THE IMPORTANCE OF HIRING A BUSINESS ATTORNEY
October 2nd, 2019 | Kevin M. Walsh, Jr.
It’s important to have an attorney and a law firm you can trust when a legal matter arises.
“On the business side, something as seemingly innocuous as a punctuation mark can mean the difference between winning or losing a case,” says HKQ Attorney Kevin M. Walsh, Jr. In the case of O'Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy that involved a lawsuit about overtime pay for delivery drivers, the plaintiff drivers’ duties involved the distribution of perishable foods, including milk, dairy, and other products to Oakhurst Dairy’s customers.
Under the state’s law, “An employer may not require an employee to work more than 40 hours in any one week unless 1-1/2 times the regular hourly rate is paid for all hours actually worked in excess of 40 hours in that week.” There are, however, a number of exemptions in the statute. Under one of those exemptions, the overtime provision does not apply to:
“The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:
(1) Agricultural produce;
(2) Meat and fish products; and
(3) Perishable foods.”
The dispute between the parties revolved around whether “packing for shipment or distribution” referred to one activity or two separate activities. The plaintiff’s attorney noted that “packing” set off a new item but “distribution” did not because all other items were gerunds. (Words ending in “ing”.) This argument, coupled with the lack of a comma after “or”, led the 1st Circuit Court to conclude that phrase in question referred to one activity. Since the drivers “distributed” but did not “pack”, they did not fall under the exemption. So, they were entitled to overtime pay. Oakhurst Dairy agreed to a $5 million settlement.
Every area of the law abounds with issues which require specialized knowledge of the law and of the court system. Without that knowledge, one can get lost in a maze of complex procedures and arcane legal terms. Prudence dictates that individuals should not represent themselves except in relatively minor civil matters involving relatively small sums of money.
Complexity of Business Law
A business owner has to take care of multiple tasks. Dealing with legal issues can be one of the most challenging tasks. As we have discussed, “minor” errors in legal documents can lead to major problems. Contracts are but one example of something simple leading to complications.
Interpreting and complying with government laws and regulations present challenges for businesses. Take for example the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Its complexity is illustrated in workplace issues involving drugs and alcohol. An employer has the absolute right to fire an employee for using either substance on the job. However, the ADA does provide protection for those addicted to drugs and alcohol provided these individuals meet certain conditions. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) can also be a source of confusion.
Reading laws can leave businesses with more questions than answers. For example, do pre-offer drug tests to determine the use of illegal drugs violate the ADA? What constitutes an “equivalent position” for an employee returning from leave? When planning layoffs, what considerations do you need to take in to account for employees over the age of 40? What are the consequences of misclassifying employees as independent contractors?
Fortunately, HKQ Law can answer these and other important questions. Our Business Law Team has decades of demonstrated experience in areas such as banking and finance, creditor's rights, commercial litigation, corporate law, employment law, labor law, property tax assessment appeals, real estate, zoning and land use, and telecommunications.