Texas Bill Could Shut Down Dangerous Nursing Homes

May 20th, 2015

The Texas Senate is considering a bill that would place more stringent consequences on nursing homes that receive high-level violations. Senate Bill 304, nicknamed the “Three Strikes Rule,” would allow the Department of Aging and Disability Services to shut down nursing homes who receive three violations, for only the highest level of offenses, during a two-year period.

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School’s Legal Troubles Set an Example

May 15th, 2015

South Carolina State University, the state’s only publicly funded historically black college, has undergone a long saga of financial woes, often attributed to low attendance and state funding. However, what wasn’t reported until recently is one contributor to the school’s financial woes is the amount of lawsuits filed against the school, most of them from former employees.

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Sandwiched Between a Rock and a Hard Place

May 6th, 2015

There have been new developments in the case of Jimmy John’s and their non-compete agreements. A federal judge in Illinois has declined to grant an injunction that would keep Jimmy John’s franchise owners from enforcing the non-compete agreements that all employees are forced to sign.

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Ritchie v. Rupe: Reversing Shareholder Rights

April 9th, 2015

In the summer of 2014, the Texas Supreme Court handed down a decision that has caused quite a bit of controversy. It’s a new ruling that could bring bad policy to a number of other states, including here in South Carolina.

The decision, Ritchie v. Rupe, 443 S.W.3d 856, 867 (Tex. 2014), deals with the rights of minority shareholders in corporations, and the verdict upended a decision previously made by the Texas Court of Appeals in 1988.

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Noncompete Agreements Hinder Economic Development

April 8th, 2015

We know noncompete agreements are prohibitive, but a new study suggest it doesn’t just hurt an employee’s ability to find meaningful work. South Carolina and other states are losing prized researchers, scientists, inventors, and maybe even sandwich makers, to states that ban such contracts.

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Nursing Home Scores Drop With New Federal Ratings

April 8th, 2015

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently revamped its rating system for nursing homes. The result: About one-third of all facilities received lower ratings.

It’s time we raise the standards for nursing homes across the country. The change in the rating system is long overdue. It was last modified in 2008.

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Nursing Homes Losing Patience with Patients

April 8th, 2015

A growing trend in nursing homes has many families worried about their financial futures. Nursing home chains have begun suing for legal guardianship of patients in order to seize control of their assets. While their actions are presented as necessary for patients who do not have the mental faculties to make decisions, in reality it often plays out as just heavy-handed debt collecting.

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Should South Carolina Raise the Minimum Wage?

February 15th, 2015

In the past few months there has been much heated debate over whether state governments should raise their minimum wages. While there’s an argument that paying employees more would raise costs for employers, and might lead to layoffs, an increased minimum wage is necessary to allow workers to live. Read the rest of this entry »

How Surge Pay Impacts Call Center Workers

February 5th, 2015

Zappos, the online retail giant, is already well known for their exemplary customer service, answering 80% of queries within 20 seconds. Recently, they built on that reputation with the implementation of Open Market, an online scheduler for their customer service employees that allows them to schedule their own hours and get compensated based on the customer demand during those hours. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s All Uber But The Shouting: Employee versus Independent Contractor (And Why It Even Matters)

January 25th, 2015

Uber’s in the news yet again. This time, it’s Uber’s service in South Carolina that has spawned complications for the company. Since beginning service in this state in July 2014, Uber, a ridesharing company based in San Francisco, has continued to spread throughout the state, but not without raising the hackles of its competition, taxi companies, as well as the state agency tasked with regulating the industry, the Public Service Commission (PSC). On January 15, 2015, the PSC issued a cease and desist order to Uber for its actions in South Carolina, a move which was publically opposed by Gov. Nikki Haley; the order is in place until the PSC can resolve a request by Uber to be licensed differently than other taxi services are licensed. (Such pushback by regulatory agencies has been happening to Uber around the globe.) Why does this matter to you? Because if Uber is ultimately allowed to operate in South Carolina in the future, there could be significant legal issues that may arise as well, including issues involving employees’ rights.

To illustrate: last year, drivers for Uber brought a class action lawsuit against Uber in California, alleging that Uber has misclassified its drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. The company, recently valued at over $15 billion, uses a smartphone application to connect passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire. Drivers are required to pass Uber’s background screening process. Customers can use the app to request rides and track their reserved vehicle’s location. The app alerts the closest driver, who can accept the ride or not. The drivers then get paid a portion of the fare. But are these drivers Uber’s employees? Or are they just independent contractors? And why does that even matter?

The classification of employee vs. independent contractors is legally significant, as an employee has certain rights that an independent contract would not. For example, in this case, the drivers for Uber are required to pay for their own expenses, such as gas; if the drivers are employees, Uber would be required by California law to reimburse its drivers for these expenses. The classification of independent contractor, then, saves Uber significant money. Generally, employees are also provided other benefits, such as health insurance, that contractors would not receive.

The distinction matters under federal law, including under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which governs overtime and minimum wages. Only if a worker is covered under the FLSA’s definition of “employee” would he be provided with the law’s protection. In South Carolina, classification as an employee also affects whether the worker qualifies for protection under certain state laws, such as the South Carolina Wage Payment Act. An employee bringing an lawsuit for unpaid wages has the possibility of receiving damages equal to three times the unpaid wage amount (called treble, or triple, damages), whereas an independent contractor would be limited simply to the amount of unpaid wages. The threat of triple damages provides greater leverage to employees in legal disputes. Employees are also covered by workers’ compensation, and independent contractors are not.

There are other aspects of the law that are affected by this employee/independent contractor dispute, but to go into them all here would likely produce more information than is necessary for you right now. However, if you’re wondering if your job is affected by this classification, or whether you’re really an employee despite being told you’re an independent contract, please don’t hesitate to contact our office and speak with an experienced attorney to get the advice you need to protect your legal rights.