Employment Law Issues – A View From Both Sides
Yvonne E. Tagart
The legal concept of work place discrimination oftentimes varies wildly from the general public’s notion of the definition of employment discrimination. Especially in these difficult economic times, employers may demand that you produce more with fewer resources, take on the workload of an individual that has been fired or simply be “stressed out” and less friendly than they used to be on the job, even yelling at times. While no one enjoys working at a job where an employer places demands that the employee believes to be unreasonable or raises expectations without additional recognition or pay, these acts, by themselves, generally do not amount to harassment or discrimination nor, as a general rule, does firing an employee without a “good” reason, necessarily rise to the level of wrongful termination.
Below are some tips and information to assist you if you are experiencing a difficult time at your job for one of the reasons above or any other work-related reason:
1) Review your Employee Handbook. While it may not be the most exciting reading, a periodic review of your employer’s policies and procedures should help you keep up-to-date with your employer’s expectations and provide a procedure for dealing with work-related issues.
2) Take Advantage of Employer Resources. Oftentimes, larger employers offer an Employee Assistance Program or other similar department that will assist with personal as well as employment related issues.
3) Document Employer Related Issues. It may be a good idea to keep a log or diary of incidents or issues that occur at your workplace in the event you need to discuss work related issues with a superior, your Human Resource Manager or an attorney. The log should include a record of dates, times and events to keep the time lines and occurrences in perspective.
4) Talk to Your Manager or Human Resources Personnel. Communication with your superiors regarding work-related issues may help you and the company. If the company is unaware of issues affecting employee morale or employee working conditions, actions cannot be taken to improve the situation.
Keep in mind that in Arizona, as a general matter, employers or employees may terminate their employment relationship at any time, for any reason. The major exception to this general principal is the discharge of an employee in violation of state or federal anti-discrimination statutes which protects employees from discrimination based upon race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age (over 40 years old) or disability.
Davis Miles PLLC offers legal assistance with all types of employer related issues including, employment discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination.
If you own or manage a business, the manner in which you treat your employees and manage your personnel files, especially during difficult economic times when layoffs and terminations are sometimes necessary, can make the difference between a former employee and a plaintiff in a lawsuit. Below are some tips to minimize employee complaints or former employee actions related to employment situations.
1) Maintain an Employee Handbook. All businesses, including small businesses, should have and maintain an Employee Handbook to keep employees informed about your policies, procedures and expectations. Oftentimes, in employment litigation, the information contained in the Employee Handbook and the employer’s adherence to those policies and procedures is crucial in an employer’s defense. While a properly drafted Employee Handbook can protect an employer in litigation, it does not and cannot be used to establish the terms of an employment contract.
2) Document all personnel issues. Employers are often lax when it comes to maintaining employee personnel files and documenting issues or concerns related to employee performance. Even if you do not want to “officially” reprimand an employee, anytime performance related issues are discussed with your employees, the employer should place a notation in the employee’s file for future reference. Depending on company policy, these unofficial notations may or may not be considered when the employee’s performance is evaluated but ensures that employers are not dependent upon someone’s memory when it comes to past issues or patterns of behavior.
3) Consistent and Equal Treatment Among Employees. One of the major complaints by employees regarding their former employers is unequal treatment among employees. Even though an employee’s perception of inequality may not be accurate, the perception can be reduced when employers have policies and procedures in place (and adhere to those polices and procedures) to ensure that employee reprimands, accolades and pay raises are administered equally.
If your business is contacted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or an attorney related to a discrimination, harassment or wrongful termination claim, you should contact an attorney immediately.
Davis Miles PLLC offers legal assistance with all types of employee and business related issues. Call today with your questions or concerns regarding wrongful termination.