorneys’ fee award for the plaintiff.
By my count, the way Americans think of work has fundamentally shifted at least three times since I was born. The FLSA—a law whose sole purpose is to protect the American workforce—is almost 80 years old. That’s where all those byzantine regulations came from. Some really smart businessperson came up with a new way to interact with their employees, and the FLSA people had to figure out what the FLSA said about whatever that novel idea was. So they jury rigged the old law to fit the new system of work—cramming workers into classifications that didn’t really fit. Multiply that by every innovative workforce procedure for the past 80 years, and you can understand why employers feel so squeezed.
Agree? Disagree? Comment away.