Employment Law Notes

Religious Discrimination: Personal Preference or Sincere Religious Belief?

Imagine this scenario: There is an environmental instructor working for a public school district, let’s call her Ms. Green.  Her school district, always strapped for funds, is given tens of thousands of dollars by the local power utility company.  In return, the power company implements a plan with the district to have its environmental instructors lead field trips of fifth and sixth grade students to its Red Devil nuclear power plant, built on a known, active earthquake fault.  Before, during and after its construction, Red Devil has been the site of active anti-nuclear political protests.  The district informs the instructors that they must all participate in leading these trips and refusal to do so will lead to disciplinary action up to and including termination.  Each instructor is to be assigned one to two field trips a month. (more…)

Are You Really an Independent Contractor? Understanding Your Employment Rights

With increasing frequency, most businesses–large and small–are calling workers independent contractors when in fact they should be paid and treated as employees.  Their primary reasons for doing so is to unlawfully avoid paying required taxes and insurance such as social security, worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance and to prevent workers from being entitled to fringe benefits such as vacation, health insurance and company pension plans. However, the mere designation by the employer of a worker as an “independent contractor” is not necessarily the final word on the matter. (more…)

Understanding Severance and Seperation Agreements

In this era of continued layoffs and involuntary separations from employment, dismissed employees are almost always asked to sign multi-page separation agreements as a pre-condition to receiving severance benefits.  In the absence of a preexisting contract or personnel policy that guarantees a separated worker entitlement to severance benefits, it is absolutely legal for a company to condition the paying of these benefits on the employee signing the agreement.  However, it is crucial that an employee understand both the benefits she is receiving from the agreement and the important legal rights that are being relinquished by the signing of the agreement. (more…)

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