If you are involved in a workplace dispute, there are several steps you can take toward seeking a resolution for your situation. While you might be advised to contact your local Human Resources representative, it can be hard to approach them if you are handling a dispute with a higher up employee. If you are feeling unsure of what to do, consult a workplace dispute lawyer for guidance.
Read the Employee Handbook
If you haven’t already, you should review your employee handbook. Employee handbooks typically have a wealth of information on the company’s policies and procedures, and how they apply to various work-related topics. Information typically included in employee handbooks:
- Sexual harassment policies;
- Alcohol and drug use policies;
- Pay, salaries, and any bonus-type information;
- Health, medical, sick leave, and post-employment benefits;
- How and where to file complaints with the company;
- Attendance policies; and/or
- Professional behavioral expectations.
The purpose of including policies and procedures within an employee handbook is to not only protect employees, but also to protect the employer. All should be enforced in a consistent manner, and all should be in compliance with local, state, and federal requirements.
How to Speak with Your Employer About the Workplace Dispute
In many situations, directly speaking with your employer is a quick way to resolve a workplace dispute. In instances that going directly to the employer does not work, contact an employment law attorney.
Before taking your concerns to your employer, be sure to review all relevant material pertaining to the policies and procedures of your company. It is also a good idea to get everything about the situation in writing, prior to voicing your concerns. Summarize the problem, state the facts, and bring your complaint to your employer.
It will help if you already have a possible solution or outcome in mind. Like, being moved to a different area of the office or changing shifts so you do not run into the other person. If you are able to bring a workable solution, instead of just a problem, you have a better chance of quickly resolving the situation.
If possible, try to reach an agreeable resolution to the problem before the conclusion of the conversation. If you and your employer cannot agree upon a resolution, you may want to contact an attorney for further guidance.
How to Respond to Disciplinary Actions
For anyone on the receiving end of a disciplinary action, it is much better to respond rather than react. It is quite easy to have a strong reaction to something like a write-up, especially if you feel it is in error or if it is from information that was taken out of context. If you want to challenge a disciplinary action against you, do so professionally.
When handed a write-up, tell your employer that you disagree with its contents immediately. Remain calm, only state facts, and be direct. It may be possible to discuss the matter on the spot without it going through formal filing. If you are feeling emotional and do not want to discuss it then and there, it is okay to tell your employer that you disagree, and that you will be submitting a rebuttal the following day.
Be sure to gather all of the facts and supporting evidence for your case. Check emails, calendars, and anything else that could support yourself, and demonstrate that you are not at-fault. If possible, find any witnesses who can corroborate your side, and ask them to write a letter of support that will accompany your rebuttal.
If the write-up is in conjunction with a performance review, do not let nebulous comments go without being challenged. For instance, if your boss says “You’re just not trying hard enough,” ask for specific examples. If they are unable to provide specifics, then record it in your feedback. Provide documentation on any accusations of failing to meet company expectations. Address every point, and provide evidence, if possible.
In some companies, failure to sign a write-up could lead to more disciplinary action. If you disagree with a disciplinary action, ask for time for a rebuttal, or sign the document and make a note that your signature does not indicate agreement with its contents.
Workplace Disputes Involving Wages and Overtime Pay
Workplace disputes involving wages and overtime pay may often involve several legal issues. For instance, a wage garnishment case could be tied up with another issue such as child support payments.
Disability and discrimination wage disputes are common, and can also be quite complex. If you have a wage and overtime dispute, you may need to file a claim with the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor. If doing so does not remedy the situation, contact an attorney for assistance.
How to Handle Workplace Disputes Involving Discrimination
It is against federal law to discriminate against employees based on the following characteristics:
- National Origin;
- Sex or gender;
- Disability; and/or
- Medical conditions, such as pregnancy.
These are protected classes under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and any employment decisions that include termination, hiring, pay, promotions, etc., are prohibited. There are many protections for these individuals, in both state and federal law.
However, the law is not always applied and small companies may be excluded from it. But, what is considered “small” varies from state to state, and a state like California says a small company excluded from the law has less than five employees. An employment law attorney will be able to explain your rights, and assist you in protecting yourself from workplace discrimination.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Workplace Dispute?
If you are dealing with a workplace dispute, you should contact a local employment lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney will review your case, advise you of your rights, and will assist you in the process of resolving your case. If necessary, your lawyer will also represent your best interests in a civil lawsuit, if you should choose to file a complaint against your employer.