Understanding your rights in the workplace is crucial for every employee. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting your career, being aware of employment law is the most important step you can take to protect yourself from unfair practices. In this guide, we’ll provide a high-level overview of the different types of employment law violations to help you understand your legal rights.
Types of Employment Law Violations
Workplace discrimination occurs when an employee is treated unfairly based on their race, gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or age. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there were 73,485 charges of workplace discrimination filed in 2022, representing an increase of almost 20% when compared to the previous fiscal year. Discrimination can manifest in various ways, including hiring practices, job assignments, and promotions.
Gender discrimination in the workplace often revolves around unfair hiring practices, unequal pay and/or failure to promote women into leadership positions. However, gender discrimination can also take more subtle forms that aren’t as immediately apparent but can be just as damaging. This may include providing unequal work conditions, assigning tasks or roles based on gender stereotypes or providing unequal access to opportunities like mentorship, training and other development opportunities.
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or job applicants based on pregnancy, childbirth or pregnancy-related medical conditions. Examples of discrimination include refusing to hire an applicant due to pregnancy even though the applicant is capable of performing the main duties related to the job, demoting or firing an employee due to pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition, denying benefits or making work conditions unfavorable due to an employee’s pregnancy status.
Employers are also required to make accommodations for pregnant employees similar to those made for other employees with similar limitations or capabilities. This includes allowing for reduced workload and other temporary job modifications, ensuring the employee’s workspace meets specific ergonomic requirements and allowing schedule flexibility where appropriate.
Wage and Hour Violations
Wage and hour violations include issues like unpaid overtime, minimum wage violations, and misclassification of employees as independent contractors. It can lead to significant financial hardship for employees, and in many cases employees avoid taking action out of fear of retaliation by the employer. However, each year hundreds of millions of dollars are recovered on behalf of employees due to wage and hour violations. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that they recovered over $213 million in back wages for workers in 2022.
Wrongful termination happens when an employee is fired for illegal reasons or in violation of company policy. While most states recognize at-will employment (meaning either party can terminate the work relationship at any time), firing an employee for certain reasons constitutes wrongful termination. This can include being fired for reporting harassment or discrimination, or for any reason related to an employee’s race, gender, ethnicity, religion or disability.
Whistleblower protection laws are legal provisions that safeguard individuals who report wrongdoing or unethical behavior within an organization or government agency. These laws are designed to encourage individuals to come forward with information about fraud, corruption, safety violations or other unlawful activities without fear of retaliation or adverse consequences. In many cases, laws provide mechanisms for confidential or anonymous reporting to ensure the whistleblower’s identity is safeguarded. In any case, various federal laws prohibit employers from taking retaliatory action or otherwise causing adverse consequences for whistleblowers.
Harassment can take many forms, including sexual harassment, bullying, and verbal abuse. According to Workplace Fairness, one in four women face sexual harassment in the workplace. Harassment creates a hostile work environment and can have severe psychological impacts, and is strictly illegal in any form.
Retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee for engaging in legally protected activities. These activities can include filing a complaint or participating in an investigation, exercising labor rights such as participating in a union, refusing to engage in illegal activities or taking protected leave, among others.
Retaliation similarly takes many forms, including firing, demotion, salary reduction, denial of benefits, negative performance reviews, harassment or hostility, transfer, isolation or exclusion, blacklisting or any other adverse consequence that is visited upon an employee as a result of engaging in a legally protected activity.
What to Do If You Think You Have Experienced Workplace Violations
Federal and state employment law contains extensive protections that are designed to combat mistreatment and provide restitution for employees whose rights have been violated. The first step is to find a legal advisor who will listen to your situation, advise you of your rights and explain the best course of action.
At Girard Bengali, APC, we have extensive experience in employment law matters and are committed to fighting for individuals who have suffered due to unfair workplace practices. We have a long track record of getting significant results for victims of employment misconduct, and we are here to listen to your case and help you get the compensation you deserve.
Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation to learn more about your options.