Are You Violating Worker Rights?

by Jon Gonzales for Stylist Newspapers originally printed here

States, cities and federal agencies are targeting the beauty industry for audits to determine if worker rights are being violated. Many salon owners are unknowingly violating worker rights, making themselves vulnerable to audits and severe penalties. The penalties are enormous resulting in frivolous lawsuits to business shutdowns.

I am not an attorney and I’m not here to give legal advice. That’s just not my jurisdiction, but I can suggest areas and resources you can view that will help you make informed decisions  based on fact, not guesswork, in helping you to protect your rights. This will save you time, money, and even the future of your business.

As I talk with salon owners around the United States, I’m amazed how many hairdressers and salon owners are offering legal advice in chat rooms, without knowledge of labor laws. When it comes to following the law, always listen to the experts not just hearsay opinions. Information should be sought from a labor law attorney who protects your rights as an employer to help you avoid the severe penalties if you are audited and lose.

Recently a salon was hit with a 1.3 million dollar fine for misclassifying their workers. However, it doesn’t have to come to that. I am a firm believer in taking preventive action to protect your business.

A new law in California called the ABC Test makes it tougher for salon owners who rent out booths due to misclassifying workers. If your workers are determined to be employees and not independent contractors, you will face the prospect of violating minimum wage, overtime requirements, rest periods, lunch breaks, and other laws.

The new laws are extremely complex, and in my opinion, unfair for employers. Whether you rent out booths or have employees, make sure your business is in compliance with the new laws.

Even more daunting for new business owners is many of these agencies and lawyers are encouraging workers to seek damages from their employers if they feel their rights are being violated, going so far as being willing to represent and offer legal advice against employers.

Although this new law applies to California, this will spread to other states. If you think you are misclassifying your employees, you need to change your company’s policy and fast.

There are many things you can do to protect yourselves and your business. The pressures and challenges of owning your business is getting tougher, but also the benefits of owning a successful and profitable business can be exciting and profitable, once you are in compliance. An equal playing field will prove beneficial to everyone.

You can stay in compliance and avoid audits, large attorney fees and protect the future of your business if you follow these steps:

Know the Rights of Your Workers — Our government agencies are increasingly making it harder to own a business. Make sure you review all government mandates, and stay aware of minimum wage, overtime laws, rest periods, lunch breaks, etc. If you are renting out booths, make sure you are not misclassifying your workers. Also keep in mind as business owner, you also have rights.

Talk with a Labor Law Attorney — Get expert help to ensure you and your employees are complying with all labor laws .

Proper Policies and Procedures — Your employer handbook must be revised periodically due to changes in labor law. Always keep your handbook updated, revising it on a regular basis. It would be wise to have an attorney view your employee handbook, procedures policies .

Arbitration Agreements — This will help you avoid large attorney expenses.

Misclassifying Your Workers – Most booth rental salons are erroneously misclassifying their workers as independent contractors, when in reality they are deemed employees by government agencies and need to be treated as such.

Rest Periods and Meal Breaks — This law is nationwide, though each state has their own guidelines. Be sure to review your own state laws regarding minimum wage, overtime pay, rest, and lunch breaks.

Document Everything — Make sure you have complete documentation as proof you are following the mandates that protect your workers. Make sure you display a poster stating labor law mandates, making sure your workers see it.

Discrimination Policies — Make sure you have a policy stating discrimination in any form will not be tolerated at your business.

Open Line of Communication  — Make sure your staff understands their rights, that your door is always open. Keep an honest and kind reputation before things get out of control.

Know the Law — The Department of Labor offers excellent resources about compliance . www.dol.gov

In the end, this may seem daunting, but staying vigilant about the changing laws in our industry will protect you, your business, and your employees. Make sure you constantly review and seek legal help in understanding the laws affecting your business. The cost of non-compliance can be devastating: ignorance against the law is unacceptable.

Jon Gonzales – Salon Consultant, Personal Development Coach, Educator & Author world knowledge of salon success, salon management and hairdresser & salon marketing strategies.  He has been in the beauty industry for over 40 years and is the President and Founder of Hairdresser Career Development Systems (HCDS). For more information visit www.hcds4you.com or email hcds4you@gmail.com