Google’s Most Asked Questions about Employment Law, Part 3

Jan 17 2021

How does the Supreme Court Case Bostock v. Clayton County impact employment law?

In Bostock, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the language in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits employment discrimination “because of [an] individual’s . . . sex” prohibits not only discrimination because an employee is male or female, but also necessarily prohibits discrimination because an employee is gay, lesbian, or transgender.

Before Bostock, employees in nearly 30 states could be legally fired for being LGBTQ. After Bostock, Title VII effectively prohibits employment discrimination against LGBTQ people – at least those who work for any government agency or any private employer with 15 or more employees.

Bostock had a number of other important consequences, such as clarifying the meaning of Title VII’s “because of” standard. I wrote about those consequences – which are important for employees in states like Connecticut that already prohibited employment discrimination against LGBTQ people – here.

What is Connecticut’s non-compete law?

With limited exceptions, Connecticut does not have one “non-compete law,” insofar as “non-compete law” means a statute passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. (One notable exception is the 2016 law that regulates non-competes involving physicians.) Rather, in Connecticut, the enforceability of covenants not to compete and other restrictive covenants is almost entirely governed by the so-called “common law,” which is another name for case law or judicial precedent. Judges decide individual disputes as they come, and the totality of those decisions inform whether non-competes are enforceable. For more information on Connecticut non-competes, click here.

How can employees navigate non-compete agreements that have already been signed?

That’s a good subject to discuss with an employee rights lawyer. Non-competes are generally a matter of state law (rather than federal law), which means that an employee should start by consulting a lawyer who is admitted to practice in the state where the employee works. (The non-compete is usually governed by the law of the state where the employee works, although the non-compete might have a choice of law provision incorporating the law of another state, such as the state where the employer is headquartered.) The mere fact that an employee has signed a non-compete does not mean that the employee has no options. Many non-competes are overbroad, unenforceable, or otherwise subject to challenge or negotiation.

How does severance pay work?

In general, there is no legal entitlement to severance pay. (In other words, there is no law that requires an employer to pay severance to terminated employees.) That means that employers pay severance either because they are required to do so by a contract (usually, the employment agreement) or – more commonly – because they think there is a good reason to do so. If the former, then the contract dictates how the severance pay works. (For example, it might provide for a lump sum payment or for salary continuation for a certain number of weeks or months.) If the latter – if the severance is being paid pursuant to a separation agreement – then it is that agreement that dictates the terms of the pay. For more on separation agreements, click here and here.

Do I have rights if my former employer denied my unemployment claim?

Strictly speaking, a former employer cannot “deny” an unemployment claim, because employees do not make claims for unemployment to their former employers; rather, they make them to the Connecticut Department of Labor – or to the unemployment agency in whatever state they were employed. As to what to do if an unemployment claim is initially denied, the answer is that there is a right to appeal. For information on how to appeal an unemployment denial from the Connecticut Department of Labor, click here. And be sure to pay attention to the deadlines, because they are generally very fast (often 21 days).

Is it against the law to not pay employees overtime?

If the employees are entitled to be paid overtime, then yes. Whether or not an employee is entitled to overtime is a product of how that employee is paid and what that employee does. For an employee to be “exempt” from the requirement to be paid overtime (of 1.5 times their normal hourly rate) under federal or Connecticut law, the employee: (1) must be paid on a salary basis (meaning they earn the same amount every week, regardless of how much they work); and (2) must perform certain specified work functions, such as managing two or more subordinate employees. For more information about this complicated issue, click here.

What is the overtime law for salaried employees?

Many employees believe that, if you earn a salary, you’re never entitled to be paid for overtime. That is incorrect. Whether an employee is entitled to be paid for overtime is a function of two factors: (1) whether the employee is salaried; and (2) what the employee actually does for work. If an employee’s job duties do not render him “exempt” under the overtime laws, then he is entitled to an overtime premium for all hours worked over 40 in a week, and that is true even if the employee is paid a fixed salary. In other words, just because you receive a salary doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t entitled to overtime pay.

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