Employment Law Legal Information
 

OVERVIEW

Employment lawyers can help with all aspects of employment law.  This includes the hiring and termination of employees, workplace injuries, sexual harassment and discrimination issues, and family and medical leave.  There are many aspects in the area of employment law which can be very complex and confusing.  An experienced employment lawyer can help their client understand their rights and obligations in regards to any employment issue.

 

“WHAT RIGHTS DO I HAVE IN THE WORKPLACE?”

All employees have basic rights in the workplace.  These rights are protected by federal and state laws.  Employee rights can vary from state to state based on state laws but every employee is entitled to protection under federal laws.  These rights include the:

  1. Right to privacy
  2. Right to fair wages and compensation for the work performed
  3. Right to freedom from discrimination
  4. Right to a safe workplace
  5. Right to be free from retaliation for filing a claim against your employer (aka. whistleblower rights)

 

“HOW ARE MY RIGHTS PROTECTED BY FEDERAL LAWS?”

There are several federal laws that are related to employment.  These laws are designed to protect the rights of employees.  If you feel that any of your employee rights have been violated you should seek the advice of a lawyer who specializes in employee rights.  Here is summary of the federal laws regarding employment.

  1. Title VII:  prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees (including during the hiring process) for any reason based on a person’s race, color, sex, religion, or national origin.  This law applies to companies with more than 15 employees.
  2. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):  defines what a disability is and prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.  Outlines how employers can accommodate employees with disabilities.
  3. Age Discrimination in Employment Act:  prevents employers from giving preferential treatment to younger employees to the detriment of older employees.  This act applies to employees over the age of 40 and businesses with more than 20 employees.
  4. Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA):  protects employees from losing their health care under a group coverage plan after then have left their job (voluntarily or involuntarily).  This act applies to companies with more than 20 employees.
  5. Equal Pay Act:  requires employers to give equal pay for equal work in regards to male and female employees.  This act does not address pay based on other characteristics such as race or age.
  6. Fair Labor Standards Act:  outlines the duration of work days and the breaks that an employer must provide for their employees.
  7. Employee Retirement Income Security Act:  details that certain employers must offer their employees a welfare benefit plan (health care) or a retirement plan.
  8. Family and Medical Leave Act:  allows an employee to keep their job while they are allowed up to a 12 week leave of absence for certain medical or family reasons.  The employee must have worked for the company for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours preceding the leave of absence.  This act applies to employers with at least 50 employees.


 

“HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE BEEN WRONGFULLY TERMINATED?”

Wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired or laid off for unlawful reasons.  In the eyes of the law, there are severe illegal reasons you can be terminated.

  1. Firing that violates a federal or state law
  2. Firing that takes the form of sexual harassment
  3. Firing that violates oral or written employment agreements
  4. Firing in violation of labor laws, including collective bargaining laws
  5. Firing in retaliation for an employee having filed a complaint against the employer

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated you should seek the advice of an employee rights lawyer.  Wrongful termination cases may force employers to pay punitive damages (a fine for violating the law) or pay an employee for lost income and expenses resulting from the termination.

 

“WHAT IS SEVERANCE PAY AND AM I ENTITLED TO IT IF I AM FIRED?”

Severance pay is money provided to an employee by their employer after they have been laid off, through no fault of their own.  Severance pay usually lasts for a few months after an employee has been terminated.  No law requires a company to offer severance pay to their employees.  However, if the employer promised severance pay in a written contract, oral promise, through their employee handbook, or if they have a policy of paying severance, you may be entitled to receive severance pay after you have left your job.

You may also be able to negotiate a severance package with your former employer in exchange for dismissal of legal claims against the company.  If you feel you are entitled to severance pay that you are not receiving you should consult with an employee rights lawyer.


 

“WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS DURING THE HIRING PROCESS?”

There are specific rights that employees have specifically during the hiring process.  An employee has the right not to be discriminated against based on race, gender, age, nationality, pregnancy, disability, and religion.  Employers must abide by anti-discrimination laws at every stage of the hiring process, including placing job ads, interviewing, and final selection of employees.  In addition, an employer is generally not allowed to ask questions during the interview process that relate to the areas that are protected by anti-discrimination laws.

 

“WHAT EXACTLY IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE?”

In the eyes of the law, sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment."

There are two different types of sexual harassment in the workplace:

  1. Quid Pro Quo:  occurs when a person in an authority position requests sex, or a sexual relationship, in exchange for not firing or otherwise punishing the employee, or in exchange for favors, such as promotions or raises.
  2. Hostile Work Environment:  occurs through the presence of demeaning or sexual photographs, jokes, or threats. The inappropriate behavior or conduct must be pervasive enough to, as the name implies, create an intimidating and offensive work environment.

If you feel you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace you should get the advice of an experienced employee rights lawyer.  Sexual harassment chargers are very serious for everyone involved and should be sought only under the guidance of a lawyer.

 

“WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS IN REGARDS TO WAGE LAWS?”

Federal and state laws detail the minimum wage that each employee is entitled to, who may receive overtime pay, and other details related to employee wages.  Wage laws are meant to protect employees and ensure they are paid fairly for the amount of work they do.  Common violations by employers include:

  1. Not paying the correct minimum wage
  2. Not paying for overtime
  3. Making employees work “off the clock” without pay
  4. Deducting too much of their salary to account for cash tips
  5. Deducting for wages paid in goods, such as meals or food

 

“WHAT HAPPENS IF I NEED TO TAKE TIME OFF OF WORK FOR PERSONAL OR MEDICAL REASONS?”

The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law designed to protect employees who need to take time off work in order to handle family matters or medical needs.  This act allows and employee to keep their job while they are allowed up to a 12 week leave of absence for certain medical or family reasons.  Upon returning from the leave of absence, the employee should still hold the same job they had when they left.  The employee must have worked for the company for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours preceding the leave of absence.  This act applies to employers with at least 50 employees.

If an employee is eligible, they may take leave for:

  1. Birth, adoption, or placement of a child
  2. Care for a spouse, parent, or child, who has a serious health condition
  3. To handle their own serious health condition which does not allow them to work

If possible an employee may be required to provide advanced notice of a leave or absence.  Also, an employer must maintain the employee’s current health care coverage as if they were continuing to work.

 

PAYMENT

In general employment lawyers will charge an hourly fee based on their experience and the location for their practice.  Some lawyers may also require a retainer fee.  This is a fee paid up front, which goes into an account that your lawyer will deduct from, based on the amount of time they work on your case.

Some employee rights lawyers may charge contingency fees if they believe a large settlement may result from the case.  When a lawyer charges a contingency fee they receive a percentage, usually a third, of the settlement at the end of the case.