Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Dear Newly-Elected Officials: Here Are Some Things You Can Do For Workers In Your State

Congratulations to all you newly elected officials! Guess what? Most of your voters are also workers. And it's the workers who have felt left out by politicians lately, so it's time to do something to help workers in your state. Here are a few suggestions of pro-employee legislation you might want to take up in your state to help working people:
  • State-run retirement plans for private sector: Some states have successfully established state-run retirement plans for private sector workers and required certain employers to auto-enroll their employees in these plans and/or allow their employees to opt in. The funds are then paid like any other 401k from payroll. Where Mitch McConnell is talking about rolling back Social Security, this may be the only way to help your state's future retirees.
  •  Right to see your personnel file: While some states require employers to allow employees to review their personnel files, many states like my home state of Florida do not. It’s a basic right. You should be able to see any disciplines and reviews, and any contracts you signed.
  •  Right to get a reason for termination: Some states require employers to give a reason for termination in writing. This would prevent employers from changing stories later to defame or damage a former employee.
  •  Breaks: While most employees think the law mandates certain breaks, especially for hourly employees, some states have little protection for break time. Florida, for instance, only mandates breaks for minors. That includes bathroom breaks.
  •  Real right to work: Many employees think right to work means noncompete agreements are unenforceable. That is untrue. Many states have limited noncompete agreements, Massachusetts being the most recent. Banning noncompetes against hourly employees, making them void if the employee is fired with no cause, making employers pay half or all salary while on a noncompete, barring employers from surprise sign-or-be-fired noncompetes after the employees starts working, are all measures other states have taken to protect employees.
  • Sexual harassment of interns: Neither state nor federal law protects unpaid interns against sexual harassment because they aren’t employees. This is unconscionable, especially in a state like Florida where many high school students need internships to get the community service that is required to graduate.
  •  Verification of employment: Many states, again like my home state of Florida, do not require employers to verify employment for benefits, unemployment, references or otherwise. This keeps people from applying for government benefits and from getting jobs. Employers should be mandated by law to verify employment in writing within 48 hours from request.

So celebrate your win. Then please do something to help working people in your state.

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I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.