Separations, Layoffs & Terminations

Employment attorneys and in-house counsel are used to the 4 p.m. phone call informing them that an employee must be terminated “today,” followed by a request for a separation agreement or advice on how to handle the termination.  More often than not, after asking a few questions we discover that, perhaps, the termination should be slowed down to ensure that we do it right. So, how should you prepare for a potential termination?  Get started with these three tips:

1. Assess the reason for the termination.

Often, the reason given for terminating an employee is that he or she was not a “good fit” – a conveniently vague term that ranges from a host of legitimate business reasons to code for unlawful discrimination.  Consequently, you need to drill down to what the real reason is for selecting this individual for termination at this time.  Eligibility for unemployment benefits and continuation of certain other benefits, such as health insurance, may be dependent on the reason for termination.… Keep reading

Most employment claims can be avoided by simply being aware of what the law requires.  Here are three recurring issues which plaintiffs’ class action attorneys and government agencies are targeting across the country and which can be easily avoided by taking action now.

1.  Misclassification of Workers as Independent Contractors

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and US Department of Labor (US DOL) have been increasingly cracking down on independent contractor misclassification.  Last year, Massachusetts, along with several other states, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the IRS and  DOL, formally agreeing to cooperate in investigating independent contractor misclassifications.  If a violation occurs, the government agency investigating the matter is obligated to report it to the other state and federal agencies which may be affected by the misclassification, potentially opening up the company to an audit by the IRS or the US DOL.

Massachusetts has one of the toughest tests to be met in order to classify someone as an independent contractor, and the penalties for misclassifying vary with the legal requirement which was not met as a result of the misclassification.  For example, if a worker was not paid accrued wages or vacation time upon termination, the … Keep reading