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Misclassification of independent contractors an issue nationwide

Misclassification of workers as independent contractors is a problem nationwide. A misclassification of employee status prevents workers from attaining workplace benefits to which they may be entitled.

Recently, Idaho signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Labor to collaborate to identify businesses that engage in this illegal activity and to stop the misclassification of independent contractors. This latest move to protect workers brings Idaho in line with 23 other states that have similar agreements in place.

Those states are: Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The issue that prompted revamped legislation is that state and federal agencies need to know with certainty what actual benefits and protections are accorded to an employee, such as family medical leave, employment taxes, meal and break periods, overtime pay and minimum wage.

If a worker is misclassified,the business cheats the government out of legally mandated taxes and cheats workers out of legally mandated protections. Misclassification of a worker is a benefit for a company until it gets sued or reported and investigated. It is actually less expensive for the company to strictly comply with the labor laws of each state, or make it their priority to find out what those laws say, rather than be sued and have the court award a higher amount than may actually be owed.

If companies are allowed to get away with misclassifying workers, they also unfairly affect the tenor of the industry in which they compete. It is an unfair and illegal advantage to misclassify workers to get a competitive pricing edge to obtain more clients. Enforcement of stated labor laws protecting workers is the priority of states seeking to level the playing field and protect workers.

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Social media employer crosses line for non-payment of overtime wages

Non-payment of overtime to workers is not just a brick-and-mortar company issue. It is also prevalent in online social media niches. 

Consider the case of LinkedIn, one of the more prominent social media platforms for connecting and finding jobs. The company recently paid out close to $6 million in back wages and damages to 359 current and former employees after an investigation. The settlement covered workers in New York, Illinois, Nebraska and California.

LinkedIn claimed that the company did not have the right tools for one sector of its workforce. While that may explain the violation, it is the employer’s responsibility to keep abreast of all rules, regulations and laws that affect their company and workforce. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

LinkedIn did not account for or record all hours worked during a week — either with or without malice or forethought, a direct violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The law clearly states that non-exempt workers must be paid the federal minimum hourly wage ($7.25) for all hours worked, plus time and a half overtime for putting in more than 40 hours a week.

The company must now provide compliance training, ensure all workers are aware of its policy prohibiting off-the-clock work for all non-exempt workers/managers, insist all overtime hours be recorded and paid for and stress that retaliation in the workplace for raising employment issues is not condoned.

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After helmet failure, 110 comatose days and counting

Traumatic brain injuries can happen to anyone, even Formula 1 racecar driver Michael Schumacher.

Schumacher has spent more than the last 110 days in a coma. He fell and hit his head on a rock while skiing. Even though he was wearing a helmet, which shattered into three pieces, he is still fighting for his life from the head injury. Doctors say if he had not been wearing the helmet, he would not be alive by any definition.

The accident has shaken the ski industry badly. Those who ski at any level are wearing helmets more than ever, according to a New York Times article. In fact, 70 percent of skiers are sporting helmets (about triple the number from 2003), but the gear has not reduced the number of fatalities or brain injuries.

A troubling 2012 study by the Western Michigan University School of Medicine revealed that head trauma incidents increased by 60 percent between 2004 and 2010 — the same time period when helmet use was on the rise. While helmets do reduce the likelihood of wounds like scalp lacerations, they do not avert concussions and traumatic brain injuries, the more fatal accidents.

Helmets are not the security blankets they are made out to be. If they are not made to actually protect a wearer’s head, defective or negligent manufacturing might have come into play. If you’ve been in this situation, speak to an injury lawyer and find out what your legal rights are.