Here at Trojan Labor we are dedicated to the idea that education can open up doors and break down barriers. Recently, in memory of one of our employees who tragically lost his life in an accident, we donated to his daughter’s college fund. We also donated to the college fund of the spouse of one of our past American Hero Award recipients. Both of these individuals are very deserving of the scholarships and we look forward to seeing how far their college education will take them in life.
Smartphones have been a great boon for employers who like to be able to stay connected to their employees even during non-traditional work hours. As phones have become more sophisticated, it has become more normal for employees to check email from home or trade texts with employers or customers. This accessibility arguably means employees are more productive, or at least reachable during the occasional emergency situation.
But did you know that an employee going through work email at home or performing job duties, even when away from the office is working and needs to be compensated for their time? That’s right. Employees must be compensated for work they do, even if it is from home on a Friday night. And the onus is on the employer to track and account for those hours and ensure employees are paid properly. An understanding of the rules has become even more important since the new Department of Labor FLSA rules will qualify an additional 4.2 million employees for overtime eligibility.
So now, more than ever, it is vital for employers to revisit their policies on smartphones and answering emails after work hours. Remember that violations of the FLSA can carry double damages and payment of the employee’s attorneys fees!
Trojan Labor sponsors the Higher Quest Foundation. The Higher Quest Foundation is dedicated to ending global hunger in a sustainable way through the building an operating of fish farms. One of the Higher Quest Foundation’s more recent projects is in El Jute, Honduras.
The farm is a partnership project between the Higher Quest Foundation and Global Brigades (www.globalbrigades.org) The farm is fully up and running and they expect to harvest their first crop of fish in late summer. We are looking forward to seeing this farm become a sustainable source of protein for the local community.
Early last month, Florida Supreme Court ruled that the 104-week temporary total disability statute was unconstitutional in the case of Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg. This conclusion was made as a result of a gap in the statute that was brought to light in this case. The statute had originally stated that employees injured on the job were eligible to receive temporary benefits for up to 104 weeks or until “maximum medical improvement,” whichever came first. The statute did not address what happened to an injured person who is not eligible for permanent disability as they are still medically improving according to their doctor, who is chosen by the employer, but who is also unable to return to work after the 104 weeks. Therefore, the employee is cut off from all benefits while they are still in recovery. This violates the employee’s constitutional right the access to courts.
In this specific case, Bradley Westphal had suffered a back injury caused by heavy lifting in fighting a fire, which ultimately led to surgical procedures to fix a loss of feeling below his knee in his left leg. He was placed on Temporary Total disability. In completion of the 104 weeks of collecting benefits, he was still unable to return to work and had not reached complete medical improvement. He petitioned the courts for either further temporary disability or permanent total disability. The judge denied permanent disability because there was not enough evidence to prove that Westphal would be permanently disabled after he reached complete medical improvement. The solution of the court was to extend the length of time to receive benefits for temporary permanent disability from 104 weeks to 260 weeks.