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Suing for Unpaid Wages in Nevada

Suing for Unpaid Wages in Nevada
Employers that don’t pay their employees the wages they have earned are unfortunately an all-too-common problem. Whether unpaid wages have been accrued through uncompensated overtime, violations of minimum wage requirements, or withheld tips, employers should not be allowed to get away with what amounts to theft. Workers who are victims of wage violations have legal recourse available. Wage and hour laws are complicated, reflecting the many competing interests in the labor marketplace. One source of complexity is the interplay between state and federal laws. Both federal and state law set minimum wage and other basic labor standards. For many workers in Nevada, the provisions of Chapter 608 of the Nevada Revised Statutes will provide the first line of defense against wage theft. Chapter 608 provides the framework for a wide range of wage and hour matters for most employers in Nevada. Here are some of the chapter’s provisions:
  • Employers cannot require employees to work without compensation during a “trial period.” NRS 608.016.
  • Employers cannot discriminate on the basis of sex to pay workers of one sex less than what is paid to workers of the other sex for the same work. NRS 608.017.
  • Eligible employees must be paid time-and-a-half for overtime (more than 40 hours per week or 8 hours per day for employees who work five days a week). NRS 608.018.
  • Employers must immediately pay unpaid wages and other accrued benefits to an employee who is fired. An employee who quits must be paid all accrued amounts within seven days or on the regular payday, whichever comes first. NRS 608.020, 608.030.
  • Employers are required to establish regular paydays. NRS 608.080.
  • Employers cannot require employees to refund earned wages or decrease compensation without at least seven days’ notice. NRS 608.100.
  • Employers must maintain detailed wage records. NRS 608.115.
An employee who has had wages unlawfully withheld or unpaid has a number of legal tools available. First, the law provides that employees who are fired or laid off obtain a lien against the employer’s property for unpaid wages until they are paid in full. NRS 608.050. Second, in the event of a successful lawsuit to recover unpaid wages the employer must pay the employee’s reasonable attorney fees. NRS 608.140. This second point is crucial: an employee need not hesitate to seek legal help for the recovery of wages solely out of concern about legal fees. Finally, a worker can also file a complaint with the Nevada Labor Commissioner. The Commissioner has the authority to pursue administrative as well as criminal charges against employers who violate wage and hours laws. Bringing the authority of the state to bear against an employer who has acted in bad faith can be a powerful tool for recovering what is owed and preventing future violations. The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez represents working people in the Las Vegas area. If you have questions about how to pursue unpaid wages we can help. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.

Nevada Employer Accommodations for Lactating Mothers

Nevada Employer Accommodations for Lactating Mothers
Going back to work after having a baby is one of the most challenging parts of being a new mom. Feelings of guilt and sadness can combine with exhaustion to make working a real challenge. Lactation adds a practical challenge for working moms, especially when there aren’t good places to pump. New mothers in Nevada should know that state law requires employers to provide certain accommodations for women who are lactating. The Nevada Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act (the Act) went into effect in 2017. The Act has two important components relevant to new moms. First, it requires employers to provide accommodations for matters related to pregnancy and childbirth, including lactation. Second, it protects pregnant women and women who have recently given birth from discrimination based on those accommodations.

Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for lactating mothers

Under Section 5 of the Act a Nevada employer may not refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation upon the employee’s request for any condition relating to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition (explicitly including lactation), unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the business of the employer. There are several features worth noting about this rule:
  1. The employee must request the accommodation. An employer is not obligated to preemptively create a solution, though of course many employers do.
  2. The employer is required to enter into a dialogue. The employer and employee “must engage in a timely, good faith and interactive process to determine an effective, reasonable accommodation for the employee.”
  3. The accommodation must be “reasonable.” The Act explains that an accommodation may include a change in the work environment or methods of working to allow the employee to have employment opportunities equal to those available to other employees. The Act gives several examples of what a “reasonable accommodation” might be, including revising break schedules, providing an area other than a bathroom for expressing breast milk, or providing a modified work schedule. If the employee asks for a reasonable accommodation and the employer refuses, it becomes the employer’s responsibility to prove that providing the accommodation would be an “undue hardship” for the employer. This might involve showing that the accommodation is too expensive or could affect the employer’s operations.

Discriminating against lactating employees is unlawful

The Act provides that the following acts by an employer are unlawful:
  1. Refusing to provide reasonable accommodation for lactation, unless the accommodation would be an undue burden.
  2. Using the fact of the employee’s lactation, or an employee’s refusal to accept accommodations offered by the employer, to take an adverse employment action, such as reducing pay, imposing a difficult new schedule, or changing the job in a negative way.
  3. Denying an employment opportunity on the basis that the employee refused an accommodation or is lactating.
  4. Requiring an employee to take leave.
  5. Requiring an employee to accept an accommodation she didn’t request or chooses not to accept.
These protections are broad and significant. Importantly, they allow an employee the flexibility to decline an offered accommodation and enter into a dialogue with the employer about alternatives. The employer cannot coerce an employee to accept a solution that isn’t acceptable to her.

Talk to an attorney if you have questions

The attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez provide personalized, caring guidance to clients in the Las Vegas area. If you are a new or expecting mother we are happy to explain how Nevada law protects you. For a no-cost attorney consultation, call us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.

Sexual Harassment Training Requirements for Nevada Employers

Sexual Harassment Training Requirements for Nevada Employers

With sexual harassment getting renewed attention in the media, Las Vegas workers may have questions about what obligations their employers have to provide training to prevent harassment and address problems when they arise. Nevada and federal law offer guidelines that many employers must bear in mind to avoid potentially expensive lawsuits by employees who have suffered unlawful harassment.

The scope of sexual harassment prohibitions

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of unlawful discrimination under Nevada’s Fair Employment Practices Act, NRS 613.310 et seq., and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq. These laws apply only to employers with 15 or more employees.

There are two forms of unlawful sexual harassment. The first, “quid pro quo” harassment, involves a supervisor conditioning terms of employment, such as a raise, particular working hours, or work location, on an employee’s consent to engage in sexual conduct. The other form involves pervasive or severe conduct that a reasonable person would feel creates a hostile work environment.

State employers must provide sexual harassment prevention training

The Nevada Administrative Code prohibits state employees from engaging in sexual harassment and authorizes state employers to “impose harsh disciplinary sanctions” for violations of that policy. NAC 284.771. State employees must receive training on prevention of sexual harassment within six months of starting work, with refresher courses every two years. A public employer may require employees to attend additional classes, or retake classes, as the employer deems necessary. NAC 284.496. These rules apply to people working in government jobs, as well as employees of state-sponsored organizations like the state university system.

Supervisors and managers who work for state agencies also need to complete training on a range of other topics, including equal employment opportunity and grievance resolution procedures. NAC 284.498. The state has adopted an anti-harassment policy with specific procedures for addressing harassment complaints. Among other things, the state has set up a special hotline to facilitate reporting.

Training is risk management for private employers

Unlike state employers, private employers don’t have a legal obligation to train employees in sexual harassment prevention. However, there are powerful incentives for employers to provide the training anyway:

  • ·       Liability for bad behavior by managers. An employer that is subject to civil rights laws can be vicariously liable for harassment employees by managers and supervisors.
  • ·       Risk management. Training employees is a good idea from a risk management standpoint. If harassing behavior is serious enough to meet the standards to justify a claim of hostile work environment, the employer can be sued by victims.
  • ·       Training is part of a good grievance resolution system. An anti-harassment policy can only help to limit an employer’ s liability if it includes an adequate grievance resolution process. Managers need to be trained in how the process works and to take complaints seriously.

GGRM works with Las Vegas employees

For more than 45 years the GGRM law firm has helped clients in the Las Vegas area work through challenging legal problems. We treat every client with respect and attention. If you are suffering from sexual harassment in the workplace and are looking for answers to legal questions, our attorneys can help. For a free attorney consultation call us at 702-388-4476 or request a call through our website.

What Can Employers Ask About Prior Workers’ Comp Claims?

A question that often comes up for workers who have filed workers’ compensation claims in the past is how those claims could affect their future job prospects. The concern is that employers want to avoid the expense of hiring a worker with injury risks or, worse, a history of filing fraudulent claims. They could potentially use a job applicant’s history of workers’ compensation claims to turn the applicant away. Fortunately, federal and state law provide specific limits on how Nevada employers can use a worker’s claims history.

Federal law prohibits disability discrimination

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of an applicant’s or employee’s disability. According to guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, under the ADA an employer can ask about a job applicant’s disability and prior workers’ compensation claims only after making an initial job offer. An employer also cannot lawfully obtain such information from third parties until after making the initial job offer. A job offer can lawfully be conditioned upon passing a medical examination. Employers are still permitted to require applicants to pass nonmedical agility or strength tests if they are necessary for the job, such as jobs in law enforcement. In each case, such screening must be given to every applicant in the same job category. Not every work-related injury leads to a disability that is protected by the ADA. The ADA defines “disability” as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, having a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment (for example, if an employer decides that an injury limits an employee’s ability to work, even if it doesn’t limit the employee’s day-to-day activities). Many workers’ compensation claims will arise from injuries that are not serious enough to meet this standard. On the one hand, this means that non-disability conditions might still come up in the course of a job application process. On the other hand, employers who probe an applicant’s medical history risk uncovering a protected disability before they are legally entitled to know about it.

When prior claims are uncovered, what then?

Once an employer learns about a new hire’s prior workers’ compensation claims, the ADA’s protections continue to apply. However, in some cases an employee’s claims history can be used to justify terminating an employment relationship for a reason other than disability. For example, the history may reveal that the employee has been dishonest during a medical examination. It may also reveal that the employee has filed numerous claims that were rejected, leading an employer to infer that the employee has a tendency to make false claims. In some cases, a history may uncover a condition that prevents the employee from safely doing the job. Generally speaking, a scrupulous employer will be careful about basing hiring decisions on someone’s workers’ comp claims history. A claim of unlawful discrimination is a potentially expensive and time-consuming problem that is best avoided through well-designed screening practices. For employees, the important thing to remember is that the law limits how employers use workers’ medical information. But medical information can have nonmedical implications.

GGRM assists workers in the Las Vegas area

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has handled workers’ compensation cases in Las Vegas for more than 45 years. If you have questions about how your claims history might affect your future employment options, we are here to help. For a free attorney consultation, reach out to us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contacts page.

How Nevada Protects Older Workers From Employment Discrimination

How Nevada Protects Older Workers From Employment Discrimination
As the American workforce ages, employment discrimination against older workers likely will become an increasingly important issue. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) receives more than 20,000 complaints of age-based discrimination each year. Presumably this reflects only a small portion of wrongful discrimination cases, many of which probably go unreported. With rare exceptions, a Nevada employer cannot discriminate against job applicants and employees on the basis of age.

Nevada and federal law prohibits most types of age-based employment discrimination

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621 et seq., protects workers over the age of 40. Under the ADEA, employers may not adopt policies that negatively affect applicants or employees age 40 or older unless the policy is based on a reasonable factor other than age (RFOA). In its rules the EEOC specifies that an employer is responsible for showing that its policies are objectively reasonable, designed to achieve a legitimate business purpose, and reasonably achieve that purpose. Whether a policy is based on a lawful RFOA is determined by considerations including how the factor relates to the employer’s business purpose, how accurately the employer has defined the factor, and how the employer handles employee assessments, especially if the assessments will focus on traits that are closely linked to age. 29 C.F.R. 1625.7 (2012). Nevada law protects workers from age discrimination in the same way as other protected categories, such as race, religion, and sex. NRS 613.330 prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants or employees on the basis of age unless age is “a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation” of the employer’s business.

Can an employer ask about an applicant’s age?

Employers are not prohibited from collecting information that reveals age information about a job applicant or employee. An employer might be able to deduce an employee’s approximate age based on information like graduation dates, employment history, or other routine resume details. And the law does not prohibit an employer from asking for a date of birth. But an employer needs to have a business-related reason for asking for such information, and must not be asking for it solely to make an employment decision based upon it. Workers should note that employers are allowed to ask applicants and employees to waive their state and federal age discrimination rights. Per the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, such waivers must meet a strict set of criteria. These include that the employee is compensated for the waiver.

Consult with an attorney about age-based discrimination

If an employer has unlawfully discriminated against you or a loved one on the basis of age, it’s important to speak to an attorney right away. Don’t let your legal rights slip away. The attorneys at GGRM are happy to help workers in Las Vegas evaluate their legal options. To speak to an attorney, please give us a call today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contacts page.

What Light Duty Accommodations Can Mean for Workers and Employers

What Light Duty Accommodations Can Mean for Workers and Employers
A Nevada employer cannot lawfully fire a worker who is recovering from an injury or illness suffered while on the job. But many employers have policies that require employees to accept light duty work as a condition of keeping their jobs while they are recovering. Because some workers’ compensation benefits can be tied to continuing employment, workers often feel forced to accept light duty. Workers recovering from injury need to understand how light duty works.

Employers adopt light duty policies to accommodate worker disabilities

Employers adopt light duty policies to avoid the legal risk of terminating an employee after the employee is injured or after a workers’ compensation claim is filed. If the employee’s injuries resulted in a temporary or permanent disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects them from being fired solely on the basis of the disability. Instead, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for the disability. Nevada law also prohibits employers from firing employees solely because they have filed a workers’ compensation claim. Offering light duty is one way to comply with these rules.

Nevada’s light duty rules

Nevada distinguishes between two types of light duty work: temporary and permanent. Temporary light duty is offered to employees who are still recovering from their work-related injuries or illnesses and cannot resume their normal job while undergoing treatment. An employer’s policies determine the practical scope of light duty, but it must take into account the limitations placed on the employee by the treating physician. In many cases, a temporary light duty job gets created to fit the employee’s specific needs. An offer of light duty work must be in writing and describe the job in detail, including its wage, hours, and physical requirements. If the light duty work doesn’t match the written offer, an employee can demand changes. NAC 616C.583. Permanent light duty is another story. When a worker’s physician concludes that the worker will have permanent limitations as a result of workplace injuries, an employer is not required to modify the employee’s old job or offer a permanent position that accommodates for the worker’s new disabilities. Workers who lose their job as a result of permanent work restrictions, and whose employer elect not to provide light duty accommodations, are eligible for vocational retraining benefits.

Light duty and workers’ compensation benefits

All employers in Nevada are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation benefits include payment of medical expenses, vocational rehabilitation, and lost wages. A worker can continue to receive these benefits after being terminated, but Nevada allows insurers to deny coverage to workers who are fired for misconduct. NRS 616C.323. If an employer has a policy requiring an injured worker to accept an offer of temporary light duty work during recovery, the employee normally must accept the position or risk being fired. Quite often, temporary light duty work is a big step down from a worker’s ordinary job, involving tasks that are menial or dull. But refusing to do light duty work can constitute “misconduct” and lead to lost workers’ compensation coverage.

We help Las Vegas workers protect their rights  

After being injured on the job it’s always a good idea to talk to an attorney who understands workers’ compensation. For over 45 years GGRM has worked hard to ensure that clients who have been injured on the job are not losing out on their legally protected benefits. For a free attorney consultation, call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our contact page.

Marijuana Testing In the Era of Legalized Use

Marijuana Testing In the Era of Legalized Use
Nevada has allowed medical use of marijuana since 2008, and in January 2017 it became the fifth state in the nation to legalize recreational use when the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act (the “RTMA”), NRS 453D.010 et seq., went into effect. Legalization has raised questions among employers and workers in the state regarding whether workplace drug screening programs should continue to test for marijuana use.

Nevada does not prohibit testing for recreational marijuana use

As a legal matter, the RTMA only eliminates criminal penalties for recreational marijuana use. Nevada employers are free to continue to screen employees for drug use, including marijuana. The RTMA explicitly allows private and public employers to restrict their employees’ recreational use of marijuana. NRS 453D.100(2)(a). Among other things, this means that an employer can prohibit employees from possessing or using marijuana at work. Although some employers may conclude that the legalization of recreational use creates a problem for employee retention or recruitment, that is not a legal question per se. To avoid unfairness and potentially unlawful discriminatory actions, Nevada employers need to have clear drug and alcohol policies that are uniformly enforced. Marijuana use raises challenges for employers in this regard. Some users show little outward sign of being under the influence. And recreational use during off hours can leave detectable amounts of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in an employee’s body for a long period of time, even though the employee is no longer meaningfully impaired. An open question is whether the illegality of marijuana under federal law gives employers greater leeway to use a positive marijuana test to take adverse employment action against an employee who uses recreationally. NRS 613.333 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees for their legal, off-work activities. Whether the federal ban on marijuana wipes out this statute’s protection for recreational marijuana use remains to be seen.

Employers can regulate medical marijuana use as well, with exceptions

Under Nevada’s medical marijuana statute, NRS 453A.800, employers are permitted to regulate even medical use in the workplace, including possession. However, a Nevada employer is required to make reasonable accommodations for an employee who uses medical marijuana and has a valid state medical marijuana registry card, provided the accommodations would not “(a) pose a threat of harm or danger to persons or property or impose an undue hardship on the employer; or (b) prohibit the employee from fulfilling any and all of his or her job responsibilities.” Id. Like other “reasonable accommodation” laws, the statute’s ambiguity poses compliance challenges for employers. While an employer might not be able to terminate an employee for off-work medical marijuana use, it could still potentially take disciplinary action if the employee uses marijuana during work hours against a clear company policy.

Navigating the evolving legal landscape

At GGRM we are keeping a close eye on the legal issues surrounding marijuana use and employment. The intersection of federal law, protections for medical use, and increasing recreational use creates potential for thorny legal problems. If you would like to speak to an attorney about how Nevada’s marijuana laws affect you or your company, call us at 702-388-4476, or request a consultation through our website.

Minimum Wage Requirements in Nevada

Minimum Wage Requirements in Nevada
Minimum wage laws protect workers from unfair treatment by employers and aim to preserve a basic standard of living for workers who are in entry level or low-skill jobs. But they are subject to various exceptions and exclusions that workers need to understand. As of today the minimum wage in Nevada is $8.25 per hour for employers who do not provide health insurance benefits. Workers who work more than 40 hours in a scheduled week of work, or who work more than 8 hours in a workday (unless they are on a four, 10-hour day schedule) are entitled to time-and-a-half overtime. NRS 608.018.

The relationship between federal and Nevada minimum wage

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires most U.S. employers to pay most full- and part-time employees at least $7.25 an hour, but allows state and local governments to adopt a higher minimum wage, just as Nevada has done. In the event of a conflict, the higher minimum wage applies. The FLSA provides exemptions from the standard minimum wage for certain workers or jobs, which in many cases can be paid a lower minimum wage. Here are a few examples:
  • Workers who earn at least $30 in tips per month and collect at least $5.12 in hourly tips can be paid as little as $2.13 per hour.
  • Workers under the age of 20 within the first 90 days of employment can be paid a minimum wage of $4.25 per hour.
  • Student workers (in high school or college) doing certain jobs, like retail or agriculture, can be paid as little as 85% of the prevailing minimum wage, provided the employer satisfies Department of Labor requirements.
  • The Department of Labor can exempt nonprofit and educational organizations from having to pay the full minimum wage.
Other types of worker are exempted entirely from the federal minimum wage and overtime laws. This includes white collar workers (executives, administrators, professionals). There are also numerous exemptions for agricultural laborers. Farms that use only a small amount of labor are exempt, as are certain specific types of agricultural employee (seasonal hand harvesters, for example).

Nevada’s minimum wage law

Like the FLSA, Nevada’s minimum wage law provides exceptions. NRS 608.250 allows the following workers to be paid less than the state minimum wage:
  • Casual babysitters.
  • Live-in domestic service employees.
  • Outside salespersons who are paid by commission.
  • Small-farm agricultural workers.
  • Taxicab and limousine drivers.
  • Persons with disabilities that limit their productive capacity. See NAC 608.200 et seq.
Independent contractors are also exempt from minimum wage rules. Employers will sometimes try to misclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid paying them minimum wage or providing other benefits to which employees are legally entitled.

Suing to recover back pay

Unfortunately, minimum wage workers are often victims of unscrupulous employers who try to get away with not paying minimum wage or complying with overtime laws. Complaints can be filed with the Nevada Labor Commissioner, which investigates wage violations and can enforce penalties against noncompliant employers. Although non-lawyers can file complaints, having the help of an attorney can significantly improve the chance of a complaint leading to a successful outcome. Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez is proud of the work it does helping working people protect their rights. If you would like to speak to an attorney about your minimum wage questions, please give us a call today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contacts page.

Can My Employer Fire Me for What I Post on Social Media?

Can My Employer Fire Me for What I Post on Social Media?
In the era of social media, workers are increasingly discovering that the things they post online can come back to haunt them in various ways. Losing a job over a tweet can seem unfair, but the fact is that employers have a lot of leeway when it comes to firing employees for what they post. However, there are limited exceptions.

Social media and at-will employment

In an at-will employment state like Nevada, both the employee and employer are free to end their relationship with or without cause. That means that an employer can choose to terminate an employee for no reason at all. A post on Facebook that reveals an employer’s confidential information, reveals an employee’s dishonesty, or calls into doubt the employee’s qualifications for the job, may simply give the employer cause.

But isn’t social media private?

Under Nevada law, an employer cannot require employees to disclose their user names and passwords for personal accounts on social media, and cannot take adverse actions against an employee for refusing to provide such information. NRS 613.135. Some read the statute to mean that an employer also cannot require employees to accept managers as social media connections—that is, as a friend on Facebook, or as a follower on Twitter. However, an employer can view public posts on social media just like anyone else. And if an employee voluntarily authorizes a manager to access posts, without prompting from the employer, it could be interpreted as a waiver of the employee’s expectation of privacy. Employees should be especially careful when posting on social media using company equipment. Employers have the right to monitor use of equipment they own. Especially if an employee is posting on social media during working hours, the employer may have a good argument that the posts form evidence of disciplinary problem, even if it ignores the content of the posts themselves. Employers are increasingly adopting specific written policies that address employee use of social media. If your employer has such a policy, be sure to read it. Although Nevada employers cannot regulate many aspects of an employee’s private activities, they can take steps to protect their legitimate business interests, which can include watching out for online behaviors that harm the company. For example, if a job involves working with a company’s clients, the employee should not post things that clients might find offensive, even if the clients aren’t likely to see them.

There are some limits on what employers can do with social media

An employer that bases a firing decision on an employee’s social media posts can violate the employee’s rights in a number of ways. Here are two examples:
  • The federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects employees from retaliation for posting on social media in connection with collective bargaining or other matters related to working conditions. The NLRA has been interpreted to prohibit employers from taking adverse actions against employees who post negative comments about the company or managers on private social media accounts. Although an employee should not assume that posting public complaints about a boss is a form of protected speech, the NLRA does give leeway for using social media to organize and address problems at work.
  • Social media posts often reveal information about a person’s age, race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religion, or other personal traits that are protected against unlawful employment discrimination under federal or state laws. In Nevada, an employer cannot fire an employee on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation. See this site for a complete list of things protected against discrimination in the state.

GGRM is here to help employees who are wrongfully terminated in Las Vegas

If you have lost a job because of a post on social media and you’re trying to figure out your legal options, it can be helpful to talk to an attorney. At GGRM we have a long history of helping workers defend their rights. For a free consultation, call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our contact page.

Should I Sign a Severance Agreement?

Should I Sign a Severance Agreement?
Severance agreements are a way for employers to manage labor risk during staffing changes. They typically include terms to protect the employer, such as noncompetition clauses and waivers of legal liability, and in exchange give departing employees a compensation package. For the employee, a severance agreement can be a helpful way to ease the financial strain of a job transition. But before signing one, it’s important to understand how it may affect your rights. Here we discuss three major concerns in severance agreements: non-competition clauses, confidentiality obligations, and waivers of liability.

Restrictions on future work can limit your career options

Non-competition clauses are a common feature of severance agreements. Because they can limit your professional options in significant ways, it’s important to take care before agreeing to them. A typical non-compete clause will restrict the kinds of work an employee can do for a period of time after the job ends, so the employee cannot immediately go to work for a competitor or steal clients from the company. A non-compete could prevent you from taking a job you really want, or it could get both you and a future employer into a dispute with your old company. Recent changes to Nevada law limit the permitted scope of non-compete clauses. Among other things, an employer must compensate employees for agreeing to them, and the compensation must be appropriate for the kinds of sacrifices the employee is expected to make. The scope of the non-compete also needs to be limited to what is necessary to protect the employer, and it cannot impose an undue burden on the employee.

Confidentiality is sometimes more complicated than it first appears

Many employers require their employees to sign confidentiality agreements when they’re first hired. These agreements typically require the employee to keep certain information confidential for a period of time after leaving the company. A severance agreement could extend the term of an employee’s confidentiality obligations or, if a confidentiality agreement isn’t already in place, impose new obligations. Complying with confidentiality requirements can mean more than just keeping secrets. It can also mean taking certain actions, like destroying records, and can extend to limiting who you talk to or work for. In the latter case, what looks like a confidentiality clause could actually be a form of non-compete.

Waivers of liability can undermine your legal rights

Perhaps the most common reason a company will ask departing employees to sign severance agreements is to get the employees to waive all legal claims against the employer. Especially where the employer has engaged in practices that are potentially unlawful, such as racial or disability discrimination, denial of overtime pay, or unwarranted denial of insurance, an employee should think carefully about whether signing a waiver is a good idea. Signing a waiver, especially when it’s accompanied by the sort of compensation that comes with a severance package, can eliminate an employee’s ability to pursue legal action in the future.

Before signing a severance agreement, get help from an attorney

At GGRM we are committed to helping workers in Las Vegas understand and protect their rights. If you have been asked to sign a severance agreement and you have questions about how it might affect your rights, our attorneys would be happy to help. For a free consultation with an attorney call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our site.