How to Handle Disputes in the Workplace?

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

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, there can be times when it is hard to approach them. This is often the case if you have a dispute with an employee whose position is superior to yours, such as your boss.

Read the Employee Handbook

The first thing you should do is review your employee handbook to see what the company’s policies are on handling disputes, among other topics. Employee handbooks typically contain information on the company’s policies and procedures and how they apply to various work-related issues.

Information typically found in employee handbooks includes:

  • How and where to file complaints
  • Policies concerning pay, salaries, and bonuses
  • Attendance policies
  • Health, medical, sick leave, and post-employment benefits
  • Expectations concerning professional behavior
  • Policies concerning sexual harassment
  • Policies concerning alcohol and drug use

Developing an employee handbook that covers these and other policies is intended to protect both the employee and the employer. At least theoretically, there should be fewer disputes, because due to the expressly stated policies and procedures within an employee handbook, all parties know what the rules are.

How to Speak with Your Employer About the Workplace Dispute?

Many times, directly speaking with your employer is the fastest way to resolve workplace dispute cases.

It’s a good idea to write down all the details about the situation so that when you talk to your employer you will remember everything. Summarize the problem. Include details about the date or dates the misconduct or error occurred, and the names of all people who were involved or who were witnesses.

It will help if you already have a possible solution or outcome to your employment dispute in mind – for example, being moved to a different office area or changing shifts so you do not run into somebody with whom you are having a dispute. If you can 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 conversation’s conclusion. If you and your employer cannot agree upon a solution, you may want to contact an attorney for further guidance.

How to Respond to Disciplinary Actions?

It is much better for anyone on the receiving end of disciplinary action to respond rather than to react. It is understood that you might have a strong reaction to something like a write-up, especially if you feel it is in error. If you want to challenge a disciplinary action against you, do so professionally.

Tell your employer that you disagree with the contents of the write-up. Remain calm, state only facts, and be direct. It may be a good idea to take some time to consider how to address the issue, and you can simply tell your employer that you disagree and then submit a calm, written rebuttal the following day. This is especially a good idea if you are feeling emotional.

Be sure to gather all of the facts and supporting evidence for your case. Check emails, calendars, and anything else that you could use to defend yourself and to 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 part of a performance review, do not let unclear accusations go unchallenged. For instance, if your boss says, “You’re just not trying hard enough,” ask for specific examples. If they cannot provide specifics, record it in your feedback. Asking for details will not only clarify your current situation, it can also help you avoid future complaints.

Provide documentation for any accusations of failing to meet company expectations. Address every point and provide evidence for your side, if possible. Failure to sign a write-up in some companies could lead to more disciplinary action. If you disagree with 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 involve several legal issues. For instance, a wage garnishment case could include issues about child support payments.

Disability and discrimination wage disputes are common and 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. This can be a complicated process, so you should probably contact an attorney for assistance.

If filing a claim with the government does not resolve the issue, you will have to sue your employer in court. If you are unsure of what to do, consult an employment law attorney for guidance.

How to Handle Workplace Disputes Involving Discrimination?

It is against the law to discriminate against employees based on the following characteristics:

  • Race
  • National origin
  • Sex or gender
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Medical conditions such as pregnancy.

These are protected classes under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Based on these characteristics, any employment decisions involving termination, hiring, pay, promotions, etc., based on these characteristics are prohibited. There are both state and federal laws in place to protect workers from discrimination. However, not every company obeys the law.

Moreover, sometimes the law applies differently to small companies. What is considered “small” varies from state to state. For example, California considers a small company excluded from the law if it has fewer than five employees. If you work for a small company, you will need to find out what the law is in your state for your size company.

An employment law attorney will explain your rights and assist you in protecting yourself from workplace discrimination.

What Documents and Questions Should I Bring to My Employment Law Attorney?

Employees who are involved in workplace disputes should bring the following documents when meeting with their employment law attorney:

  • Documents showing that a dispute or violation occurred, including e-mails, text messages, recordings, videos, or complaints submitted to human resources
  • If the dispute is a wage and hour issue, bring financial statements like pay stubs and timesheets
  • Include employment documents like employment contracts, company policies, or an employee handbook
  • Preferably, a written description of what happened during the dispute
  • If sexual harassment or discrimination has happened, get all the information you can on those prior disputes and how they were resolved
  • A list of witnesses who either saw the dispute occur or have experienced a similar workplace issue themselves

It is also good to have a written list of questions to ask your lawyer. This will help make sure that you get all the information you want or need. Discuss your chances of winning the case and the type of remedies available.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Workplace Dispute?

If you are having a workplace dispute, you should contact a local workplace lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney will review your case, advise you of your rights, and assist you in the process of resolving your issue. Your lawyer will also represent your best interests in filing a complaint with the government or in filing a civil lawsuit if that becomes necessary.

You should especially consider hiring a workplace dispute attorney if your employer is a large corporation and has in-house resources to defend themselves. Make sure you have strong representation on your side, too.

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