Category: Civil Matters

Risky Business

When is the last time you reviewed your employee handbook? If you reviewed it, did you consider any recent state and federal developments that impact employment policies? Often, small business owners take a long moment before answering these questions. It is so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day of running a business, that

You don’t have to touch the stove to know that it’s hot!

It’s that monster rearing its ugly head again: employee misclassification. We have discussed this problematic concept before and constantly caution our clients to avoid it at all costs. Studies show that an estimated 3.4 million employees are classified as independent contractors, when they should be reported as employees. In 2009, it was reported that misclassification

Small Business Matters: Eyes Wide “Shut”

We often discuss the dangers of small business owners unwittingly neglecting important matters that can ultimately make or break their businesses. Many business owners have tunnel vision when it comes to driving the bottom line. When this happens, they run the risk of missing an exit and detouring to hazardous terrain. For this week’s tip,

Civic Duty = Work Duty?

For this week’s tip, we are sharing an interesting piece we came across in Crain’s on small business owners giving their employees time off to vote. At the culmination of a highly charged election season in our country, several business owners see the value in encouraging their employees to vote. While Michigan is not one

Separation agreements: Are they really a clean break?

A separation agreement is an important tool companies use when an employee is let go. Typically, in the agreement, a severance pay amount is offered to the employee for a promise to waive all potential claims against your company. This sounds like a great idea- you will never hear from the employee again, right? Not

Dodging the bullets…

Did you know the most common lawsuits filed against small businesses are employment related? Most times these suits center on claims of wrongful termination or discrimination. So, what if anything, can you do to dodge these bullets? The reality is that there is no foolproof plan. There is nothing that will give you an absolute

SMALL Business- BIG Problems

Small business owners often make the mistake of failing to consider employment/ labor laws that apply to their businesses. While there may be some federal and state laws that apply to businesses with a certain number of employees, there are others that apply to ALL: even if you only have ONE. Think: Workers’ Compensation, Independent

Pop Quiz!!!

Last week, we discussed the importance of knowledgeable human resource staff. The primary reason this is so important is because of mounting litigation nationwide. Knowing the law goes a long way in minimizing risk and protecting your business. For this week’s tip, we came across an insightful article about the basics of employment law. The

Square peg in a round hole: undervaluing Human Resources

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in running your business is hiring someone to run Human Resources- that does not KNOW Human Resources. We have seen far too many times owners of closely-held businesses hire a friend or someone a friend recommends that is good with “paperwork” and is “really organized” to handle

It’s here!! The C&G Quarterly!!!

Click HERE to check out this edition of the C&G Quarterly!!! You do not want to miss this issue! Meet our 2016 College Intern Class, catch up on what C&G is doing around town and read up on the latest in Estate Planning, Government Affairs and Employment Matters! See anything of interest in the issue?

Changes to overtime pay…the clock is ticking!!!

We’ve been keeping you updated as the new overtime rules adoption process has evolved. Well, it’s official… December 2016 will bring about major changes concerning overtime pay and exempt employees! Click HERE to read this Fox Business piece on how the rules will affect you! Questions or concerns? Contact C&G today! P: 248-395-3699 E:

Settling into the new normal? “Friending” employees on Social Networking Sites

Let’s face it. Social media is the “new normal”. And while there may be a few of us stubborn mules who have not embraced it, an overwhelming majority of people across many different demographics and generations have. There are so many ways the new normal impacts the workplace. For this week’s “tip”, we are sharing

Interviewing Practices: Mum’s the word!

A number of our small business clients are growing. With growth comes the need to hire more staff. Quite some time ago, we published a tip on interviewing practices- we thought it would be important to recirculate it in light of this growth spike. Take a look below! You may have a pretty good handle

Detroit-based funeral home facing heat for firing transgender employee!

The EEOC recently filed a lawsuit against a Detroit-based funeral home for unlawfully firing a transgender employee on the basis of the funeral homes’ religious beliefs. According to the suit, RG & GR Harris Funeral Home Inc. fired Aimee Stephens, formerly Anthony Stephens, after she announced her decision to present herself and dress as a

Employers: Make your list and check it twice!

Are you prepared for changes to overtime regulations? We’ve been tracking the proposed rule changes for overtime exempt employees concerning “white-collar workers” for quite some time now. As a refresher, the proposed regulations will drastically increase the number of employees entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). It’s a good idea

An eye for an eye: Docking employee pay…

Business Owner: My employee backed our company car into a pole. There is roughly $750 in damage. I am very upset about this- I want to dock his pay for each pay period by $50 until the balance is paid. Is this okay? In Michigan? Generally, the answer is NO! And there is a VERY

Do whistleblowers in Michigan need more protection??

Several laws are now under scrutiny as a result of the Flint Water Crisis. Many people are advocating for the legislature to review and amend some of the state’s most impactful laws. According to this interesting piece we came across, Michigan’s current Whistleblowers’ Protection Act (WPA) needs to be added to the list. Generally, the

Gyrating + butt slapping = hostile work environment!

Take a look at this outrageous case where the 6th Circuit US Court of Appeals upheld a former employee’s hostile work environment claim against his former employer. Jeffrey Smith worked as a support technician for Rock-Tenn Services, Inc. for nearly one year. During this time, Smith and several other male employees experienced same-sex sexual harassment

Playing with fire…Entrepreneurs: Are you running afoul of a non-compete?

Did you recently leave your job to strike out on your own? Have you started a business while you still have a full-time job? If you answered yes to either of these questions, it’s time to check your employment paperwork to make sure you are not violating a non-compete agreement. A number of employers routinely

Employment Chronicles: When being a jerk doesn’t work!

While it’s GENERALLY not illegal to be a jerk, it certainly doesn’t pay to be one. There are many ways your disposition can affect your Company’s bottom line. One of the major ways that business owners and managers do not anticipate their ‘approach’ will come back to haunt them is in the event of a

Watch your step! Steer clear from Whistleblower Protection Act violations!

Take a look at this Michigan Court of Appeals case where the court ruled a former employee provided direct evidence to substantiate her Whistleblower’s Protection Act (WPA) claim. Jean Berry worked for nearly two years as a home health care aid for In Your Golden Years, owned by Judith Girardin. When Berry began working in

Will the ‘Shake Shack-Chicken Shack’ clash continue?!?

Remember back in September when we told you about Shake Shack, the New York-based burger and milkshake chain whose application to trademark “Chicken Shack” for a planned sandwich was denied because it too closely resembled Chicken Shack, the Michigan-based restaurant? Well, Shake Shack is back in the news—this time for its new “Chick’n Shack” sandwich!

City of Ferndale announces equal-gender paid parental leave plan!

Take a look at this—the city of Ferndale recently announced a new EQUAL-GENDER paid parental leave plan! Ferndale will now offer full-time employees up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave. Under the new plan, city employees will receive six weeks of paid parental leave and will have the option to take an additional banked

Reverend wants to marry couples WITHOUT a marriage license…

Take a look at this interesting piece we came across where a Detroit minister sued the state for the authority to marry couples WITHOUT a marriage license. Rev. Neil Patrick Carrick wants a federal judge to answer the question of whether the state’s marriage laws make it illegal for clerics to marry couples without a

Legal marijuana on the job!?!

Marijuana use is now permitted in 23 states and Washington DC. While Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington DC permit its recreational use, the other states have legalized marijuana use for medical purposes. However, States that have passed varying marijuana laws haven’t provided much guidance in the employment realm. According to the ABA publication on this


Check out this piece we came across where yet ANOTHER employer improperly classified an employee as an independent contractor! But here’s the catch- the employee was properly classified until he went on medical leave, only to later find out that his classification was changed without his knowledge –resulting in a total loss of his healthcare

Michigan cracking down on UIA fraud

Check out this piece on the state’s upcoming plans to combat unemployment insurance fraud! The Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) recently announced it will pursue nearly 300 open fraud cases involving either employer tax evasion, fictitious business schemes or identity theft. The state will also implement the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (MiDAS), software designed to

Copyright gets personal???

Remember the picture that circled the internet of the stunned and confused Michigan fan after U-M’s recent defeat to Michigan State?? Well to add insult to injury, an Ohio t-shirt company is now using that image to promote Ohio State and profiting off of it! The problem is, the company does NOT have authorization to

Change is coming to overtime exempt employees!!!

Raising the minimum salary for overtime exempt employees has been on the horizon for quite some time. Release of the final updated rules is fast approaching. This is VERY important for business owners! Stay tuned for C&G updates on this all important issue. In the meantime, check this Bloomberg BNA piece out here ! Questions?

Website Disclaimers: Protection from the Foreseen and Unforeseen!

What’s a disclaimer? Generally, a disclaimer is a statement intended to protect from claims or liability. Do I need it? If you currently have or will have a website, then you NEED a disclaimer. A disclaimer on your site helps to reduce legal risks. While disclaimers do not guarantee a defense from liability, you need

Zoning and Religious Freedom collide!

On Monday, the Department of Justice filed suit against Michigan’s Pittsfield Township for violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. The Pittsfield Township Planning Commission denied the Muslim Islamic Academy’s request to build a school on a vacant parcel of land in the township, citing traffic and noise. The DOJ believes

Trademark Wars continue….

Okemos-based Narrow & Wide Inc., a running and athletic apparel retailer that operates as New Balance-Detroit, has sued Detroit-based RunDetroit LLC over use of the name “Run Detroit.” In the lawsuit, New Balance-Detroit claims trademark infringement, false advertising, unfair competition and cybersquatting on the web domain. New Balance-Detroit claims it has rights to the

Employee Training: The best defense is a good offense!

You cannot win ANY game without good defense AND offense. The same goes for your business. This is why you MUST train your staff, not only for their job function but in the areas that commonly give rise to lawsuits! Here’s the Who, What, When, Where, Why: Who? Not only Human Resources staff, but ALL

Responding to Employee Complaints: Go BIG- or you may be going home!

Not taking employee complaints seriously or failing to fully investigate them can lead to a world of trouble. First and foremost: do you have a well-crafted, thorough process in place for investigating complaints? Second and equally as important: do you follow that process consistently? Neither of these are optional! It takes only one mishandled complaint

Shake Shack v. Chicken Shack????

Take a look at this interesting piece we came across! Shake Shack, a New York-based burger and milkshake chain, was denied a recent request to trademark its name because it is too closely related to Chicken Shack, the almost 60-year-old Berkley Michigan-based fried chicken chain restaurant! The U.S. Patent and Trademark office decided that because

Giving Employment References- Do you want to open that can of worms?

If you have been in business long enough, you have had an employee or two leave for one reason or another. When that former employee is trying to get a new job and the potential new employer calls for a reference check, what are you allowed to say? What should you stay away from? Under

Employee Misclassification- it’s bigger than you thought!

Back in January, we posted a “Tip of the Week” explaining the importance of properly classifying workers as independent contractors vs. employees. As we explained before, Michigan courts AND the IRS have developed a very specific test with several factors to determine a worker’s status- despite what a business may have previously decided! Now, the

Documenting employee discipline- it’s as good as the paper it’s written on

Documenting Employee Discipline- it’s as good as the paper it’s written on… When it comes to documenting employee discipline, establishing a clear record of meetings- in addition to incidents- is imperative. Here are some things to think about: a written document after a disciplinary meeting shows proof of what was communicated to an employee and

Employee Discipline: What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!

Employee discipline: What’s good for the goose is good for the gander! It’s great to have impressive disciplinary policies and procedures in place but that won’t mean much if you are applying them in an inconsistent fashion. There’s an old saying that says bad as to one, bad as to all. This could not be

SCOTUS says Abercrombie should not have denied Muslim woman job over head covering!

US Supreme Court rules popular retailer Abercrombie & Fitch discriminated against a young Muslim woman when they did not hire her because she wore a hijab in observance of her religion! This should be a wake up call for business owners concerning their hiring practices! Check out this CNN piece on the case below! Click

Hiring Practices: Mum’s the Word!

You may have a pretty good handle on your employment practices- but did you know that you’re on the hook for actions that you take during the application process? Specifically, did you know that you can have suit brought against you for claims of discriminatory actions in your hiring process? Such is the case even

The enforceability issue rears its ugly head again!!

This recent case involves a dispute over the enforcement of a restrictive covenant in an employment agreement between an ophthalmology practice and one of the doctors it formerly employed. The agreement contained two clauses that were at issue- one that prohibited its assignment (handing off obligations and rights of a contract to another party) and

Pastor escapes liability due to Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine!!!

Pastor escapes civil liability due to Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine! This doctrine allows churches to make certain decisions that are protected from review by the court system. It was triggered in this recent Michigan Court of Appeals case. Amid implications of impropriety, a church’s board of trustees voted to suspend their pastor from the pulpit with

Settlement agreements are great…when they are enforceable!!!

Take a look at this Michigan Court of Appeals case where the court found an alleged settlement agreement between a former employee and employer was unenforceable because there was no signed writing showing assent to the agreement. The former employer attempted to enforce a non-compete clause, along with other provisions in the settlement agreement, against

Arbitration: The Road MORE or LESS traveled?

A lot of companies have employees and contractors sign arbitration clauses so that in the event of a dispute, the matter is not handled in the courts. Arbitration is a form of private dispute resolution, which provides parties to a controversy with a choice other than litigation. Arbitration can be voluntary or mandatory. There are

Potential employee misclassification rears its ugly head again!!

Back in January, we published a “Tip of the Week” explaining the importance of properly classifying workers as independent contractors vs. employees. As we explained, Michigan courts (along with the IRS) have developed a very specific test with several factors to determine Contractor v. Employee status. Take a look at this recent U.S. Court of

At-Will Employment: Practice what you preach!

C&G’s Tip of the week: At-Will employment- Practice what you preach!!! “For Cause” trumps at-will status A lot of people already know that Michigan is an “at-will” state. The problem is that not everyone truly understands what “at-will” employment is and more importantly how employment handbooks, contracts and policies must be uniformly and accurately drafted

House Bill would ban noncompete agreements in Michigan!

March 23rd’s tip of-the-week discussed how tricky noncompete clauses can be. Check out this article about a newly proposed House Bill that if approved, would ban all noncompete agreements between employers and employees in the state of Michigan. Wow! Click here to read the article! ‪ *Please be sure to read the disclaimer section on

Living VICARIOUSLY through others…literally!

Living VICARIOUSLY through others…literally! You CAN be liable for the actions of your employees- no matter what type of business you own! Whether you have a restaurant, cleaning service, sell life insurance or offer financial advice…your employees can expose you to liability under the legal theory of “Respondeat Superior” or VICARIOUS LIABILITY! The Latin term

Court of Appeals speaks in Cavazos v. Co-Gab Enters. Inc. – no discrimination!

Take a look at this recent Michigan Court of Appeals ruling, where the court rules in favor of the employer in a discrimination case. Here, the terminated employee sued his employer, alleging he was fired because of his Hispanic heritage.The court held that the employee failed to prove that his firing was based on discrimination

You only need an employment law attorney when an employee sues…right? – WRONG!!!!!

You only need an employment law attorney when an employee sues…right? – WRONG!!!!! And while business owners may recognize this fact, a number of them still do not know how to determine if and when they need to seek counsel from an attorney. A lot of savvy business owners choose to handle a number of

New Michigan Law allows for more leniency on businesses to hire parolees!

New Michigan Law allows for more leniency on businesses to hire parolees! Click here to view the story! Back in December 2014, Governor Snyder signed legislation to help better connect parolees with employment prospects, in efforts to reduce the chance that they will return to prison. The law became effective January 1, 2015. House Bills

Support pig ejected from plane before takeoff- okay with the ADA?

Click here for the story!!

Aldi’s seemingly sketchy reason for employee’s termination not enough to show retaliation

State Bar of Michigan E-Journal #58000 Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished) Snider v. Aldi Inc. The court held that the plaintiff-employee failed to present documentary evidence sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the defendant-employer terminated her employment in retaliation for seeking benefits or exercising rights under the WDCA. She

Home Healthcare Company may be on the hook for failing to monitor decedent’s blood sugar- even though it was not in the contract!

State Bar of Michigan E-Journal Number #58027 Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished) Estate of Richard v. Compassionate Care Home Health Serv. The court held that the trial court erred in granting summary disposition for the defendant-in-home care provider in the plaintiff-estate’s negligence claim. Defendant was hired to provide in-home care for plaintiff’s decedent, including monitoring

Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals remands case back to District Court: Did Employer’s drug-testing policy violate the ADA?

State Bar of Michigan E-Journal #57944 Bates v. Dura Auto. Sys., Inc. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that: “the district court erred by concluding as a matter of law that the defendant-employer’s (Dura) drug-testing protocol constituted either a “medical examination” or a “disability inquiry” under the ADA. The protocol

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