There are countless television shows and movies that offer viewers a front-row seat to witness fictional characters engaged in salacious behavior that ultimately lands them in court. In all of these shows, the outcome at trial leaves a winner and a loser.
In most of these dramas, the actors find themselves in criminal court against their will. This makes sense because most people who have engaged in illegal and/or immoral behavior do not voluntarily initiate legal proceedings in which they will be required to publicly air all of their dirty laundry. Imagine an individual voluntarily filing a lawsuit knowing that he or she would have to testify about frequent drug binges involving cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, and opioids while sharing the intimate details of a failed marriage. Also imagine a plaintiff filing such a lawsuit knowing that he or she would also be accused by the defendant of inflicting sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. As most of you know, this is the reality of the defamation lawsuit Johnny Depp filed against his ex-wife Amber Heard. This case definitely seems to prove the maxim that truth is stranger than fiction.
Whether Heard falsely accused Depp of abuse is one of the main issues in dispute. Depp claims Heard was the abuser, while Heard insists she was the one who suffered the abuse. The jury will have to decide what is true and false after considering the testimony and credibility of two professional actors and other evidence.
Takeaways for HR Professionals
Although the extreme allegations raised in this high-profile case do not frequently arise in the workplace, there are some lessons employers and HR professionals can gain from viewing the legal proceedings.
- If you do not have evidence that something occurred, it is much harder to prove it. When you promptly gather evidence of misconduct, the position you later articulate in any legal proceeding is far more credible. Promptly investigate allegations of workplace rule violations, and preserve the evidence that supports your findings. When you have tangible evidence, it is easier for a judge or jury to determine who is telling the truth.
- Do not ignore patterns of bad behavior. When you observe a pattern of poor performance or rule violations from an employee, you need to develop a plan to correct the issue while creating evidence in the event that disciplinary action is later necessary. If you tolerate bad behavior, it can be more difficult to prove the behavior occurred or was harmful to your business.
- Take a proactive approach to HR, and provide appropriate training. When you consistently treat your employees fairly and follow HR best practices, you will minimize the risk of litigation and ensure consistency. You cannot expect to keep the skeletons hidden in the closet when you end up being a party to a lawsuit.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, but the FLSA does not supersede any state or local laws that are more favorable to employees. Therefore, if a state or municipality has a minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum, employers subject to the state or local minimum wage law are obligated to pay the higher rate to employees working there. The minimum wage for federal contractors in 2022 is $11.25 per hour.
The map below shows the states that are increasing their minimum wages, including the new rates and amounts of the increases as of the date of publication of this article. We also provide a listing of the states increasing their minimum wages and the effective dates of the changes below the map.
Future increases for the entire state will be annual, increasing up to $15.00.
State Minimum Wage Changes Effective December 31, 2021
New York state: $13.20 per hour. Annual indexing to continue increasing up to $15.00.
•Fast food employees (in fast food establishments): $15.00 per hour.
•New York City, Long Island, and Westchester counties: $15.00 per hour and annual indexing.
State Minimum Wage Changes Effective January 1, 2022
Arizona: $12.80 per hour. Adjusted annually on January 1.
California: $15.00 per hour with 26 employees or more; $14.00 per hour with fewer than 26 employees. Scheduled wage increases for 25 employees or fewer: $15.00 on 1/1/23 and then adjusted annually.
Colorado: $12.56 per hour. Adjusted annually on January 1.
Delaware: $10.50 per hour. Increasing to $11.75 on 1/1/23; $13.25 on 1/1/24; and $15.00 on 1/1/25.
Illinois: $12.00 per hour. Increasing to $13.00 on 1/1/23; $14.00 on 1/1/24; and $15.00 on 1/1/25.
Maine: $12.75 per hour. Adjusted annually on January 1.
Maryland: $12.50 for businesses with 15 or more employees and $12.20 for businesses with fewer than 15 employees.
•For businesses with 15 or more employees, the rate will increase to $13.25 on 1/1/23; $14.00 on 1/1/24; and $15.00 on 1/1/25.
•For businesses with fewer than 15 employees, the rate will increase to $12.80 on 1/1/23; $13.40 on 1/1/24; $14.00 on 1/1/25; $14.60 on 1/1/26; and $15.00 on 7/1/26.
Massachusetts: $14.25 per hour. Increasing to $15.00 on 1/1/23.
Minnesota: $10.33 per hour for large employers (annual gross revenue of $500,000 or more) and $8.42 per hour for small employers (annual gross revenue of less than $500,000). Adjusted annually on January 1.
Missouri: $11.15 per hour. Increasing to $12.00 on 1/1/23. Adjusted annually on January 1.
Montana: $9.20 per hour. Adjusted annually on January 1.
New Jersey: $13.00 per hour for employers with more than 5 employees; $11.90 per hour for seasonal employers and/or small employers with 5 or fewer workers; and $10.90 per hour for agricultural employers.
•For employers with more than 5 employees, the rate will increase to $14.00 on 1/1/23.
•For seasonal and small employers, the rate will increase to $12.70 on 1/1/23.
•For agricultural employers, the rate will increase to $11.70 on 1/1/23.
•Adjusted annually on January 1.
New Mexico: $11.50 per hour. Increasing to $12.00 on 1/1/23.
Ohio: $9.30 per hour for gross receipts of $342,000 or more; $7.25 per hour for gross receipts under $342,000. Adjusted annually on January 1.
Rhode Island: $12.25 per hour. Increasing to $13.00 on 1/1/23; $14.00 on 1/1/24; and $15.00 on 1/1/25.
South Dakota: $9.95 per hour. Adjusted annually on January 1.
Vermont: $12.55 per hour. Adjusted annually on January 1.
Virginia: $11.00 per hour. Increasing to $12.00 on 1/1/23.
Washington: $14.49 per hour. Adjusted annually on January 1.
State Minimum Wage Changes Going into Effect After January 1, 2022
Connecticut: $13.00 per hour, effective 8/1/21. Increasing to $14.00 on 7/1/22; $15.00 on 6/1/23; and then adjusted annually on January 1.
Florida: $10.00 per hour. Increasing to $11.00 on 9/30/22; $12.00 on 9/30/23; $13.00 on 9/30/24; $14.00 on 9/30/25; and $15.00 on 9/30/26.
Nevada: $10.50 per hour for employees without healthcare benefits; $9.50 per hour for employees with healthcare benefits. Effective on 7/1/22.
Oregon: An employer’s location affects the minimum wage rate:
•Within Portland’s urban growth boundary (metro area, including portions of Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties): $14.75 per hour, effective on 7/1/22.
•Areas not in Portland’s urban growth boundary or one of the listed nonurban counties (urban counties, Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Deschutes, Hood River, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook, Wasco, Washington, and Yamhill counties): $13.50 per hour, effective on 7/1/22.
•The nonurban counties (rural counties, Baker, Coos, Crook, Curry, Douglas, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, and Wheeler counties): $12.50per hour, effective on 7/1/22.
Minimum Wage Basics
The federal FLSA requires that a minimum wage be paid for all hours an employee is “suffered or permitted” to work for the employer (29 U.S.C. §203(g)) and that an overtime wage be paid for all hours “worked” over 40 in a week. The FLSA does not specifically define “hours worked” or place a limit on the number of hours an employee may work; it requires only that overtime be paid for any hours worked over 40.
Determining exactly what constitutes hours worked is essential in determining an employee’s compensation and compliance with both minimum wage and overtime requirements of the act.
Hours worked includes time during which an employee is “necessarily required to be on the employer’s premises, on duty or at a prescribed work place” (29 C.F.R. §785.7). This broad definition of hours worked may require that an employee be compensated for time the employer does not otherwise consider working time, such as travel time; waiting time; certain meal, rest, and sleep periods; and time the employee is required to spend in training, at seminars, or in meetings.
The courts and the U.S. Department of Labor, however, have developed a de minimis rule whereby employers may disregard insubstantial or insignificant periods of time beyond the scheduled working hours if, as a practical administrative matter, such time cannot be precisely recorded.
If employees are checking e-mails for 2 or 3 minutes, employers will likely not have to pay for this time. But if employees are spending 10 to 15 minutes after work hours, employers will have to pay employees for this work time. Also, the FLSA explicitly permits the rounding of an employee’s start and stop times.
Hours worked for purposes of the FLSA does not include time spent on call, time spent waiting to work, or time when an employee is required to carry a pager or cellphone, provided the employee is otherwise free to effectively use the time for his or her own personal purposes. The FLSA does not obligate employers to pay employees for holidays, vacation, or sick days.
The rules are strict, but the penalties are stricter. Paying employees properly now will help you avoid expensive fines, claims, and lawsuits down the line.