Employee Misclassification and Why It Matters

Web Admin - Monday, March 30, 2015

employment contract, Illinois employment law lawyerThe relationship between employers and employees comes with many legal complexities, and there are times when employers can improperly curtail employees' rights, either by accident or design. One common place where this sort of issue arises is through employee misclassification, the practice of designating an employee as an independent contractor. Although the decision of which of those classes a worker falls into is one for a court to decide, many employers choose to make an improper classification in order to avoid having to provide things like overtime pay or workers' compensation insurance.

What Misclassification Is

There are two classes of worker for many employment law purposes: employees and independent contractors. Generally speaking, the difference between the two is the amount of control that an employer exercises over them. The more control, the more likely the court is to find that an employer/employee relationship exists. However, there are actually a variety of factors that courts look to, including:

  • - How much direction the employer gives in how to complete tasks;
  • - The type of evaluation system the worker operates under;
  • - Whether the business trains the worker;
  • - Whether the business reimburses the worker's expenses;
  • - Whether the worker can work for other employers;
  • - How the worker is paid;
  • - Whether the relationship is intended to be long-term; and
  • - Whether the worker's services are a key part of the business.

Examples can often be helpful to understand whether someone qualifies as an employee or an independent contractor. For instance, a secretary working at an office for years probably qualifies as an employee because of the high amount of control the employer would retain, as well as the other factors. Conversely, an IT worker hired to set up the company's network would probably be an independent contractor because they are going about the work in their own way, and the job's duration is limited.

Why It Matters

This distinction matters because it affects the responsibility that an employer has towards the worker. Many of the legal protections afforded to workers are only given to people in an employer/employee relationship. For instance, many employers misclassify their employees in order to avoid paying overtime pay or to avoid providing workers' compensation insurance. They can also use misclassification to shift tax burdens onto the worker, by avoiding things like unemployment insurance and Social Security taxes.

A worker's classification is a matter for courts to decide, and how an employer has elected to treat the worker is immaterial. If you believe that you have been misclassified and are losing access to benefits like overtime pay or workers' compensation benefits, contact an experienced Illinois employment lawyer today. Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC serves workers in many northwest suburban towns, such as Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, Inverness, Deer Park, and Arlington Heights.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

Rauner Introduces Right to Work Order

Web Admin - Monday, February 23, 2015

Illinois right to work order, Palatine employment law attorneyBefore being elected governor, Gov. Rauner worked in the private sector, and as a result one of the major focuses of his campaign was making the state's economic climate friendlier to businesses. Although he is proposing a variety of changes such as workers' compensation reform that would likely need the approval of the legislature, he has just taken a small step with a recent executive order. The executive order essentially institutes a version of right to work laws for public sector employees, and some commentators think it may be the governor testing the waters for introducing a more general right to work law.

Right to Work Generally

The purpose of right to work laws is to allow workers to choose whether they want to participate in a union. Currently, workers in companies where they would be represented by unions are allowed not to participate in the union, but they still have union dues deducted from their paychecks. From one angle this makes sense, since even non-union workers get the benefits of the union's existence, such as higher wages and better benefits. Forced collection of union dues prevents people from free-riding on the work of other people who pay for and participate in the union. However, there are many employees for whom the union dues represent a significant cost. Public sector employees who would be affected by the governor's order have hundreds of dollars a year taken from their pay for unions. Right to work lets the employees put that money towards the things that they think are most important.

Rauner's Executive Order

For most people, Governor Rauner's executive order does not change anything. It only implements right to work rules for the public sector employees represented by unions. Workers in the private sector will still be required to pay union dues if they were before. Additionally, the new order is being challenged in the courts as an over-extension of the governor's executive authority. The court has put a stay on the enforcement of the order until its constitutionality is decided.

Although the order does not directly affect most employees, it may be a sign of where the governor may be making changes in the future. In the past, right to work laws have not been a major issue in Illinois because, of the surrounding states, only Iowa had one. However, other states in the area have already passed or are moving to pass right to work legislation. These states include Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, and Missouri. This may lead to a stronger push for private sector right to work legislation in Illinois in an effort to prevent businesses from crossing borders into neighboring states.

The field of employment law is constantly changing. If you are worried about whether your business is in compliance with it or you think your rights as an employee are being violated, contact an Illinois employment law attorney today. Our firm serves clients across the northwest suburbs, including in Palatine, Barrington, and Inverness.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

Illinois Supreme Court to Consider Negligent Credentialing Case

Web Admin - Monday, February 16, 2015

Illinois Negligent Credentialing, medical malpractice lawyerThe relationship between doctors and hospitals is a complex one. Most people assume that the doctors work for or are partners in the hospital. While some hospitals choose to employ their doctors, it is much more common for the doctors to be independent contractors. The hospitals give the doctors the right to admit patients to the hospital and use their facilities, a decision known as “credentialing.”

Yet, hospitals cannot simply give privileges to whomever they want. The law imposes a duty on hospitals to exercise reasonable care in managing their facilities in order to protect patients. Failure to do so can see the hospital held liable for negligent credentialing.

What Is Negligent Credentialing?

Negligent credentialing occurs when a hospital allows a physician to use their facilities despite that physician’s lack of qualifications. Illinois law requires a plaintiff to prove three things in order to prevail on a negligent credentialing claim:

  1. 1. The hospital breached its duty of care by improperly granting staff privileges to an unqualified physician;
  2. 2. The physician breached the medical standard of care by providing medically negligent treatment in conjunction with their negligently awarded privileges; and
  3. 3. The awarding of the privileges was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, meaning that the direct cause of the injuries was the fact that the hospital negligently granted staff privileges to the doctor.

One of the difficulties of winning on a negligent credentialing claim is proving that first element. This requires evidence of what the hospital knew when they credentialed the physician and how thorough their procedures were. The Illinois Supreme Court recently took a case to determine whether plaintiffs in a lawsuit may have access to those records, Klaine v. Southern Hospital Services.

Klaine v. Southern Illinois Hospital Services

The issue in Klaine arises from a colon surgery gone wrong. The plaintiff wanted to pursue a negligent credentialing claim against the hospital, and as part of discovery process the plaintiff requested information about the surgeon’s credentialing process, such as his work history, prior insurance claims against him, and recommendations about his credentialing by the hospital staff. The hospital resisted, citing an Illinois law requiring that a physician’s application for staff privileges be kept “confidential.” The appeals court decided that there was a difference between general confidentiality rules and “privilege,” the special, heightened form of confidentiality that protects things from disclosure during a lawsuit. The Supreme Court will now take the case on to determine if the appeals court was correct in that determination.

The landscape of medical malpractice law is constantly changing. If you have been injured by a physician’s negligence and want to learn more about your options, contact a Crystal Lake medical malpractice attorney at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC today. Our firm helps injured patients all across the northwest suburbs, including in towns like Inverness, Palatine, and Schaumburg.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

Employers Offering "Comp" Time Instead of Overtime

Web Admin - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

illinois overtime employee lawyerMany employees are owed overtime by their employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) once they work more than 40 hours in a week. Illinois also has a separate wage and hour law that comes into effect at the same 40-hour mark. While many employers dutifully obey these laws and pay the qualifying employees time-and-a-half during overtime, sometimes, either intentionally or by mistake, employers subvert these laws. One of the most common ways that employers attempt to get around paying overtime is through the use of compensatory or "comp" time instead of overtime.

This practice involves employers allowing a worker to take paid hours off in the future based on the amount of overtime hours worked. Most commonly these hours off will be either equal to the amount of overtime, or an hour and a half off for each hour of overtime.

Who Is Entitled to Overtime?

The first step in determining whether an employer is violating wage and hour laws related to overtime is to find out if the law mandates overtime for the employee in question. The first place to look is in the FLSA, which governs overtime requirements on a federal level. The FLSA qualifies all hourly employees for overtime pay, unless they fall into a list of exemptions. The Department of Labor provides a full list of exempt employees. Some of the most commonly applicable exemptions are:

  • - Sales employees working on commission;
  • - Computer professionals making at least $23.67 an hour;
  • - Drivers, loaders, and mechanics employed by motor carriers;
  • - Salesmen, partsmen, and mechanics who work for automobile dealerships; and
  • - Executive, administrative, and professional employees who are paid on a salaried basis.

Illinois’ wage and hour law also contains a list of exemptions, though these largely overlap with the FLSA’s list. For an employee to be exempt from overtime requirements, their occupation would need to be exempted from both the FLSA and the Illinois overtime law.

Is Comp Time Legal?

If a private sector employee falls under the ambit of overtime laws, then paying them with compensatory time instead of an overtime rate violates overtime laws. The purpose of those laws is to provide employees a premium for working overtime, which comp time circumvents. Importantly, this rationale does not apply to all rearrangements of schedules. The overtime laws focus on a weekly time scale, meaning that working more than eight hours in a day does not qualify a person for overtime, and an employer is allowed to shift time within the week to keep an employee below the 40 hour threshold. It is only the banking of paid time off in lieu of an overtime premium that violates the law.

If you believe you have been the victim of an overtime violation like comp time, reach out to a Barrington employment lawyer today. Our team handles cases in many northwest suburbs, including Schaumburg, Rolling Meadows, and Palatine.

About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

Remedies for Unpaid Overtime in Illinois

Web Admin - Thursday, February 06, 2014

illinois unpaid overtime employment lawyerAmerican workers are facing a growing problem; their employers are failing to pay them overtime for extra hours that they worked. According to CNN, wage and hour claims have increased 400 percent in the last decade alone. Employers have a variety of tricks they can use to avoid paying employees the money they owe them. For instance, many employers improperly classify their workers as independent contractors, when they should actually be classified as employees.

This allows employers to subvert overtime laws and shift some of their tax burden to the worker. Employers can also avoid paying overtime by instituting improper policies to prevent employees from logging all of their hours. This can include such practices as forcing employees to clock out for lunches through which they work, making employees show up for work and then wait to clock in until later, or forcing workers to work from home without tracking their hours.

Fortunately, workers in Illinois have remedies available to them. Employees can bring suits for unpaid overtime under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and under the Illinois Minimum Wage law. However, employees should know that both laws provide different limits on the amounts that they can recover from their employer.

The Fair Labor Standards Act

The FLSA is a federal law that protects workers from wage violations. If an employee brings a suit under the FLSA to recover overtime, they can receive overtime pay that the employer owes them from the past two years. That time period may increase to three years if the employee can prove that their employer willfully violated the statute.

A willful violation of the statute occurs if the employer “showed reckless disregard for the matter of whether their conduct violated the statute.” Additionally, in the case of such willful violations, the court may award “liquidated damages.” These extra damages can be as high as the initial amount of overtime owed, meaning the employee can receive twice the amount that the employer failed to pay them.

The Illinois Minimum Wage Law

Illinois also has a minimum wage law under which employees can sue in order to recover overtime pay. Employees can recover up to three years of back pay under this law, regardless of whether the employer willfully violated the law. However, suing under the Illinois law would deprive the employee of the opportunity to receive liquidated damages. Instead, the Illinois law provides for employees to receive two percent interest for each month that their employer owed them overtime.

Do you have questions about your employer’s overtime practices, or think you may be eligible for overtime pay that you never received? Reach out to a Rolling Meadows employment lawyer today. Our firm operates in many northwest suburban areas including Barrington, Crystal Lake, and Palatine.

About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

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