Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What are biggest legal questions facing employers?

Last week, Employment Law 360 ran a four-part series discussing the four biggest issues facing employment lawyers across four different categories: Discrimination, Wage and Hour, Labor, and Class Actions (sub. req.).

It’s hard to disagree with any of the articles’ assessments or conclusions. It got me thinking, though, if those are the biggest issues facing employment lawyers, what are the biggest issues facing employers?

I think these issues fall into two over-arching categories:
  1. What is work?
  2. Who is an employee?
“What is work” does not just fall under the wage-and-hour umbrella. Yes, it is important under the FLSA to understand the compensable nature of working time, and how technology, like off-the-clock emails and smartphone use, impacts this question. Equally, if not more important, however, is the issue of the location of work, and the flexible work schedules, telecommuting, and work-life-balance implications of this question. If technology has freed us from the shackles of a four-walled office and nine-to-five time clock, does it also mean that technology has stretched the workplace to anywhere and the workday to anytime? And, with this “freedom”, should not employers be more lenient with time off, paid or unpaid.

“Who is an employee” is equally important. I’m not just talking about the FLSA implications of employee vs. independent contractor, or employee vs. intern. I’m also talking about the potential for joint-employer liability under the NLRA, Title VII, OSHA, and other statues. And, don't forget the ongoing debate over whether Title VII protects LGBT workers.

So, readers, what say you? What are the most important workplace legal issues facing you and your businesses? Leave a comment below, or tweet me @jonhyman with the hashtag #BiggestEmployerIssue