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What Should I Do When I Am Involved in a Workplace Dispute?

When an employee is having problems with the wages they receive, workplace discrimination, or disciplinary actions that they feel are unfair and may affect their employment, it can be difficult to know where to go for answers. However, there may be a number of different places where they may be able to find advice on how to handle the situation and what their rights are.

Read the Employee Handbook

Employee handbooks are often the written compilation of a company's policies on a wide variety of work-related topics. These handbooks normally provide useful information about:

  • Pay, salaries and bonus programs
  • Health, medical and post-employment benefits
  • Sexual harassment policies
  • Drug and alcohol use and abuse policies
  • Disciplinary policies and procedures
  • Where to file complaints
  • Attendance policies

Speak with Your Employer about the Workplace Dispute

A good way to resolve a workplace dispute is to talk with your employer about the problem. However, before you talk to your employer, you should read all the relevant written policy material before talking with your employer. Additionally, you should summarize the problem in writing before discussing it with your employer. Be certain to focus only on the facts of your problem, and not the angry emotions. Furthermore, before finishing the conversation, try to agree with your employer on what will be done to resolve the problem.

Responding to Disciplinary Actions

Employers should have policies for disciplinary actions in the employee handbook. If you believe you have been disciplined without reason, you can take a number of precautions:

  • Conduct - The employee handbook lists the activities or conduct for which the employee will be disciplined. Often, the handbook states that the employer reserves the right to terminate the employment for reasons not included on the list. If the policy or handbook seems unclear, discuss this with your supervisor.
  • Procedures - The policy should also clearly state the procedures for discipline (For example: first offense: a warning; second offense: a write up; third offense: termination). The procedure should include who will issue the discipline and when the discipline will be reflected on your employment record.
  • Clarify the File - If you do not agree with the allegations requiring discipline under the handbook or written policy, you may ask to make a written clarification for your file. Be certain to get a copy of the discipline and reasons in writing before you decide to make this clarification.

Workplace Disputes Involving Wages and Overtime Pay

Under federal law, most employees are entitled to a minimum wage for every hour they work. State laws can often require the minimum wage to be higher than the federal minimum wage. Additionally, employers are required to pay their employees 1.5 times the hourly wage for every hour the employee works over 40 in one week. There are some exceptions to these laws, such as for executives, employees working for tips, and emergency safety workers. Generally, however, most employees should receive a minimum wage and appropriate compensation for overtime hours worked.

Workplace Disputes Involving Discrimination 

Federal law and some state laws prohibit an employer from basing employment decisions on certain characteristics. The employment decisions include firing, hiring, promotions, pay, transfers, etc.

The characteristics protected under the federal law, and some state law, include:

  • Race or Color
  • National Origin
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy
  • Some states or cities protect sexual orientation

Do I Need a Workplace Lawyer for My Dispute?

An employment attorney can advise you if you feel that your problem with your employer or a co-worker is not going to be resolved agreeably. Additionally, if you believe you have a discriminated against, an attorney can assist you with the required federal and state filing procedures. If you are an employer, an attorney can help you understand your options and provide guidance on resolving the workplace dispute.

Vea esta página en español: Disputas en el Lugar de Trabajo o visita para más información legal.

Photo of page author Kristen Johnson

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 04-16-2018 11:24 PM PDT

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