How Can You Make Sure You’re Ensuring Equal Pay and Fair Promotions?

Running a business requires having legal rudiments in place for many aspects of your company. The Equal Pay Act (EPA) is another federal law you must comply with and doing so can help you avoid wage and promotion lawsuits like the one recently faced by Sterling Jewelry.

Steps to Take to Ensure Equal Pay and Fair Promotions

XpertHR , a site by Lexis Nexis, suggests you take the following steps:

Knowledge of the EPA and State/Local Wage Laws. Under the EPA, men and women who work comparable jobs should receive equal pay. What determines whether jobs are comparable? Skills, job responsibilities, and similar working conditions in the same geographical regions are all factors. Equal pay encompasses more than just salaries and includes overtime, bonuses, stock options, insurance, vacation and holiday pay and other benefits such as promotional opportunities. Consult with your lawyer so you can also be aware of any state or local wage laws.

Anti-Discrimination Policies. Your company should have a policy that explicitly prohibits wage discrimination. All employees should receive pay based on their experience and skill.

Fair Decision-Making. Ensure no discriminatory factors are part of decision-making in regards to raises, bonuses and promotions. Such decisions should be based on skills, merit and performance and should never be based on protected classes of sex, race, national origin, etc.

Management Training. As the employer, you must ensure your supervisors and managers receive training on your policies and ways to avoid wage discrimination. They must understand what are non-discriminatory reasons and base decisions on legitimate factors.

Salary and Bonus Guidelines Documentation. To legally protect your business, you must create documentation. Document the guidelines you have established for deciding bonuses, such as whether merit, productivity, sales and commissions are the criteria. These are fair and predictable criteria for decision-making. In addition, letting managers, supervisors and employees know about the criteria helps them to meet job expectations and understand how decisions are made.

Documentation of Decisions. Document your employment decisions and have adequate records in case you ever need to defend them in disputes or lawsuits.

Auditing Pay Practices. Regularly review your pay practices to ensure no discrimination exists and take corrective action if any is uncovered.

Diverse Work Environment. Incorporate best practices that aim to hire employees based on merit, skills and experience and not based on excluding protected classes.

Performance Evaluations. Provide annual or biannual performance evaluations to help employees understand employment expectations.

Discussion of Wages. It’s illegal to prohibit employees from discussing wages, salary or benefits with other employees. The National Labor Relations Act affords employees this right. Do not prohibit it.

Prevent Lawsuits and Employment Disputes

Today, laws affect businesses in many ways. If you’re a business owner and have questions or concerns about legal issues, Stephen Hans & Associates can provide you with answers and help you safeguard your workplace.

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Sterling Jewelers Reaches Settlement with EEOC for Sex Discrimination

Sterling Jewelers is the parent company of Jared the Galleria of Jewelry and Kay Jewelers. It is the largest retail jewelry company in the United States. Recently, the EEOC brought a lawsuit against Sterling for discrimination over its pay and promotion practices.

The New York Times reported Sterling was able to reach a settlement with the EEOC.

Sterling agreed to hire an independent employment expert who would examine its compensation and promotion practices. Signet Jewelers, which is Sterling’s parent company, made a public relations announcement stating that it did not tolerate discrimination of any kind and that the steps taken as part of the agreement with the EEOC were consistent with its commitment to continuous review and improvement.

This was a legal victory for Sterling because it avoided having to admit wrongdoing and did not have to pay fines or compensation.

Another Class Action Lawsuit Sterling Faces

This is not the only lawsuit that Sterling has faced recently. Another class-action arbitration case accusing the company of gender bias is yet to be resolved. In March 2017, 12 women filed a class-action lawsuit against Sterling Jewelers. The assistant manager, Ms. Souto-Coons discovered a newly hired male salesman with no retail experience was hired and making $1.50 more than a woman who was the store’s top seller. She then reviewed all the files of co-workers and realized all the men were making higher hourly rates than the women who held the same positions.

The class action lawsuit also contains evidence that hundreds of former employees described incidents of sexual harassment that were reported and ignored. Signet said the company investigated and continues to investigate reports of misconduct. However, the class-action case does not focus on sexual harassment and the comments about sexual harassment are in the context of the complaints about pay disparities. There are 69,000 employees who are class members in the lawsuit.

Stephen Hans & Associates is a New York law firm that assists business owners with employment and labor law issues.

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What Do Restaurant Operators See as Their Biggest 2017 Business Challenges

You might think that hiring and firing employees would be restaurant operators’ biggest concerns. That was true in 2015 but not according to a survey done in 2016.

When The National Restaurant Association polled restaurant operators about their concerns, the number one answer was “government.” The percentage that felt this way was 22 percent. (Toast Restaurant Management Blog )

It’s an interesting fact that laws became the greatest worry.

restaurant operators business challenges


What laws are restaurant operators concerned about?

Here are just a few:

The Affordable Care Act. Employers with more than 50 full-time workers must offer health benefits to full-time employees or pay penalties of up to $2,000.

Dietary Guidelines. Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health updates dietary guidelines, which requires restaurants to modify ingredients, re-do menus, change portion sizes and increase the number of healthy options. Certain restaurants now have to label the calorie and nutrition information on menus.

*** Local Caption *** Bacon burger with beef patty on red wooden table


Joint Franchisor/Franchisee Status. The franchise restaurant model is at risk through litigation that identifies small franchisees as big business. Independent operators who decide their own wages, hiring and firing policies may lose some of these decision-making capabilities based on a recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) trial brought against McDonald’s.

Overtime Pay. The U.S. DOL increased the overtime threshold limit from $23,660 to $47,550, and this changed which salaried employees would be entitled to overtime pay. Now the matter is being litigated at the District Court level and may be appealed even higher for a final decision.

Seek an Experienced Legal Opinion

In today’s world, a business owner can’t do business without dealing with laws and regulations that require compliance. If you own a restaurant and have questions or concerns about legal issues, Stephen Hans & Associates provide you with answers, legal advice and representation in disputed matters.




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NYC Proposed Legislation for Fast Food Restaurants

Recently the New York City Council has proposed bills that could affect considerably how fast food restaurants deal with scheduling work.

What is a fast food restaurant?

The bills define fast food establishments as franchises that are part of a chain of 30 or more restaurants nationally. The establishments provide limited customer service and customers order and pay for food and drinks before eating.

Here are some factors the bills address:

“Clopening.” One bill addresses a scheduling situation coined as “clopening.” Clopening is when an employer schedules an employee to close on one shift and open on the next shift. This bill would require the employer to schedule a break of more than 11 hours between employees’ shifts unless a employee consents to the schedule. Failure to do so would result in paying the employee $100 for each instance of “clopening.”

Predictive scheduling. Fast food employers would be required to post a notice of employee’s rights and notify employees 14 days in advance of their work schedule, and this includes employees just hired. To any employee, whose schedule is changed with less than a 14 days notice, the employer would have to pay $15 to $45 per instance. Changes would include cancelling, shortening or moving a shift. When a change results in reducing a shift with less than 24 hours notice, the employer would pay a premium of $75. Employees seeking damages would have a cause of action with a two-year statute of limitations.

Path to full-time employment or additional hours. Another proposed bill would require employers to provide fast food workers with a path toward additional hours and full-time employment. The bill would require that employers offer available shifts to current employers at their location before hiring more workers. The employer would have to post a notice for three consecutive days when shifts become available.

Overall, How Does the Proposed Legislation Affect Fast Food Restaurants?

If the proposed legislation passes, employers of fast-food restaurants will experience greater stress in their efforts to be flexible while dealing with high employee turnover rates and labor costs.

Stephen Hans & Associates assists small and medium sized business owners with employment and labor law issues.


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Legal News in the Restaurant Industry

Some recent news in the restaurant industry is that the National Restaurant Association has taken a big step toward protecting the industry.

Over the years, well-funded special interest groups have lobbied for laws and regulations that have ended up burdening the restaurant industry with over-regulation.

Restaurant Legal Center

In January 2017, the National Restaurant Association launched the Restaurant Law Center (RLC), which gives the industry a voice in the legal system that can help protect restaurateurs.

RLC Chairman, Jay Stieber points out: “Restaurants are America’s job training ground and one of the few careers that don’t require a four-year college degree to achieve the American Dream. But restaurants continue to be threatened by overregulation on the local, state and federal levels, and by activist judges with little to no understanding of how our industry works.”

The RLC gives the National Restaurant Association a means of fighting back against unreasonable legal actions and is also a way to promote laws and regulations that can help the industry create more jobs and grow the nation’s economy.

Oregon Restaurant and Lodging, et al v. Perez, et al

The RLC managed the case Oregon Restaurant and Lodging et al v. Perez, et al, which went to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Law 360 ranked this as a top case to watch for the restaurant industry because it challenged the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on bars and restaurants that do not take tip credits and whether they can set up tip pools that require tipped employees to share tips with staff that generally do not receive tips.

The key question for the appellate court to determine was whether the DOL had the authority to regulate tip-pooling practices of employers who do not take a tip credit and whether its regulation violated the FLSA. It found in favor of tipped employees that for restaurants not taking tip credits tips, the tips belonged to tipped employees unless otherwise agreed between the employee and employer.

The executive director of the RLC is appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Stephen Hans & Associates assists small and medium sized business owners with employment related concerns.

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Lockheed Martin Age Discrimination Lawsuit | $51.5 Million in Damages

In January 2017, a federal jury in Camden, NJ awarded a verdict of $51.5 million against Lockheed Martin for alleged age discrimination. reported that the lawsuit claimed Lockheed Martin had a practice of laying off older employees and replacing them with newer employees for the same position.

Age Discrimination

Lockheed Martin Age Discrimination Case Details

Plaintiff Robert Braden, whose title was Project Specialist, Senior Staff at the Lockheed Martin facility in Moorestown, NJ brought a lawsuit against the company after being laid off when he was 66 years old. The company laid off five employees out of the 110 employed at the facility, and all five were over 50 years old. Braden said the company gave no reason for laying him off and did not use any objective measures to decide which employees to lay off. Despite laying off employees, the company continued to recruit and hire younger employees for positions Braden was also qualified to hold.

Braden brought the lawsuit under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and the American Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

Work Background Details about Braden, the Plaintiff

Braden first started working for the Moorestown facility in 1984 when RCA was the owner, and as the company went through a series of different owners as a result of mergers and acquisitions, he eventually became a Lockheed Martin employee in 1995.

The Verdict

The jury awarded Braden $520,000 in back pay under the ADEA and another $520,000 for emotional distress. They also awarded $50 million in punitive damages against Lockheed Martin.

If you are a business owner and have questions about age discrimination, consult with an experienced employment lawyer to avoid disputes and lawsuits.

Stephen Hans & Associates is an employment and labor law firm that assists small and medium sized business owners. This has been our legal focus for more than 20 years.



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Best Business Practices When Screening Applicants with Criminal Records

When an applicant with a criminal record applies for a job at your company, the screening can become complicated. You cannot make your decision based on any type of discrimination.

The EEOC provides guidelines you should consider following when asking about criminal backgrounds.

For example, let’s say two applicants have comparable educational and employment experience backgrounds. They are both college graduates in the same field with equivalent job performance histories. Both applicants have criminal convictions for possessing marijuana as minors. One is African American and one is Caucasian. Your reason for hiring one over the other cannot be based on belonging to protected classes under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act including race, color, sex, or nationality.

employment best practices

You should follow these hiring guidelines:

  • Treat applicants with similar criminal records consistently. If you screen out African American candidates because of a particular criminal record then you should also screen out other individuals of different colors and races with the same criminal record.
  • Sometimes a policy or practice can significantly disadvantage people of a certain protected class in a certain region. However, it may be important if you can show that in the geographical area where you are recruiting, the percentage of Hispanics or African Americans with arrest records is not higher than Caucasians in the same area. This establishes that you aren’t disadvantaging protected classes based on criminal backgrounds.
  • Delay asking for criminal background information until later in the hiring process. It’s better if you can evaluate an applicant’s other qualifications before asking about a criminal record. However, depending on the laws where your business operates, you may be required to check criminal backgrounds early in the process.
  • Evaluate the criminal history in relation to the risks and responsibilities of the job. The nature of the crime, how long ago the criminal arrest or conviction occurred and the nature of the job are factors to consider.
  • Treat arrest records differently than conviction records. Arrest records can be inaccurate and are not proof a crime was committed. Even so, an arrest can lead to an investigation of the conduct underlying the arrest and be a factor in a negative employment decision.
  • Review the accuracy and relevance of a conviction record before making an employment decision based on the arrest record. After reviewing the criminal record, you may decide it was inaccurate.
  • Give applicants an opportunity to explain their criminal history. Hearing the applicant’s side of the story is often important, including how their views and life has changed since the arrest or conviction.

Stephen Hans & Associates assists small and medium sized business ownerwith employment related concerns.

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