Unfortunately, harassment in the workplace is not an uncommon situation. While companies are taking steps to improve the situation, there is still a chance that you have been or could be a victim of some sort of harassment. While there are varying types and levels of harassment, many victims have similar reactions and stories.
Any form of harassment has the potential to make a victim feel fearful, uncomfortable while working, or embarrassed. Employees may choose to stay in a work environment where they face sexual harassment because of limited career options, financial reasons, or the perpetrator may even be promising fantastic career advancement opportunities.
Defining the Perpetrator
If you are experiencing harassment in the workplace, it is important to have an understanding of who is at the root of the issue. Sometimes a group of people decide to gang up against one individual, while other times the situation is more hidden and complex. Even a friendly relationship has the potential of crossing the line and becoming a volatile scenario.
Types of Harassment and Signs to Look Out For
Harassment can take on many forms and may involve religion, race, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, and appearance. One of the most common types is sexual harassment. It is important to note that while females make up the majority of sexual harassment victims, men are also known to encounter similar situations. Harassment can happen to anyone, regardless of social class or superiority at the job.
Harassment may include name-calling, offensive photos or videos, intimidation, threats, ridicule, insults, and much more. The effects of workplace harassment can be devastating. Many victims report feelings of isolation, anxiety, fearfulness, and even depression. An employee may be forced to quit their job if the appropriate plan of action is not put in place during the initial stages.
When Should Legal Action Be Pursued?
Before pursuing legal action, there are some steps you should take. Make sure that you have spoken with the perpetrator and asked them to stop. This will make it difficult for them to convince a judge that it was playful banter you both engaged in. Keep physical records of any evidence to show your attorney. It is also a good idea to file a formal complaint with the company.
Contact us if you feel that you may have a case regarding workplace harassment, we would love to help you.
Feature photo by Marc Mueller.
Unemployment provides a safety net for employees who have lost their job so they can continue to pay their bills. It is not meant to be a long-term solution and is designed to give people enough time to be rehired and find a new position. While unemployment benefits can significantly help people who are actively searching for a new role, they are not always granted.
A common misconception is that people who are fired cannot receive unemployment and that it is generally given to people who were laid-off for reasons outside of the former employee’s control. However, this is not always the case. Even if you were fired, there are still times when unemployment can definitely be an option.
When Someone is Fired for Misconduct
In Arizona, companies have the right to fire employees for almost anything. If you were terminated because you were under-qualified or were not the appropriate fit, unemployment benefits will likely not be difficult to obtain. However, if you broke company rules or committed a crime, it is far less likely that unemployment compensation will be an option. This applies to inappropriate behavior even in a worker’s personal life.
Figure Out Your Rights
If you have recently been fired, it is important that you understand your rights so you can take the the correct steps to fix the situation. Ask your former company if they provide severance packages and apply for programs within your state which are put in place to help people who qualify. This will give you peace of mind and allow you to look for a new job within a stable environment.
Educate Yourself on the Basics of Unemployment
The laws surrounding unemployment differ state by state. Most state unemployment programs are bankrolled by employer taxes. How much unemployment you receive and its duration will rely on your previous salary and whether or not the terminated employee has other ways to obtain an income.
Most employment is “at-will,” meaning the employer can fire their employee at any time. But there are some exceptions that can make a firing illegal, as well as other exceptions to at-will rule, that could potentially help you keep your job or even sue for wrongful termination. So what can be considered as wrongful termination? This article will help you identify whether your firing was legal.
Arizona employment laws
Arizona law makes it so that an employer can fire an employee at any time without any notice, although there are a few exceptions to this law:
- If there is a written contract signed by both parties specifying a period of time for employment or restricts the termination of the employee
- If the employer terminates the employee for discriminatory purposes
In Arizona and throughout the United States, discrimination is illegal. An employee cannot be terminated for a discriminatory purpose at any time. If you believe you’ve been fired because of your race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, pregnancy, or genetic information you may be able to take legal action on your employer. You can file a complaint of discrimination with a state or federal agency.
Other factors that fall under wrongful termination
There are other reasons that you may be able to file a wrongful termination lawsuit for:
- Implied promises – another exception to the at-will rule is if your employer said or did something that implied an employment contract.
- Breaches of good faith and fair dealing – if your employer acted unfairly you may be able to make a wrongful termination claim.
- Violations of public policy – It is illegal to fire someone for reasons that society recognizes are illegal grounds for termination.
- Retaliation – Employers cannot fire employees for engaging in certain legal activities.
- Fraud – Fraud occurs when employer’s actions become so extreme that terminating their employee is devious and wrong.
- Defamation – A defamation lawsuit protects a person’s reputation and good standing in the community.
- Whistle-blowing violations – This protects employees from being terminated for reporting unlawful activities.
An employment contract is a document that you and your employer sign and that dictates the terms of your professional relationship. Most employees in the United States do not work under an employment contract but in some instances it makes sense. If you signed a contract at the beginning of employment, you are under contract. If you didn’t then you are not. You may ask for a copy of your contract at any time and your employer is required to give one to you.
What’s included in an employment contract?
A good contract will spell out exactly what you are expected to do as well as your salary. A good contract will also state the following:
- The term of employment (A period of months or years, until the completion of a project, or indefinitely)
- The responsibilities of the employee
- Benefits such as health, life or disability insurance or retirement accounts
- Vacation and sick day policies
- Reasons and grounds for termination
- Covenants not to compete that will limit the employee’s employment opportunities if he or she is terminated or otherwise leaves the company
- Nondisclosure agreements relating to your company’s trade secrets or client lists
- An ownership agreement stating that all materials produced by the employee during his employment are owned by the company
- Assignment clauses stating that any patents procured by the employee during his employment must be assigned to the company
- A method for resolving disputes relating to employment
Breach of contract and wrongful termination
Breach of contract can happen when either you or your employer breaks one of the terms on your contract, such as your employer doesn’t pay you your agreed upon wages or you don’t work your agreed upon hours. If your employer fires you before your contract is up and the termination breaches your contract, this is considered wrongful termination. In these cases you may be able to take legal action on your employer.
In Arizona, there are safeguards in place to prevent employees from being wrongfully fired. These laws are commonly referred to as wrongful termination laws. If you believe your employer has violated any of these laws when terminating your employment, you may have a strong case. There are three main categories under the Arizona wrongful termination laws:
Breaking a Contract. One way an employer can violate wrongful termination laws is if the employer breaks a contract between them and the employee. The contract does not need to be written. It can be a contract made verbally or an implied contract. A written contract would be the result of a contract hiring, whereas an implied contract is when the employer gives the assumption the employee would maintain employment beyond the date they were fired. If an employer breaks a contract you had with them either verbally, written, or implied, they are in violation of the laws.
Discriminatory Firing. Under Arizona Law, an employer cannot fire an employee based on discrimination. They cannot discriminate based on sex, pregnancy, age, race, national origin, citizenship status, disability, or genetic information. The specifics regulations under these laws depend on the individual and the size of the company. For example, an employee cannot claim discriminatory firing based on age if they are not over 40 years old. A company’s size also determines how closely they must follow these laws. Most discriminatory laws apply to businesses having 15 or more employees, but others may vary. A company with as little as 4 employees can be persecuted for firing an employee due to discrimination based on citizenship status, while a company must have at least 20 employees to be accountable for firing based on age.
Wage and Time Off. If an employer does not follow the Arizona minimum wage law and pay for employees working over 40 hours a week, they are also in violation of Arizona laws. Further, employees must follow certain time off programs such as military leave, jury duty, voting time off, and medical leave. If an employee is fired based on taking time off for any of these areas, they have a strong possibility of having a wrongful termination case. To read more information about the laws regarding time off in the workplace, visit the Employment Law Handbook.
If you feel your employer has fired you in a way that violated any of the above laws, give us a call today. Our experienced team can gather all the required information to help you build a strong case.
A former Red Robin employee is suing the burger chain because she claims she was fired for complaining about racist hiring practices at the Coeur d’Alene location in Idaho.
Stacie Ward had been with Red Robin for over 11 years, working at many different locations. When she transferred to the Coeur d’Alene location, which had just opened, another employee transferred with her. Stacie says this man, who was African-American, was fired not long after starting, for the minor violation of wearing headphones while working.
Not long after this, Stacie, who was in charge of screening and interviewing most potential employees, met with a young black man applying for a job in the restaurant. She felt the man was qualified, and recommended a formal interview for him. Stacie said that when the assistant manager saw the applicant, he took Stacie aside and informed her that they would not hire a person of color. Stacie says the manager used an offensive racial slur and admitted that the man who had been fired for wearing headphones had been fired because of his race.
When Stacie objected to the manager’s comments and hiring decisions, she began facing retaliation from the managers of the restaurant. She suddenly found herself receiving false complaints from the managers and “customers” about her job performance, and was fired shortly after, all because she spoke up against something that was unjust. Stacie contacted the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and filed a complaint. Without her income, Stacie says she lost her home, health insurance, and retirement savings, and is suing to cover these damages.
If you have faced retaliation for being a whistleblower or if you have faced discrimination of any kind in the workplace, contact an Arizona labor and employment law attorney today.