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Posts Tagged ‘payment’

Keeping A Watchful Eye On The FLSA Storm (And Hurricane Florence Too)

Posted on: September 14th, 2018

By: Brad Adler & Koty Newman

Hurricane season has arrived.  So, what are employers to do if they would like to keep their offices open, but employees do not want to work during the storm in the areas affected by the hurricane?

  1. What Are The Rules On Payment Of Exempt Employees’ Salaries?

Generally, if salaried exempt employees perform any work during the workweek, they must be paid their full salary for that workweek, regardless of the number of hours or days that the employee worked.  Thus, if a salaried exempt employee performs any work during the workweek and decides to evacuate the day or days that the hurricane makes landfall, that employee generally still must be paid his or her full salary for that workweek.

There are exceptions to the general rule, particularly if the employer’s office remains open and the exempt employee misses an entire day, but it is important to talk with your legal counsel before deducting from the employee’s salary in such a situation.

  1. What Are The Rules On Payment Of Non-Exempt Employees?

Generally, hourly employees need only be paid for the hours that they actually work.  Thus, if an hourly employee calls out or decides to skip the day that a hurricane comes to town, the employer does not have to pay the hourly employee for that day.

  1. How Does PTO Come Into Play For Absences Associated With A Hurricane?

If an employee misses work because of a hurricane, the employee can utilize PTO so the absence is paid.  Even if an employee who misses work because of a hurricane doesn’t want to use PTO, an employer can force the use of PTO.  That is particularly significant in dealing with an exempt employee who misses a part of a day.  For instance, if an exempt employee leaves work after working 2 hours, an employer can require the employee to utilize 6 hours of PTO for the remaining hours missed that day.

  1. Can An Employer In North Carolina Require Its Employees To Work Through A Hurricane And Can It Fire An Employee Who Fails To Come Into Work?

Unless there is a federal evacuation order, the legality of requiring an employee to show up to work depends on the state law that applies to the situation.

In North Carolina, aside from the impact on morale, we think it creates a legal risk for an employer to terminate an employee for failing to appear at work if that employee is under an evacuation order in response to an oncoming hurricane.  Although North Carolina is an at-will employment state, an employer may not terminate an employee in North Carolina for a reason that contravenes public policy.  See Coman v. Thomas Mfg. Co., 325 N.C. 172, 175 (1989).  The Court in Coman stated that it is the public policy of North Carolina “that the safety of persons and property on or near the public highways be protected.”  Id. at 176.

In fact, Coman proceeded to state that:

[w]here the public policy providing for the safety of the traveling public is involved, we find it is in the best interest of the state on behalf of its citizens to encourage employees to refrain from violating that public policy at the demand of their employers.  Providing employees with a remedy should they be discharged for refusing to violate this public policy supplies that encouragement.

Id. Thus, because requiring employees to show up to work during a hurricane while an evacuation order is in effect could necessarily involve them driving unsafely on the roads, depending on the situation, an employer could be subject to a wrongful termination suit for terminating employees who refuse to appear at work during the hurricane.  Although the plaintiff in Coman was a truck driver, the case still provides a basis for a disgruntled employee to sue his/her employer if the employer chooses to terminate the employee for his/her absence at work during an evacuation order.

Moreover, apart from the safety of the roads, in dealing specifically with mandatory evacuation orders, the power of counties, municipalities, and the governor to issue voluntary and mandatory evacuation orders appears in North Carolina General Statutes §§ 166A-19.30 and 166A-19.31.  The refusal to obey a mandatory evacuation order is a Class 2 misdemeanor in North Carolina.  See N.C.G.S. § 14-288.20A.  Consequently, requiring an employee to come in to work when that employee is under a mandatory evacuation order is requiring the employee to break the law as it appears in the North Carolina General Statutes, and, thus, very likely violate public policy.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Brad Adler at [email protected] or Koty Newman at [email protected].

Amendments To Pennsylvania’s CASPA Will Change The Landscape Of Payment Disputes

Posted on: August 3rd, 2018

By: Jonathan Romvary

Anyone who has ever done any amount of work as a contractor or who has represented them in collections cases has learned from hard experience that it can be all but impossible to get paid for one’s work. In Pennsylvania, the Contractor and Subcontractor Act (CASPA) was introduced in 1994 as a complement to the Pennsylvania Mechanic’s Lien Law and was intended to provide contractors (and subcontractors) with additional remedies against those owners/contractors withholding payment for their services. However, the landscape of these payment disputes is likely to significantly change as a result of recent legislation.

Last year, a Pennsylvania state representative introduced a bill, which sought to substantially amend the act and for the first time since 1994, provide further protections for contractors against those withholding funds for the work. That bill has languished in the House Commerce Committee since last year. Nonetheless, a similar bill amending CASPA was referred to the state senate and in June 2018, Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill into law as Act 27. Amongst the numerous amendments to CASPA, Act 27 now provides:

  • If an owner fails to adhere to the terms or withholds payment, contractors and subcontractors may stop performance of the work (subject to contractual limits);
  • There is no permissible waiver of any provision of CASPA;
  • Failure to provide the contractor with a 14 day written notice of a deficiency results in a waiver of the right to withhold payment for the deficiency and requires full payment of the invoice;
  • If a party alleges an invoice contains an error, that party must pay the correct amount on the date payment would otherwise be due otherwise it will be an improper withholding; and,
  • Withholding retention for longer than 30 days after final acceptance of the work generally qualifies as improper withholding.

These new changes are scheduled to take effect on October 10.

Without question, these changes increase the negotiation power of contractors and subcontractors, however, more importantly, the changes reinforce the need for owners and contractors to maintain clear payment records as only clear payment records will provide owners and contractors a sufficient defense in any payment dispute. Owners, contractors and subcontractors involved in payment disputes need to be aware of their respective obligations and rights.

Anyone in the construction industry that has questions about these amendments and how they may affect their business or current projects, please contact Jonathan Romvary at [email protected].

Pay-When-Paid Clauses: A Cautionary Tale

Posted on: March 28th, 2018

By: Jake Carroll

With the recent surge of construction projects in Georgia, the memories of owner and developer bankruptcies following the 2008 financial crisis may have grown dim. Nevertheless, material suppliers and subcontractors must remember that when the pace slows down, their contracts could leave them without remedy or recourse to seek payment.

One of the most common issues in construction disputes is whether a general contractor is obligated to pay its subcontractor before the general contractor has received payment from the owner for the work. Most construction subcontracts address this problem and attempt to make the owner’s payment to the general contractor a condition precedent to the general contractor’s obligation to pay the subcontractor. Typically, these clauses are known as “pay when paid” clauses because they condition the general contractor’s obligation to pay the subcontractor upon receipt of payment by the owner.

Georgia appears to adhere to the rule that if the contract makes payments from the owner a condition precedent to the general contractor’s obligation to pay, then the general contractor’s obligation never arises if the owner becomes insolvent and never makes a payment. See Vratsinas Constr. Co. v. Triad Drywall, LLC, 739 S.E.2d 493 (Ga. Ct. App. 2013). Thus, if an owner fails to pay a general contractor due to the owner’s bankruptcy, the subcontractor also remains unpaid. What’s more, the provisions of the automatic stay in Bankruptcy cases may prevent the subcontractor from claiming or enforcing its rights under Georgia’s mechanic lien statutes—depending on the specific circumstances of the Project. See 11 U.S.C. 362. When combined, these circumstances leave the unpaid subcontractor with limited legal remedies and could lead the subcontractor to consider its own option for relief under the Bankruptcy code.

In order to avoid these potential payment issues, all parties in the construction process should carefully review their contracts for “pay when paid” clauses during the contract negotiation and drafting phase of the Project. And despite subcontractors’ limited bargaining power in modifying the terms of its subcontract, full awareness of the contract terms should allow the subcontractor to mitigate risk on its Projects. For advice on specific language or for questions regarding general construction contract terms and conditions, contact Jake Carroll at [email protected] or any member of the FMG Construction Practice Group.