An employment lawyer is a trained professional specializing in cases involving employment laws. An employment lawyer might represent employees who allege violations of laws by employers or employers whose current or former employees have sued.
An employment lawyer can also advise employers regarding what local, state, and federal laws require of them concerning their employees and how they can keep their business compliant with all applicable laws and avoid the problems associated with violations.
An employment lawyer can also help negotiate and draft an employment contract on behalf of either the employer or the employee.
The cases handled by an employment lawyer can revolve around legal issues such as the following:
- Disputes between an employer and employee about the terms and conditions of employment, e.g., when the employer should pay their employee overtime pay;
- Disputes between two or more employees, e.g., allegations of harassment of one employee by another;
- Failure of an employer to comply with the many local, state, and federal laws that regulate employment.
Often, an employment lawyer works for a client with a legal claim against an employer. For example, an employee may claim that their employment was wrongfully terminated.
What Are Some Common Employment Issues in the Phoenix Area?
Some common employment issues in Phoenix, Arizona, include the following:
- Employment Contracts: Conduct that breaches an employment contract;
- Illegal Employment Practices: Illegal hiring policies and practices, e.g., practicing discrimination in hiring;
- Wage and Hour Claims: For example, not paying overtime as required by law;
- Disputes over Employment Benefits;
- Employment Discrimination;
- Wrongful Termination Claims;
- Paid Sick Leave: Employees in Phoenix are entitled to paid sick leave by Arizona law.
In some states, an employer must have a valid reason for terminating a person’s employment, e.g., failure to perform job responsibilities competently or excessive unexcused absences. If an employer fires an employee without a valid justification, the employee might file a lawsuit alleging that the termination of their employment was wrongful.
In other states, employment is considered to be at-will unless there is an employment contract that states otherwise. In these states, if an employer fires an employee without good reason or notice, they cannot complain because their employment was at will. Arizona is an at-will employment state.
There are still restrictions on when employers can fire employees, even in an at-will employment state like Arizona. An employer cannot terminate the employment of a worker for the following reasons:
- Discrimination: Both Arizona and federal laws prohibit discrimination in employment that is based on age, sex, race, religion, disability, and national origin. If a person believes that they were fired for discriminatory reasons, they may have a case for wrongful termination;
- Medical Condition: An employer cannot terminate a person’s employment simply because they have developed a medical condition, even if it affects their employment;
- Exercising Legal Rights: Employers cannot terminate a person in retaliation for participating in forming a union, reporting a safety violation to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), or otherwise doing something they have a right to do;
- Performing Required Public Duties: An employer cannot fire an employee if they are required to perform jury duty or some other public service;
- Contract Rights: An employer cannot violate the provisions of an employment contract. If they do, they could be sued for breach of contract and possibly wrongful termination;
- Policy Issues: Policies in an employee manual or handbook can imply a contract between an employer and an employee. If the employer violates their stated policies regarding terminating employment, they can be sued for breach of contract or wrongful termination.
In Arizona, a lawsuit for wrongful termination must be filed within one year of the date on which the termination took place.
When Am I Entitled to Overtime Pay in Arizona?
Arizona does have its own law regarding the payment of overtime. It applies the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the FLSA, non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a workweek. Any hour past 40 hours must be compensated at 1.5 times the employee’s standard wage rate.
Also, an employer is not required to pay overtime because an employee works at night, on weekends, or holidays. And overtime hours can be mandatory. An employer can require employees to work more than 40 hours a week.
Am I Entitled to Paid Time Off in Arizona?
Arizona’s Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act requires paid sick leave for workers in Arizona. There are seven qualifying circumstances where an employee may use the paid sick leave they have earned as follows:
- Seeking preventative medical care for themselves or a family member;
- Going with a family member to a medical appointment;
- Personal physical illness, mental illness, injury, or other health conditions;
- Providing care to a family member who has a physical illness, mental illness, injury, or health condition;
- Seeking a medical diagnosis, medical care, or medical treatment for themselves or a family member;
- A public health emergency;
- An absence related to abuse, sexual violence, domestic violence, or stalking.
Only an employee or a member of the employee’s family may take sick leave for absences related to abuse, sexual violence, domestic violence, or stalking. In addition, the purpose for the absence must be one of the following:
- Seeking medical treatment for a physical injury, psychological injury, or disability caused by abuse, sexual violence, domestic violence, or stalking;
- Participating in programs for victims of domestic or sexual violence or consulting a victim services organization;
- Getting counseling;
- Relocating or taking measures to secure an existing residence;
- Getting legal services related to abuse, sexual violence, domestic violence, or stalking, especially preparing for or participating in civil or criminal proceedings.
How Much Sick Time Am I Entitled to in Phoenix?
The amount of paid sick leave to which an employee is entitled depends on the employer’s size. If a business has 15 or more employees, they must receive at least one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work. The allotment maxes out at 40 hours of paid sick leave per year.
If a business has fewer than 15 employees, the maximum paid sick time that can be earned annually is 24, but it is earned at the same rate, i.e., 1 hour for every 30 hours worked.
What Are Some Remedies in Employment Law Cases?
The remedy that a person may obtain through a complaint involving a violation of employment laws will depend on what kind of remedy the law provides for the wrong committed.
Some common remedies in an employment case involve the following:
- Money Damages: An award of money damages is most often made in a lawsuit for wrongful termination or breach of an employment contract. Or, if an employer has not paid all the wages they owe an employee, in a lawsuit, the employee might recover the full amount of wages to which they are entitled;
- Reinstatement: It is possible that an employee would be reinstated to a position they lost because of prohibited discrimination for the like, but it would probably be the rare case in which an employee would want to return to a workplace in which they were treated unfairly. A person who has been the victim of discrimination might prefer an award of monetary damages;
- Policy Changes: A lawsuit might result in a change of company policies. For example, in Phoenix, if a business has denied its employees the paid sick leave to which they are entitled by Arizona law, the business might adopt a policy that complies with the law and awards employees the sick leave to which the law entitles them.
Many employment disputes, including discrimination, are handled through government agencies such as the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. These agencies may conduct an investigation and prescribe the appropriate remedy as provided by the laws and regulations they enforce.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Phoenix Employment Issues?
If you believe your employer has not complied with any laws that apply to your employment situation, you want to consult a Phoenix employment lawyer. Your lawyer can review your situation and tell you which local, state, or federal law may be involved and what remedies may be available.
If you are an employer and are concerned about complying with the many laws that apply to the terms and conditions of employment, you may wish to consult an experienced Phoenix employment lawyer for advice on how to bring your business into compliance.