A California employment dispute can teach you a few things about labor laws and how to avoid unnecessary lawsuits. Here's the scoop.
According to The Washington Free Beacon, Madalyn Garcia, a housekeeper and cook employed by a wealthy couple that manages their household expenses through their company Elan Household, LLC, was fired shortly after she requested 12 weeks of maternity leave in April 2012. The report states her employer Laura Baxter-Simons was hostile about the request and only consented to six weeks of maternity leave, even though California law allows employees to take up to four months of maternity leave.
Things started to spiral from there. The report notes that Garcia was fired in August 2012, so she leveled a complaint against her employer, alleging…
- She was terminated for exercising her right to take maternity leave.
- She was denied mandatory rest and lunch breaks.
- She regularly worked more than eight hours a day without being paid overtime.
The conflict was resolved through arbitration, per their employment contract. Even though the exact details of the resolution are sealed away, the case does demonstrate how important it is to know the labor laws where you live, whether you own your own cleaning business or you are a cleaning employee.
Follow the Labor Laws of the Land
If you're an employer, it's important to understand some of the key labor laws to ensure you stay on the right side of them. Violating your cleaning employees' rights could result in time-consuming and expensive lawsuits.
And if you're an employee, it never hurts to know what benefits and time off you're entitled to. Here are some basic laws to keep in mind:
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) dictates the rules governing overtime pay and minimum wage.
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers with 50 or more employees to give up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-secure leave to employees for birth, adoption, or family illness. Each state may have their own regulations to supplement this law (e.g., California's Pregnancy Disability Leave [PDF] only requires an employer to have five employees in order for a worker to take four months of maternity leave).
- Workers' Compensation laws vary by state, but most have them on the books. Essentially, if you have employees, they are usually entitled to Workers' Compensation Insurance benefits. Find your state's laws in the guide on the Insureon main site.
To learn more about federal labor regulations, check out the Department of Labor's summary of major labor laws.
Keep in mind that violating any of these laws may result in fines levied against your cleaning business, and you may owe overtime and other benefits to your employees.
If you're an independent cleaning contractor, though, these employment protections usually don't apply to you. You are your own boss, so your client has no obligation to secure your position if you leave to take care of your family or to give birth. You can learn more about that in this Human Resource Executive Online article.
However, be sure that you are actually a contractor. Some businesses may misclassify workers as independent contractors when they are actually employees who are entitled to all these employment benefits and more. Learn more about how to distinguish between an employee and an independent contractor in "What Every Cleaning Business Can Learn from this Startup."