Employment law describes a broad range of legal issues associated with employees, employers, and safety conditions in the workplace. Such laws are intended to protect all of those who are part of the workforce, including:
- Establishing protection for employees in workplace disputes;
- Ensuring that businesses do not discriminate against prospective job candidates or current employees during the interviewing, hiring, promoting, or terminating process;
- Granting specific rights to those who are self-employed, or who are considered to be independent contractors; and
- Ensuring that volunteers and interns do not experience sexual harassment, discrimination in the workplace, or retaliation in the workplace.
It is important to note that employment laws can vary widely by jurisdiction. Additionally, some issues may be governed by both state and federal employment laws, such as pregnancy leave.
Employees enjoy a number of legal rights, such as:
- The right to privacy;
- The right to be free from discrimination and workplace harassment; and
- The right to fair compensation.
Many of the rights that are provided by employment laws address the well-being and safety of employee conditions in the workplace. An example of this would be how the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) is responsible for enforcing laws and policies that protect employees from dangerous conditions and unsafe work environments.
Employees may also be entitled to leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). However, in order for this Act to apply, the employer must be a covered employer.
If an employee suffers an injury at work, they may be entitled to worker’s compensation benefits. Additionally, employees may be entitled to other benefits or may be able to seek different remedies for such issues if they are members of a labor union.
Employees may have other legal rights that are provided by an employment contract. In such cases, an individual employee may be granted additional legal rights through this document.
What Should I Do If I Am Involved In A Workplace Dispute?
If you are involved in a workplace dispute, you should first review your employee handbook. Employee handbooks generally contain information associated with the company’s policies and procedures, as well as how they apply to various work-related topics.
Some examples of the information generally found in employee handbooks include:
- Sexual harassment policies;
- Alcohol and drug use policies;
- Pay, salaries, and information associated with bonuses and promotions;
- Health, medical, sick leave, and post-employment benefits;
- How and where to file complaints with the company;
- Attendance policies; and
- Professional behavioral expectations.
The purpose of including such policies and procedures within an employee handbook is to protect employees, as well as the employer. All policies should be enforced consistently and above all else should comply with local, state, and federal requirements.
Directly speaking with your employer is generally a quick way in which to resolve a workplace dispute. However, you should contact an employment law attorney if speaking directly to your employer does not produce satisfactory results.
Before taking your concerns to your employer, review all relevant material about the policies and procedures of your company. Additionally, get everything about the situation in writing before voicing your concerns. Summarize the problem, state the facts, and bring your complaint to your employer.
It could help your case if you already have a possible solution or outcome in mind. An example of this would be being moved to a different office area or changing shifts. If you can bring a workable solution to your employer, you have a better chance of quickly resolving the situation. When possible, you should reach an agreeable resolution to the problem before the conversation’s conclusion. If you and your employer cannot agree upon a solution, you should contact an attorney for further guidance.
Employees involved in workplace disputes should bring the following documents when meeting with their employment law attorney:
- Evidence proving that a dispute or violation occurred, such as e-mails, text messages, recordings, videos, or complaints submitted to human resources;
- Financial statements such as pay stubs or timesheets if the dispute is a wage and hour issue;
- Employment documents such as employment contracts, company policies, or an employee handbook;
- Written accounts of what happened during the dispute, or how long the issue occurred, such as documented incidences of sexual harassment in the workplace; and
- A list of witnesses or other workers who saw the dispute occur, or have experienced the workplace issue themselves.
What Are Some Common Hiring, Retention, And Firing Disputes?
Under employment law, the terms “hiring”, “retention”, and “firing” refer to the various stages at which employees interact with their employers. These are generally considered to be the most critical phases of employment in which the most serious legal issues can arise. These phases can be defined in the following ways:
- Hiring: The process of recruiting, interviewing, and offer/acceptance of employment with the company;
- Retention: Efforts at keeping the worker employed with the company. Examples of retention include issuing benefits, wage increases, bonuses, and promotions; and
- Firing: Also referred to as termination, this is the process by which an employee is terminated or released from the company.
Employers are required to adhere to a considerably wide variety of laws during the hiring, retention, and firing phases. Failure to do so can result in legal consequences for the employer.
One of the most common employment law disputes in general would be discrimination. As it has the potential to happen at any stage of employment, discrimination occurs when one employee or group of employees is treated differently from similarly situated employees based on their belonging to a protected class. This includes:
- Nationality; and
- Religion, among other characteristics.
An example of this would be how a company may be found liable for discrimination if they deny someone employment solely based on their religion. Similarly, they can also be found guilty of discrimination if they only retain a certain age of employees, while also firing employees who are above a certain age.
Other examples of hiring, retention, and firing disputes can include:
- Disputes associated with benefits, vacation, and leave time;
- Disputes regarding salaries, wages, and hours;
- Legal disputes involving harassment and hostile work environments, especially if the conditions cause an employee to leave the company;
- Wrongful termination disputes, such as when an employee is fired in retaliation for reporting a violation; and
- Conflicts involving retirement benefits, pensions, and severance packages.
Are There Any Legal Remedies For Hiring, Retention, And Firing Disputes?
Remedies for employment disputes will largely depend on the type of legal issue involved, but generally include a damages award or other actions such as a reinstatement after termination. In cases involving employment discrimination, the worker may need to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) for a remedy.
For salary and wage-related claims, the worker can file with the Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”). For other claims, the worker should file a private lawsuit for damages, especially for breaches of employment contracts.
Do I Need A Lawyer For Help With Hiring, Retention, and Firing Disputes?
State laws can be dramatically different regarding the various requirements for hiring, retention, and firing disputes. You should hire a workplace lawyer if you need any help with an employment issue.
An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific laws, and will represent you in court as needed. Additionally, if you need to file a claim with a government agency, your lawyer can provide guidance for that process.