Many have been surprised and appalled with the recent series of articles in the New York Times exposing the alleged mistreatment of workers at nail salons. What struck me was how these articles should be a wake-up call for all employers, even those who do not give manicures.
- First, all employers should be aware of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) obligations. You do not have to be in the chemical industry in order to have dangerous chemicals in your workplace, and you should be aware of your legal obligations to employees who work with or handle those chemicals. In other words, whether it is cleaning solvents, dies and inks, or other materials – if your employees handle them they should be given proper training and equipment.
- You can never forget wage and hour obligations, especially for low-paid workers. The area of wage and hour compliance is a legal minefield and the next class action is right around the corner. Make sure that your HR Department is on top of all compliance issues, and that all of your employees receive at least the minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime, when they are entitled to it. No matter how big or small a business you run, you may be a target.
- Be wary or “aware” of the press. If you hear that a reporter is speaking to employees, if you see a stranger “hanging around” outside your facility, or if you are contacted by the press about an empowerment issue or dispute – do not ignore this! You should contact your lawyer or a public relations firm and get some advice as to how to respond – if you choose that route. It is very tricky to talk to the press without getting some professional advice and pointers, so be very careful in this area. Be aware that – whether true or not – allegations like this in the press can hurt your business.
- Also, be cautious in attempting to discipline employees for “complaining” or voicing complaints to the media, as this may be protected activity.