Although most employees in the United States are "at will" workers, many state and federal laws protect individuals in the workplace. Employees are entitled to safe working environments, free from hazards, harassment, and discrimination. All workers are entitled to fair compensation for their labor, including being paid a minimum wage and overtime pay.

Even though these rights are protected by law, many employers violate workers' rights and threaten their livelihoods. Wage theft, discrimination, unfair treatment, and unsafe workplaces are some of the complaints against employers across the country. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for workers to make their voices heard.

The employment lawyers at Sommers Schwartz are committed to fighting for Michigan workers and making sure employers take worker complaints seriously. If you or a loved one have experienced discrimination, harassment, wage disputes, or other forms of illegal treatment on the job, Sommers Schwartz can help.

Fact

49 percent

of claims filed between 1997 and 2018 were for retaliation

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Employers often take advantage of the fact that most people feel uncomfortable creating conflict or making waves in their workplaces, especially with compensation-related issues. Workers mistakenly believe their employers can prevent them from discussing their pay or reporting payroll issues. Many people worry about losing their jobs or suffering other forms of retaliation.

In an employment dispute, there is much on the line: your livelihood, your career opportunities, and your reputation, for starters. Sommers Schwartz understands what is at stake. We will aggressively and creatively pursue your claim and work to resolve it in the best way possible. Sometimes this means going to court. Other times it means resolution through other means, like mediation and arbitration. We work with you and your employer to resolve your issues and recover the compensation you deserve.

Sommers Schwartz has handled cases related to every aspect of employment law and has represented both sides—employers and employees. We understand the ways unscrupulous companies try to cheat their workforces out of wages, benefits, and protections. We have the knowledge and the experience to hold those companies accountable.

Some of the employment law issues Sommers Schwartz handles include:

Types of Employee Violations

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Discrimination

Both state and federal laws protect workers from being discriminated against on the basis of age, gender, race, religion, disability, pregnancy, or national origin. Discrimination can be many things, but amounts unfair treatment based on one of these protected statuses. This can include being fired, denied a promotion, job, raise, or another benefit, or any other adverse employment action.

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Retaliation & Whistleblower Claims

One of the biggest fears that paralyzes workers who have been improperly paid or otherwise wronged is the possibility of retaliation. However, the law is clear: retaliation in any form for making a complaint about mistreatment in the workplace is illegal. Retaliation encompasses all forms of adverse action, including termination, demotion, failure to promote, withholding of benefits or bonuses, transfer to less desirable shifts, locations, and schedules, and other workplace-specific unfavorable treatment.

If an employee experiences an adverse action at work after complaining about a pay violation, discrimination, or other wrongful act, they might have an illegal retaliation case.

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Employee Misclassification

Another way employers try to pay workers less than they deserve is by misclassifying them as independent contractors. Sometimes this happens by mistake, but often it is a deliberate decision. By classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees, employers evade many legal obligations, taxes, and other expenses. True independent contractors are exempt from minimum wage, overtime pay, workers' compensation, and other critical legal protections afforded to employees.

Employee misclassification has become much more common as the nature of the labor market has evolved. Many more people now have nontraditional, flexible jobs rather than working full-time for one employer. The rise of the "gig economy" has blurred the line between employee and independent contractor, and many companies have used this to their advantage. This is unfair and illegal, both for workers and the community. Improper classification shifts the burden of additional taxes, expenses, and insurance onto workers while unjustly enriching employers.

If you think you may have been misclassified as an independent contractor, contact an employment law attorney immediately.

WAGE & OVERTIME

Pay Violations

There are over 3.9 million workers in Michigan. Every one of them deserves to be paid fairly for their work. Some employers attempt to pay workers less than they deserve in order to save money. Others negligently fail to ensure time records and payroll is correct and timely. Whether motivated by greed or negligence, failing to pay workers what they deserve is illegal and detrimental to the entire community. The employment attorneys at Sommers Schwartz have dedicated their careers to holding companies that take advantage of their workers responsible for their actions. There is no excuse for being paid less than you have rightfully earned.

Minimum Wage Violations

Effective January 1, 2022, the minimum wage in Michigan is $9.87 per hour for most employees. This is the lowest wage an employer can legally pay most Michigan workers per hour. If you suspect you have been wrongfully paid less than the minimum wage,  consult with an employment attorney. You may be entitled to damages and back pay.

Michigan's minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 (the default minimum wage for states that do not enact their own minimum wage laws).

One major exception to the $9.87 per hour minimum wage is for tipped workers, like restaurant servers. In this case, the minimum wage is $3.75 per hour. The tipped employee minimum wage plus tips earned by the employee must equal at least $9.87 per hour (averaged over the pay period). There are other exceptions to minimum wage laws, including student workers, teenage workers, temporary help, agricultural workers, independent contractors, and many others.

Unpaid Overtime

The law requires employers to pay nonexempt workers overtime rates for every hour an employee works beyond 40 hours in a one-week pay period. The rate must be at least 1.5 times an employee's regular hourly wage. Michigan has no single-day overtime requirements (e.g., working over 8 or 10 hours in a single shift).

You could have a case against your employer if:

  • They fail to pay you for all the hours you worked
  • They pay only your regular wage for overtime hours
  • They fail to pay you for overtime worked

Some employers try to get around paying overtime by paying employees a salary or classifying them as "management." However, it is not that simple. Whether an employee is entitled to overtime pay depends on whether the employee is considered exempt or nonexempt, which is determined by their specific job duties. Nonexempt employees are entitled to overtime pay even if they receive a salary.Michigan has specific rules about determining whether an employee is exempt from overtime pay requirements.

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Other employment agreements & disputes

Sommers Schwartz also represents companies, executives, and other employers in issues related to:

PURSUING A CLAIM

Some workplace problems are resolved with a simple conversation. Many others are not.

Companies typically have an established complaint process to be followed when a dispute occurs. You may need to contact the Human Resources department or a supervisor and file a complaint.

EMPLOYMENT LAW ATTORNEY

When it becomes necessary to contact an employment attorney

When it is not possible for you to pursue a complaint through existing internal channels, this process does not help, or if an employer who may attempt to obscure or hide evidence of misconduct, it becomes necessary to contact an employment attorney who can help hold your employer accountable.

Speaking Out

You may be uncomfortable with speaking out against your employer or afraid of retaliation. You may be unsure of what your rights or if your employer's actions are actually illegal. An attorney can help.

Creative thinking

We understand that litigation is not always the best way to solve a dispute. We may use alternatives to going to trial, such as mediation and arbitration and strongly believe in the importance of determining when to litigate, and when to find a solution through negotiation and creative thinking.

EMPLOYMENT LAW ATTORNEY

An attorney can advise on the best possible course of action

An attorney can also help collect the necessary evidence to prove your case, accompany you to meetings, negotiations and other appointments, and stand with you to face your employer. There is no need to take on these overwhelming and intimidating tasks on your own.

The Stakes are High

Employment disputes can put your career, livelihood, business, and ability to provide for yourself and your family at risk. Those are losses no one can afford to take.

When you have been harmed by an employer’s misconduct, you could be entitled to lost wages both past and future, damages for emotional distress and other harm, and restoration of your job. Employers found to have violated a worker’s rights could be responsible for those damages as well as punitive damages in serious cases of misconduct.

Time Is of the Essence

Time is a critical element in an employment law case, and any action against an employer is subject to "statute of limitation" laws. These limit the amount of time you have to file a claim. In Michigan, you have three years from the date of the violation. If you do not begin your action appropriately within the applicable deadlines, you cannot pursue your claim.

Three years may seem like plenty of time, but it is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible to get started. Investigating your claim and building a strong case against your employer takes time. An attorney can help ensure you meet all necessary deadlines to protect the validity of your case.

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Employment Law Resources

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Contact an Accomplished Michigan Employment Attorney

The Sommers Schwartz employment lawyers are among the most well respected in Michigan. Sommers Schwartz is often the firm other law firms turn to when they experience employment disputes. Our knowledge of both sides of employment law gives us a unique and valuable perspective.

If you face an employment dispute, you likely feel stressed about standing up to a current or former employer. Sommers Schwartz's compassionate, understanding attorneys will stand by and support you every step of the way. They will investigate your claim, gather evidence, and craft a strong case on your behalf.

Put the resources and experience of a billion-dollar law firm on your side. Contact us today.

Sommers Schwartz has offices in Detroit and Southfield. For a free consultation with a Sommers Schwartz attorney, call (866) 614-4247. We welcome the chance to stand beside you in your fight against an employer who violated your rights.