Happy employees are a critical asset of any business. Establishing policies and procedures that set employee expectations and that minimize the risk of lawsuits is imperative to the success of any business. The Atlanta business law attorneys at SMITH LAW advise and represent small to mid-sized businesses in different areas depending on their needs, including the formation of business entities, structuring equity and debt financing; drafting and negotiating contracts; drafting and modifying employee handbooks; advising and training personnel in management and human resources on various laws, particularly employment laws; assisting with internal investigations of harassment, discrimination and retaliation claims; and pursuing or defending lawsuits.
In addition, SMITH LAW works with small to mid-sized businesses to avoid wage and hour disputes under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended. Specifically, SMITH LAW provides advice; drafts policies (i.e., overtime, meal and rest breaks, bonus plans, vacation and sick-leave, and payroll deductions); conducts compliance audits, and assists in determining whether an employee is truly exempt from the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements of the FLSA. Many businesses incorrectly assume that a worker is exempt from overtime because he or she is paid a salary or because he or she is classified as an “independent contractor.” Making these types of assumptions (given the gray area of FLSA exemption tests) can be potentially devastating on a business.
Further, the Georgia business attorneys at SMITH LAW assist small to mid-sized businesses in responding to government investigations, including (but not limited to) EEOC charges of discrimination and complaints filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
SMITH LAW also assists small to mid-sized businesses with drafting, reviewing and modifying confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements, employment agreements, non-competition and non-solicitation agreements, arbitration agreements, and client service agreements with Professional Employer Organizations, as well as with the enforcement of such agreements.
SMITH LAW has represented employees in numerous employment-related matters and, as a result, has a unique perspective on how to help employers minimize the risk of time-consuming and expensive litigation. SMITH LAW defends small to mid-sized businesses against numerous types of employment-related claims such as discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims; wage and hour claims involving issues such as minimum wage, overtime, and worker classification; and breach of contract claims, including violations of restrictive covenants.
The Georgia business law attorneys at SMITH LAW can skillfully negotiate, mediate or litigate employment disputes on behalf of small to mid-sized businesses.
THINK TWICE BEFORE ADOPTING THE “DO IT YOURSELF” APPROACH
Some businesses, namely small businesses, refrain from hiring an attorney and choose instead to draft offer letters, employment contracts, employee handbooks and other documents that should be drafted (or at the very least reviewed and modified) by an attorney. This may save money on the front end, but could cost a lot of money on the back end. For example, a poorly drafted offer letter that includes certain terms, such as a minimum period of employment, could create an employment contract and destroy the at-will employment relationship. Moreover, under Georgia law, the benefits provisions included in an Employee Handbook (e.g., vacation and severance pay) are legally binding on the employer, which is why an attorney should draft these provisions. Further, the omission of certain provisions in an Employee Handbook could prove costly. For instance, if an Employee Handbook does not contain an anti-sexual harassment policy and an effective complaint procedure, the employer cannot avail itself of an affirmative defense to hostile work environment sexual harassment.
Some small business owners assume (incorrectly) that their business is too small to be concerned about legal exposure. Although most discrimination laws apply to employers with 15 or more employees, there are several federal laws that apply to employers with less than 15 employees. For example, employers with less than 15 employees are subject to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin, and Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race. Moreover, if your business is engaged in interstate commerce and earns $500,000 or more in gross annual sales, your business is subject to the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements of the FLSA. Even if your business does not meet the $500,000 threshold, individual employees may be covered by the FLSA if their work affects interstate commerce. Further, certain businesses are automatically covered by the FLSA.
In short, no matter how small your business, it is wise to seek legal counsel. SMITH LAW provides legal services on an hourly, flat fee, or “fee per project” basis.