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R. Scott Oswald, Managing Principal of The Employment Law Group®, Publishes Article in The Washington Post on Recent Expansions of Employee Rights

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R. Scott Oswald, managing principal of The Employment Law Group® recently published an article in The Washington Post discussing new expansions of employee rights in the areas of whistleblower protection and wage and hour law.

In the piece, Mr. Oswald discussed recent developments in employee protection law that, if ignored, could result in penalties and other sanctions for employers, including: the miscategorization of workers as independent contractors; expansions in the protection afforded by whistleblower laws; and new wage and overtime protection for home healthcare workers.

On the subject of employee misclassification, Mr. Oswald wrote that:

 “in this tough economy, employers may be tempted to miscategorize an employee as an independent contractor in order to skirt requirements to pay unemployment insurance, Social Security, workers compensation and other employee benefits.”

However, employers could face stiff penalties for misclassifying workers, according to Oswald.  Specifically, in Maryland, employers found to be in violation of the law can be liable to pay both restitution to the misclassified worker and a $1,000 civil penalty.  Other states’ protections provide even more protection to employees, for example, according to a recently enacted law in California, employers can be subject to a fine of up to $15,000 for each violation and even up to $20,000 if the employer is found to have engaged in a “pattern or practice of these violations”.

Mr. Oswald also discussed new federal protections for whistleblowers under the Dodd-Frank Act which “has created a national whistleblower standard that applies not only to employees at publicly traded corporations but also to corporations that are regulated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).”  Among the industries now affected by the new whistleblower protections include, according to Oswald, “payday lenders, private education lenders, and mortgage finance companies.”

Also highlighted in the article were recent regulatory changes by the Department of Labor which will assist in “reigning in wage abuses in certain industries not traditionally covered by protections, including the home healthcare industry.”   As a result, more home healthcare workers will soon be protected by federal minimum wage and overtime laws, whereas currently there are nearly 30 states that do not offer such workers minimum wage or overtime protections.

As a result of these new laws and regulations, Mr. Oswald commented that “employers must be more careful in how they pay their workers and must be more rigorous in their human resources compliance.”

The Employment Law Group® law firm has a nationwide whistleblower practice representing employees who have been the victims of retaliation, as well as and extensive wage and hour practice representing employees whose rights have been violated, including nonpayment of wages and denial of overtime pay.

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