We spend more time at work than doing anything else, including sleeping (unless you are sleeping on the job). So, odds are, at some point, you will have some sort of employment law issue. That might be related to discrimination, harassment, your wages, or even not getting your final paycheck when you leave an employer. All of these have consequences for your employer.
Whether you work for Nike, or Intel, or SolarWorld, or the hundreds of small businesses in Washington County, many have attorneys to help the employers navigate the laws. You too should have someone on your side.
Since we spend so much time at work, we tend to feel invested in where we work and the work we do. So, there is no worse feeling than being judged on how you look or who you are, instead of on your work product. That is, you are judged based on being a woman or gay, and not on the fact that you are the top sales person.
This is where over the last 50 years or so, the federal government and the states have slowly enacted laws and rules to protect employers from this type of judgment, which is discrimination. The key to all of these laws is basically that the reason for being treated differently has to relate to you being within what we call a protected class.
Everyone is in at least one protected class, and usually any many. Protected classes include: race, gender, age, family status, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, national origin, disability, amongst others.
This means, your employer cannot treat you differently or fire you because you are black, or a lesbian, or Muslim, or white, or pregnant. If they do, they are likely violated both Oregon and federal laws, and many of those laws allow for the recovery of attorney’s fees, meaning you can often go after your employer without having to pay your attorney unless you win.
However, employment is still at-will, and employers do not always follow the law. That means, they could still fire you and hope you do not exercise your rights. And even if they do not fire you, raising the issue of discrimination at work can lead to a very uncomfortable time at work.
Lastly, again, employment is at-will. So, an employer can still fire you for any other reason that is not illegal, or even for no reason. As such, you can still be fired for doing something illegal, doing something stupid, doing nothing, or even because you like to watch soccer. And if they do fire you, your boss does not have to tell you why, nor do they have to give it to you in writing. But, you can request your employee file.
Generally speaking, an employer must pay you 1.5 times your normal hourly rate if you work more than 40 hours in a week. A few industries require it if it is more than 8 hours in a day, but few people work in those industries. Plus, if you are a salaried and exempt worker, then there is no overtime. Determining if you are exempt though, is a complicated matter.
Most employers are very cautious about paying all overtime wages, as they know the penalties can be severe. What many employers do not know, is they are also often times responsible for paying for overtime when an employee works of the clock. Basically, if the employer receives a benefit, then they have to pay for it as well.
That said, companies are not required to pay special rates for work on holidays or for the night shift or any other sort of differential. Those are not required by law, but may be part of your employment contract or collective bargaining agreement (CBA) if you are in a union.
Harassment happens everywhere. Sometimes it is illegal, sometimes it is just part of life. But when it occurs at work, it is one of the worse feelings, since you feel trapped. Do you risk your job to complain or suck it up?
The most common workplace harassment is the one that makes the news, sexual harassment. As they say, sex sells, and headlines with sex sell the papers. From pubic hair on cans of Coke to more serious instances of sexual assault, sexual harassment is the one form of harassment that is always not allowed at work.
Now, the problem with sexual harassment is often times in the proof and lack of evidence. When you have witnesses, this makes it easy, but far too often the wrongful acts occur behind closed doors.
The other issue then becomes what constitutes sexual harassment. If a boss or supervisor touches you or forces you to touch them or do things with them, this is clearly sexual harassment, and possibly a crime. The bigger fight is over situations where you are dealing with comments, such as a hostile work environment where topics of a sexual nature are discussed. That becomes a gray area.
Other Common Issues:
Regular Pay Periods
Wage & Hour Complaints
Meal & Rest Period Violations
That all said, keep in mind employment law cases are notoriously difficult to win. The verdicts are also all over the place, so it is difficult to really know how much such a case is worth.
The above employment law issues are only a few of the wide-range of issues that can come up in the employment setting. Many of your rights are outlined on the posters most employers post in the break room, so it behooves you to carefully read those so you know your rights. Then call Stevens & Legal if you think your employer violated one of those rights.
Prior Lawsuits Filed: