What are My Rights for Mental Health in the Workplace?

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Mental health discrimination in the workplace is unethical and illegal, and workers with mental illnesses have protection under the law. Despite this, mental health discrimination in the workplace persists. The problem is that this type of discrimination is difficult to prove or even detect. Mental health discrimination in the workplace will generally take one of three forms:

  • Discriminatory actions, such as:
    • Being excluded from travel or other events because of phobias
    • Not being given assignments that could aggravate anxiety
    • Being demoted or overlooked for a promotion due to mental illness
    • Being fired for using company time for doctor visits, therapy appointments, hospital stays, or doctor-advised time off
    • Being demoted for taking time off to care for a family member with a mental illness
  • Harassment, such as:
    • Being mocked by co-workers or superiors, whether by oral, written, or physical means, such as gestures that relate to the mental illness
    • Overhearing derogatory terms or names
  • Retaliation can happen when a worker with mental illness reports the discrimination or takes action to end the discrimination. It could take the form of:
    • Exclusion from meetings or projects after reporting the discrimination to Human Resources
    • Verbal harassment or bad performance reviews by a superior related to the discrimination complaint
    • Not receiving a promotion or raise, or given a different job or title after a discrimination complaint
    • Being moved to a different location in the department after making a complaint

What are My Rights Regarding Mental Health in the Workplace?

Federal and state laws protect workers with mental illnesses or who take care of family members with mental illnesses. These laws include the following:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This Act protects workers with physical or mental disabilities in companies with 15 or more employees. The ADA states that employers cannot treat someone with a mental illness differently from others in the same job. Specifically, an employer should not use a mental health diagnosis in decisions related to training, promotion, transfers, discipline, lay-off, termination, and pay.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): Among other things, the FLSA makes it unlawful for an employer to pay a person with a mental illness less than a person without a mental illness performing the same job duties. The Department of Labor has mental health toolkits to help employers comply with federal labor laws related to mental health in the workplace.
  • Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC): This federal agency enforces fair workplace practices, including those for mentally ill workers. Employees can report mental health discrimination, unfair labor practices, and related workplace issues to the EEOC to take their case to the federal level.

Must Employers Comply with Reasonable Accommodations?

Both the ADA and the EEOC allow employees to ask for reasonable accommodations at work to address their mental illness. It requires an employer to comply with the requests as long as they do not result in business hardship or violations. Reasonable accommodation requests may include having a support dog at work, working from home, being placed in a quiet area, or being allowed to wear headphones to drown out noise.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Advocate for Victims of Mental Health Discrimination

Discrimination against employees with mental illness is illegal. Employees who care for family members with a mental illness also have rights under the law. If you feel your rights have been violated, contact the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. We help employees with mental illnesses obtain fair and just compensation under the law when they are victims of discrimination in the workplace. For an initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 215-574-0600. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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Should Employers Require a Checklist for Remote Workers?

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Before a person takes a job that will require them to work remotely, they should be sure that the employer has established a checklist that will go over the employee’s responsibilities and the employer’s obligations. With no traditional structure surrounding an employee, it can be easy to drift beyond the scope of their responsibilities. It is important for employers to establish a checklist at the outset so both the employee and employer have a firm understanding of each other’s responsibilities. The onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced numerous businesses to work remotely. If firms continue using remote workers, they should establish a checklist when hiring new employees.

What Items Should be Included on a Checklist?

A checklist establishes the parameters of a remote employee’s responsibilities. For the employee, it is good to know what is expected of them and what they can expect from their employer. Specifically, the checklist should include information about:

  • The state the employee resides
  • Telecommuting plans
  • Employer responsibilities
  • Workspace parameters

By laying out the specifics in all four categories, employers and employees can establish a positive working relationship that should function just as well as if they were both working in the same office.

Why Does It Matter Where I am Working?

Employment law differs by state and impacts certain ways that employers interact with employees and what benefits they can and should provide. Employers should determine the state their employee is working out of and become familiar with the specific employment laws and regulations that apply. These are essential even during the hiring process as different states allow certain questions to be asked on applications while others do not. Having a checklist that lays out a state’s specific regulations will enable the hiring process to run smoothly.

What Should a Checklist Include About the Telecommute?

From the beginning of a relationship between an employer and a remote employee, the structure of that relationship should be established. For instance, an employee should know right away if the remote aspect of the job is temporary or permanent. They should also know if the position is 100 percent remote or if there will be some time in the office. The employee should also be made aware of any potential timeline of the job moving back to the office.

An employer should establish work hours for an employee and how that employee will check in during the day. It is important for an employee to understand when the workday begins and ends to prevent them from working too much or not enough. They should also know if they are eligible for overtime and how that can be accurately tracked to ensure that they are not taking advantage of the situation or are being taken advantage of.

What Will My Employer be Responsible For?

When establishing a remote working relationship, a checklist should include what an employer will be responsible for when it comes to paying for expenses. An employee should understand what expenses an employer will pay for and which ones will be the responsibility of the employee.

The equipment an employee uses should also be a part of a checklist for an employer as to what they will provide. Whether an employer elects to provide that equipment is up to them, so long as they explain that at the start of the relationship. Along with equipment comes minor expenses, such as mailing, faxing, and purchasing small office supplies, such as paper and folders.

How Should Remote Employees Establish Workspaces?

Security measures need to be established if a remote employee is working on sensitive material. Most are working from home where there are other people around. Both sides need to establish what an employee must do to secure whatever electronic device they are working on to prevent others from gaining access to it. If a company does not provide a phone for the employee, they may need to use their personal device for professional reasons. An employer should establish how much business they are comfortable with their employee conducting on their personal appliances.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Protect Employees’ Rights

If you are experiencing employment issues while working remotely, the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. can help you. Our hard-working lawyers know the law and can help you achieve the resolution that is best for you. Fill out an online form or call us at 215-574-0600 today for an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and South Jersey.

What are the New Guidelines for Employers from OSHA?

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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has laid out its guidance outlining the procedures companies should enact to increase the safety of employees in the waning months of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As COVID-19 made its way into the United States, many states had to shut down, which forced numerous businesses to close. However, many could not remain closed for long or else they risked having to close their doors permanently. Those that pushed to re-open implemented policies to protect their employees and keep them safe. There have not been any national standards provided for what business should be doing to ease employee fears. In February, OSHA released new guidance and suggestions, including implementing a COVID-19 Prevention Program.

What is a COVID-19 Prevention Program?

OSHA suggested that all companies develop a COVID-19 Prevention Program, which establishes certain key elements around the workplace. Those elements include:

  • Conducting a hazard assessment;
  • Identifying measures that limit the spread of COVID-19 at work;
  • Adopting measures to segregate employees who have the virus or were exposed to it; and
  • Protecting employees who raise concerns about COVID-19.

OSHA suggests that employers work with their employees to determine which elements they can implement and how they intend to do that.

How can I Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 at my Workplace?

Containing and limiting the spread of COVID-19 is a major concern for many people. To protect employees, OSHA offers several suggestions on ways to prevent the spread of the virus, including:

  • Implement physical distancing: Firms should attempt to distance desks and other working areas at least six feet apart to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Install barriers: In some instances, it might be difficult to separate desks from significant distances. In those cases, it makes sense to put up barriers between desks.
  • Wear a mask: While not a popular activity, many believe that wearing a mask will limit the chances of spreading the virus.

Workers need to take some personal responsibility as well. They should follow the guidelines established by their employer and practice good hygiene. Employees should also report any health problems they might have, including any potential exposure to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

What Steps Should be Taken to Protect Employees?

Preventing the spread of COVID-19 should be a team effort. Employers should work with their employees to coordinate policies that will not hinder their job performance. To that end, OSHA recommends the appointment of a workplace coordinator, who will work with management to ensure that all procedures are being implemented and followed. That person can also be contacted if an employee has a problem with certain procedures or wishes to file a complaint about someone not following the procedures.

In addition, employers should always maintain a line of communication with their employees about the policies that they are putting in place and why. Another recommendation is that employers conduct regular training sessions for employees to review policies. The session would be a good opportunity to help employees adapt to any new policies that are pending and learn about the rationale behind why the company is implementing certain policies. Employers should also establish a thorough daily cleaning regime. Establishing these policies and procedures in advance will enable employers to react quickly to most situations to minimize the impact they have on their employees.

Philadelphia Employment and Labor Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Help Employers and Employees with COVID-19 Concerns in the Workplace

If you feel your company is failing to take adequate measures to protect you and your colleagues from COVID-19 or if your employer has retaliated against you because you spoke out about their policies, the Philadelphia employment and labor lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. can help. For an initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 215-574-0600. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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What are the Current 2021 Workplace Litigation Trends? 

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With 2021 well underway, experts and forecasters are busy predicting what the year will bring in terms of political changes, economics, and public arenas, like workplaces. Naturally, the pandemic has impacted every facet of life. This and other factors are currently influencing current 2021 workplace litigation trends.

How has COVID-19 Affected Workplace Litigation?

Industries will be affected differently as the pandemic continues. Some companies have faced claims that they violated COVID-19 workplace safety regulations, and there have been cases with employers attempting to retaliate against employees for speaking out about violations. Other businesses have had legal issues pertaining to staff, including rehiring furloughed workers, layoffs, and retaining talent.

Leave and remote work conflicts are also becoming common issues. Employers must be careful when choosing who can return to work, as this could lead to discrimination claims. It is also important to keep up with government safety recommendations and to communicate these to all employees in a timely fashion. Companies that provide the vaccine to employees can use this to retain and attract talent; however, requiring employees to show proof of vaccination before returning to work could lead to litigation.

Will Wage and Hour Litigation Increase?

The standard 40-hour work week could soon become a thing of the past, as companies have become more flexible about working hours. Gartner’s Reimagine HR Employee Survey showed companies that provide flexible hours and working locations saw 55 percent of high-performance rates. It is thought that more employers will be measuring employee productivity by actual output instead of the number of hours and locale.

With so many people working from home, having reduced hours, and being furloughed, it is not surprising that worker misclassification and timekeeping errors have been trending upward. It is more difficult to record working hours when employees are at home. One report claims that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will be prioritizing wage theft enforcement; there has also been minimum wage increases for 25 states this year. There are other regulatory changes and key state initiatives as well.

How Do Government Regulations Factor in?

Another study showed that government agencies, including the DOL, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), brought fewer legal actions in 2020 when compared to previous years. Nevertheless, the EEOC recovered $535.4 million last year for alleged discrimination victims. It is thought that the new presidential administration is likely to focus on administering employment litigation. There could be more regulation of businesses, assertive enforcement of workplace laws, and a possible expansion of workers’ rights.

What Other Trends are Significant?

As workplace environments evolve, it is important to note other changes that may be on the way. The pandemic has provided business leadership with more visibility into their employees’ personal lives, helping companies understand how home lives impact work performance. Employees who feel that their companies support their personal lives also perform better. As an example, if a worker with a seriously ill child was allowed to work remotely until further notice, they might perform better than if they had to report to an office.

Employee monitoring is another trend to watch. Over 25 percent of companies surveyed had invested in new technology to track and monitor their employees through passive means. Meanwhile, respondents admitted that they were not sure of the best ways to protect employee privacy while using the technology. This can erode away at employee trust, especially if the data is not shared with them. This year, there will be new state and local regulations about limiting what employers may track and monitor.

Philadelphia Employment Litigation Defense Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Help Clients with Employment Litigation

If your company is facing employment litigation, turn to the skilled Philadelphia employment litigation defense lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. We will protect your best interests and provide skilled legal representation if needed. Complete our online form or call 215-574-0600 for an initial consultation today. Located in Philadelphia, we help clients throughout South Jersey and Pennsylvania.

What are the Top Issues for Non-Compete Agreements in 2021?

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The last year saw non-compete clauses go through several transitions as much of the workforce shifted to a remote working environment. A new year does not mean those issues will go away, as employers are still struggling with how to deal with remote workers and the language of their non-compete clauses are gaining more scrutiny as a result. The clauses, in general, have garnered the attention of several federal and state governments. Many expect the coming year to bring more restrictions at the state level.

What are Non-Compete Clauses?

Non-compete clauses restrict an employee from going to work for a direct competitor until a certain period has passed. They protect the business from an ex-employee bringing trade secrets to a competitor. Non-competes provide a set time that the former employee is prohibited from moving to a competitor, although time is not always a factor. Some will include geographic restrictions as well as limiting what industries a person can go into after they leave a company.

In other words, a non-compete clause may limit a person from moving from one financial services firm to another in the same town within a few weeks of leaving their job.

What Issues are Associated with Non-Compete Clauses?

Some problems have arisen with non-competes, such as the size and scope of these agreements, as well as the impact of remote work. Originally, the clauses would only limit former employees from moving to a competitor within a few weeks or months. However, over time, these provisions grow over just a few months. They can also change geographically to expand beyond the physical location of the company. In some cases, they have encompassed the entire country. These expansions have caused non-competes to come under scrutiny with opponents claiming that they unnecessarily limit a person’s ability to make a living.

Some states have also placed restrictions on what an employer can make a firm sign, while others have banned their use. Where it gets difficult for employers has to do with employees who are now working from home in a jurisdiction that might treat non-compete clauses differently than how the office’s jurisdiction handles them. The courts explained that the onus is on the employers to word their agreement in such a way that clarifies any discrepancies in jurisdictions.

How are States Handling Non-Compete Clauses?

Each state is handling non-compete clauses in their own unique way as some take an aggressive stance against them and others are more lenient. Some states will limit the geographic reason or the timeframe that an employer can use it in their agreements, while other states may not restrict or enforce these agreements.

What is in Store for These Agreements?

The federal government has made several attempts to pass legislation that would limit these agreements or outright ban them; however, those efforts have failed. Any restrictions on non-competes will most likely come from individual states as pressure mounts on local governments to limit them. Those states that currently do not have anything on the books addressing non-competes will push to adopt something, especially if they do not see anything from the federal government.

Philadelphia Non-Compete Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Help Clients Understand Non-Compete Clauses

Whether you’re an employee or an employer, understanding your non-compete clause is essential. If you want to make sure you understand your legal rights pursuant to a non-compete cause, contact the Philadelphia non-compete lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. today. Contact us online or call 215-574-0600 for an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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Department of Labor Makes Final Rule on Independent Contractors

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Recently, the Department of Labor adopted a final rule pertaining to clarification over who could be classified as an independent contractor. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes what benefits and flexibility employers have with their employees. For instance, non-exempt employees must receive at least minimum wage and be paid overtime wages if they work more than 40 hours a week. However, this law does not apply to independent contractors.

Since employers do not have to offer any perks to independent contractors, some have argued that they have deliberately misclassified their employees to avoid paying for these benefits. Multiple courts have weighed in on the controversy, but there has not been any clarity on the federal level until now.

What Does the New Rule State?

The Labor Department stated that the new rule will reaffirm the economic reality test that has been standard in the industry to determine whether an individual is in business for themselves, such as an independent contractor, or is economically dependent on a potential employer for work, such as an FLSA employee. The rule highlights two core factors that can be used to make that determination:

  • The nature and degree of control over the work.
  • The worker’s opportunity for profit or loss based on initiative and/or investment.

If those two factors fail to provide the necessary clarification, the department offered three additional guideposts that should help employers determine a worker’s proper status. They are:

  • The amount of skill required for the work.
  • The degree of permanence of the working relationship between the worker and the potential employer.
  • Whether the work is part of an integrated unit of production.

The new rule, which is scheduled to take effect on March 8, applies only to workers that fall under the jurisdiction of the FLSA. It would also not impact local and state law requirements.

Will the New Rule Take Effect?

The new President could easily block the new rule from taking effect. Congress could also get involved and stop the rule using its authority under the Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress a limited time to repeal any rule finalized by a government agency. A reconstituted Labor Department could modify the current version to return to an old policy that allowed for an employer-employee relationship to be established even when indirect control existed over the worker.

How Should Employers React to the New Rule?

Regardless of the outcome, businesses should use the adoption of the new rule as an opportunity to evaluate the relationship they have with their employees. They should re-examine the status of those workers and determine if their status makes sense for the work that they are doing and the control they have over their own situation. Employers should guarantee that they have correctly classified their employees and determine that classification based on who has the right to control or direct the results of their work, as opposed to how the employee and employer define their relationship.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Represent Misclassified Workers

If you believe that you have been misclassified by your employer or if you are a business and would like an attorney review your compliance with the FLSA, contact the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. We can help you with your case. For an initial consultation, call 215-574-0600 or contact us online today. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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Do Employment Laws Apply to Remote Workers?

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At the height of the pandemic, numerous businesses were forced to close their offices. However, certain businesses did not have to shut down and by using improved technology and communications, they were able to conduct business with little interruption. The push toward an increase in remote working was on the rise prior to the pandemic, although it certainly hastened the move and demonstrated its practicality to several businesses.

Whenever the pandemic ends, it is unclear what businesses will look like. Many see the benefits and savings of having their employees work remotely and continue to utilize that model. However, as more businesses utilize remote workers, they must continue to follow state employment laws where they are physically working.

Can State Laws Impact an Employee’s Pay?

A person’s salary can be impacted by the state they are living in, as well as the amount of hours they can work in a week. An employer should become familiar with the rules in the states of their employees. Some aspects of pay that could be impacted include:

  • Minimum wage: Some states have adopted a higher minimum wage than others. It is important to know that an employee is making enough to satisfy their state’s requirement.
  • Overtime: State laws determine when an employee becomes eligible for overtime. Employers must verify that employees are tracking their hours to confirm if they are eligible for overtime.
  • Telecommuting expenses: Not every state requires an employer to reimburse an employee for telecommuting expenses. However, there can be some unintended consequences for those companies that fail to offer reimbursements, such as expenses that drop an employee’s hourly wage below the state’s requirement.

What are Certain Leave Issues Employers Should Consider?

Even though an employee is working from home, it does not mean that they are no longer eligible to accrue sick time or take time off work for extended medical absences. On a federal level, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) still applies. In addition, most states have their own medical and family leave polices as well that the company must adhere to. Sick time is mandated by the state where an employee is physically working, which could raise some disparity among employees working in various states.

Are Employers Required to Distribute Notices?

Certain state laws require employers to provide notices to their employees. In many cases, some of these notices take place at the time of hire, while some occur annually. The documents can address different topics such as wage, leave/benefits notifications, or descriptions about anti-harassment or discrimination laws. Employees should consider the home state of the new employee and its applicable laws.

Certain employment laws require employers to physically display posters around the office to inform employees about certain laws and policies, such as wage and hour laws and anti-discrimination provisions. An electronic version of the poster may be more relevant to employees for certain companies working remotely. Additionally, state-mandated training applies to certain state employees.

What About Different State Laws?

To protect themselves moving forward, employers should conduct a thorough audit of all their employees and the states that they reside and work in. They should determine how long they intend to allow their employees to telecommute and if that delay is worth it. If a company is dedicated to telecommuting for the foreseeable future, it might want to consider putting together individualized employee handbooks based on their state of residence. Even if telecommuting is not in the company’s long-term plan, it makes sense to provide employees with at least a temporary teleworking arrangement.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Help Employers and Employees Understand Changing Employment Laws During the Pandemic

Given the number of employees who are working from home right now, employment laws have become much more complicated. If you need legal help sifting through the different laws, reach out to the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. today. Call us at 215-574-0600 or contact us online to get started. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and South Jersey.

Can My Employer Require a COVID-19 Vaccine?

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Now that a COVID-19 vaccine has been approved, the main question people are asking each other is of they are going to get the vaccine. This assumes that getting it is optional, but this may not be the case for some members of the working population. It will not be long until employers will have to decide if they want to require their employees to be vaccinated, and there is sure to be some backlash.

Companies have a duty to keep their employees, customers, and communities safe. However, organizations like the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) believe that employers should exempt certain employees from having to get vaccinated because of sincerely held religious beliefs or disabilities. According to the SHRM, exceptions should not be made for employees based on secular or medical beliefs about the COVID-19 vaccine.

What Does the EEOC Say?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has provided guidance on flu vaccinations in the past that employers may require flu vaccines, but only if certain employees had the option of seeking exemptions for medical issues through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or for religious reasons through Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

In mid-December, the EEOC stated that employee COVID-19 vaccinations requirements do not violate the ADA, which prohibits companies from performing certain medical examinations. However, should an employee who cannot be vaccinated for certain reasons pose a health risk to other workers, EEOC guidelines state that the employer cannot prevent that employee from working unless the employer is unable to provide reasonable accommodations.

Will Vaccination be Mandatory in Certain Workplaces?

It is too early to tell, but the type of business will dictate what procedures will be put in place. Employees in public-facing jobs may present higher risks of infection than office workers, so their companies will likely be more pro-vaccine. Employees who refuse to be vaccinated may encounter problems with co-workers who have been vaccinated. Also, if company vaccination policies become public knowledge, it could create bad publicity and damage their businesses.

Since COVID-19 vaccines are being approved for emergency use authorization, some health professionals feel that most businesses will not make the vaccine mandatory. Although companies may strongly encourage it, requirements will vary. It is thought that employers may choose to issue guidelines stating that their position is that it would be reasonable for an employer to require an employee to get the vaccine.

Will Employers be Held Liable?

There is much talk out there already about the possibilities of employers being vulnerable to lawsuits filed by employers and clients who may contract COVID-19 at the business location. On the other hand, mandating all employees to get the vaccine could be another risk. A California lawyer described the situation as a treacherous area for employers, pointing out that if the vaccine ends up harming employees, there could be Workers’ Compensation claims against companies and vaccine manufacturers. According to The Stand on CBS News, employers would not be liable in these situations since they would be categorized as on-the-job injuries.

To avoid liability issues, The Stand suggested encouraging employees to get vaccinated instead of mandating them to do so. When an employee who does not want to get vaccinated is able to work remotely, it might be best to leave things alone. Companies may also opt to provide incentives for employees who get vaccinated, whether it be a gift card or some other type of bonus.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Help Clients with Employment Vaccination Issues

As COVID-19 vaccination protocols are now coming into play, your rights should not be questioned. For a confidential consultation, contact the knowledgeable Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. today. Complete our online form or call 215-574-0600 to get started. Located in Philadelphia, we help clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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What are Common Legal Issues that Businesses Face?

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Managing a successful small business can be a lot of work, especially in the early stages, when many difficult financial decisions must be made. The biggest ones pertain to what owners plan to spend their limited budget on. Given that resources can be tight, it is understandable why some elect to avoid some big-ticket items, like hiring a lawyer. While that may seem to make sense in the short-term, it could wind up costing the company much more in the long run. There are several common problems that impact all companies that a knowledgeable lawyer would be able to help the firm avoid.

Do I Have the Right Structure for My Business?

One of the first things that an entrepreneur and their partners must decide on is the structure of their business. This is extremely important because it could have serious tax liability issues. Establishing the correct structure will save a company several severe headaches going forward. Some of the different types of structures include:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  • C-Corporation
  • S-Corporation

Each one of these structures handles the liability and tax responsibilities of the owner in a different way. An LLC, for instance, separates the two and treats them as two different entities. Owners should research the different corporate structures thoroughly before deciding on which to choose.

What are Some Employee Issues I Need to Consider?

Even if the structure of the company is secure, another common problem that all companies deal with is managing employees. One of the biggest aspects of that is deciding how to classify them and verifying that their classification matches their level of responsibility. There are three main types of classifications, which are:

  • Full time employee: This type of employee is someone who works more than 30 hours a week. The company is obligated to offer health insurance, Workers’ Compensation, and other benefits.
  • Part time employee: These employees work a maximum of 30 hours a week and are usually not eligible for benefits, although a company can offer them if it elects to.
  • Independent contractor: This is a person who operates outside of the structure of a particular office and works independently. They are responsible for paying their own Medicare and other taxes, and are not eligible for some universal benefits, like Workers’ Compensation.

Deciding how to classify employees can be a tricky action, as misclassifying someone can lead to litigation later on. The best way to avoid any problems is to evaluate a job description ahead of time and decide what the hours and responsibilities will be, then classify the position based on the added costs of potentially paying for benefits.

If that position cannot be fully funded, the company may have to do without it until it can find the funding somewhere else to pay for that position. The legal costs further down the road are not worth cutting any corners with a person’s pay or benefits.

What Type of Paperwork Should I File on a Regular Basis?

Maintaining a business is more than just keeping employees and customers happy. There is a significant amount of paperwork that must be filed with both the state and the federal government on an ongoing basis. If a firm is publicly held, it could fall under the jurisdiction of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on the federal level and state regulators. Regardless, the company will be under an obligation to file certain documents, including:

  • Financial statements: These documents contain a snapshot of the firm’s financial status, including its income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flow.
  • Financial information: Any data that the company chooses to post about itself on its website.
  • Annual reports: These are issued to shareholders once a year.
  • Prospectus: A document that describes the investment offering for the public.

What Should I Do if I Have a Contract Dispute?

While contracts are supposed to be binding agreements between two or more parties, there can be disagreements between those parties over one’s actions. It may also be necessary to break a contract because the two sides no longer wish to work together anymore. To avoid a messy legal dispute, it is best to thoroughly review any contract before signing it. All parties should include language that grants them an easy escape should certain violations take place, or some other action occur, such as one of the two sides is arrested or has some other public embarrassment.

Philadelphia Business Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Help Small Businesses with Legal Matters

If you are facing legal hurdles within your small business and need help finding a legal remedy, reach out to the Philadelphia business lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. For an initial consultation, call us at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

What are the Pitfalls of Videoconferencing?

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The COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to re-think how they conduct their affairs on a daily basis. One of the biggest changes was having to cope with employees working from home as opposed to centrally located in one office. With that new dynamic in place, many companies in varying industries turned to technology to stay in contact and conduct ongoing meetings. The biggest technology that has seen significant growth during this pandemic has been videoconferencing software. Applications like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, WebEx, GoTo, Ring, and BlueJeans have become part of the routine business lexicon when they were more of a novelty just one year prior.

Since February, when many states began implementing stay-at-home orders, videoconferencing software has reported an 84 percent increase in demand with Webex, claiming that it hosts more than four million meetings per day. However, most companies just jumped right into using these technologies without researching or determining the security risks. It has led to reports of security breaches and instances where an unauthorized individual will break into a private meeting undetected and gain access to sensitive and confidential material about a company’s decision making.

What are Effective Methods for Securing a Meeting?

One of the ways that trespassers have managed to infiltrate these secure meetings is through brute force and trial and error. In the 1980s and 90s, hackers would utilize a tactic known as war dialing. They would methodically call different numbers looking for a secure modem to hack into.

Today, the strategy has been updated to try different names for video conferences. Most companies keep their chat room names consistent, making it easier for hackers to gain access. Firms must secure their own platforms and develop a strong security system. One of the first ways to do that is to host the meeting in-house rather than have a third-party do it. This gives them more control over the meeting and who participates. There are other ways to secure a meeting including:

  • Use unique meeting IDs: When creating a meeting room, most platforms provide a generic name that consists of the company and maybe the host’s name. While this is an easy one to guess and hack, it probably will not make that much of a difference for a quick one-on-one with an employee and their supervisor. However, if the meeting is more important, like a board meeting, the host should consider using a unique and different name to minimize break-ins.
  • Implement passwords: An added level of security is to provide all participants with a password. This way, only those specifically invited to the meeting can legally attend.
  • Roll call: Initiating a roll call to determine who is in attendance will also weed out those who should not be there and make sure that the appropriate people are.
  • Give host total control: As the host of a meeting, they have significant control over who is allowed in and out of the meeting. As such, it is possible to revise the setting to prevent participants from joining the main meeting room until the host arrives. This prevents them from discussing any sensitive information before the host has the opportunity to implement any security procedures.
  • Eject button: If at any point during the meeting the host suspects that it has been compromised, they can immediately end the meeting before any sensitive information is discussed.

What is the Proper Process for Recording a Meeting?

Another security risk when conducting videoconferencing involves recording the meeting. It is not so much the recording of the meetings that is a problem, it is how that meeting is stored afterward. When recording a meeting, some platforms such as Zoom, will store the meeting in its Zoom Cloud. The problem with this scenario is that the meeting, which could contain sensitive dialog, is in the possession of an outside party. Without any verification, there is no way to guarantee its safety, meaning it is prone to be hacked. To minimize this risk, the most ideal strategy is to save the meeting in-house or with a trusted vendor. This way the security of the meeting is under the firm’s control.

Philadelphia Business Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Help Businesses with All Types of Legal Matters

If your business needs legal guidance, the Philadelphia business lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. can help. We can provide you with the legal assistance to need to see you through most business transactions. Give us a call at 215-574-0600 or contact us online to find out how we can help. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.