Michigan Employee Rights Attorney
You work hard to take care of yourself and your family, putting in long hours and taking pride in the job you do. In exchange, you expect your employer to pay you fairly and according to the law. When you arrive in the morning, you deserve a safe workplace that complies with federal and state requirements. If you or a loved one gets sick or welcome a new child to your family, the law gives you the right to take time off. And you should not have to tolerate discrimination or harassment that can take away your dignity or livelihood.
When employers fail to meet their legal or contractual obligations to workers, they need to be held accountable. But it can be difficult for affected employees to defend their rights if they do not know what they are or confront their employers and risk losing their job or reputation.
Committed to Protecting Workers From All Forms of Employer Misconduct
At Sommers Schwartz, our Michigan employment lawyers stand up for workers who suffer personally and financially because their employer violated the law and trampled on their rights.
We passionately believe in workers’ rights and share a commitment to protecting employees from unlawful conduct that denies them what is rightfully theirs. With decades of experience and a lengthy track record of success, our attorneys fight tirelessly to defend workers’ rights and get them the compensation they deserve.
Our employment lawyers represent workers in every type of claim related to their employment-related rights, including those based on:
- Prohibited discrimination
- Sexual harassment
- Wage and hours claims
- Failure to pay minimum wage or overtime pay
- Denial or interference with family and medical leave rights
- Wrongful termination and retaliation
- Whistleblower retaliation
- Breach of contract
Your employer can fire you for misconduct. They can demote you or reduce your pay for doing a lousy job. You may not get a job offer because you do not have the needed experience for the position. But an employer cannot do any of these things or take any other discriminatory or adverse actions against you if they do so based on your membership in a protected class.
Federal and state law protects workers from employment discrimination based on a long list of personal characteristics, including:
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- National origin
- Genetic information
Despite these protections, most of which have been around for decades, American workers still experience workplace discrimination in alarming numbers. Employees file over 100,000 claims of employment discrimination each year, and between 1997 and 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 1,889,631 discrimination complaints. As bad as these figures are, the actual amount of workplace discrimination is likely far greater, as many instances of discrimination are not reported because of a lack of understanding about what constitutes illegal discrimination or due to fear of retaliation.
Workplace discrimination takes many forms besides termination or failure to hire. Prohibited discrimination exists if an employer takes any of the following actions or makes decisions based on a person’s membership in a protected class:
- Refusing to hire an applicant
- Paying certain employees less money for equal work
- Harassing employees or subjecting them to unequal treatment on the job
- Denying membership in a union or labor organization
- Denying an employee’s deserved promotion
- Firing without just cause
- Transferring an employee to a less desirable position
- Changing an employee’s schedule
- Increasing the level of supervision over an employee
- Spreading false rumors about the employee
- Giving an employee a performance evaluation that is worse than it should be
- Making an employee’s work more difficult
The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report discrimination or assert their rights, including:
- Informing a supervisor about discrimination
- Answering questions during an official investigation
- Refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination
- Resisting the sexual advances of a fellow employee, supervisor, or manager
- Intervening to protect another who is subjected to harassment or assault
Michigan workers should not have to accept discrimination in the workplace. At the Michigan employment discrimination law firm of Sommers Schwartz, we can help you hold your employer liable for their discriminatory actions. If successful, you may be entitled to damages, including compensation for any medical costs, the costs associated with finding a new job, and compensation for any emotional trauma, inconvenience, and loss of enjoyment caused by the harassment.
Regardless of gender, no employee should have to endure the indignity, embarrassment, or trauma of sexual harassment in their workplace. Victims with the courage to report sexual misconduct to their employers should expect swift action to address the problem. But if the harassment continues and an employer fails to take the appropriate investigatory and disciplinary steps in response, the target of the harassment should feel empowered to stand up for their rights, job, and dignity.
At Sommers Schwartz, our employment lawyers understand the psychological and emotional fallout from workplace sexual harassment. We are steadfast allies and determined advocates for sexual harassment victims, using our extensive experience and understanding of federal and state laws to get our clients the justice and compensation they deserve.
There are two primary categories of sexual harassment under both federal and Michigan law: acts and comments that create a hostile work environment and those that involve a quid pro quo. The former refers to harassment so severe, consistent, or pervasive that it creates a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. The latter involves a request or demand for sexual favors in exchange for or as a condition of employment opportunities or continued employment.
Common examples of prohibited sexual harassment include:
- Propositions for sex in exchange for benefits
- Being fired or punished for refusing an advance
- Touching, rubbing, or other unwanted contact
- Inappropriate texts, photos, emails, or messages
- Leering or staring
- Exposure of genitals or other body parts
- Sexually explicit or pornographic images and videos
- Rude or overtly sexual comments about someone’s body
Wage and Hours Violations
Receiving a fair wage for hard work is the fundamental bargain between an employer and an employee. Federal and state laws establish a minimum wage that workers must be paid, define when and how much employees receive in overtime pay, set criteria for distinguishing employees from independent contractors, and impose other duties on employers to ensure that their workers receive all they earn.
Unfortunately, many employers attempt to skirt their wage and hours obligations under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and related state and federal laws. Such “wage theft” costs American workers billions of dollars every year. When employees are cheated out of their hard-earned pay, the lawyers of Sommers Schwartz stand ready to get them every penny they deserve. Our attorneys regularly represent workers in Michigan and elsewhere to vindicate their rights and obtain compensation and other relief when their employers cheat them out of their earnings.
The most common wage and hours violations under the FLSA and other laws include:
- Minimum Wage Violations
Michigan employers must pay their hourly employees a rate of pay at or above the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. However, under the Michigan Workforce Opportunity Wage Act, Michigan employers must pay employees a higher minimum wage. As of 2020, Michigan employers must pay employees an hourly minimum wage of $9.65 an hour.
Employees who do not receive minimum wage can pursue a claim against their employer to recover back wages. Sometimes, additional damages may also be available.
- Unpaid Overtime Claims
Michigan employers must pay non-exempt employees overtime wages for each hour they work over 40 hours per week. The minimum overtime pay is 1.5 times the employee’s regular wage, although employers may pay a higher overtime wage.
Not all employees are eligible for overtime pay, however, and employers frequently try to take advantage of this. But no matter how an employer describes or classifies an employee’s job responsibilities, non-exempt employees must receive overtime wages. Employees deprived of overtime hours they worked should consult with one of the dedicated Michigan employment attorneys at Sommers Schwartz to understand their rights and explore their options.
- Misclassification of Employees as Independent Contractors
One way employers try to save money is by misclassifying employees as independent contractors. An independent contractor is self-employed and performs services for another business or individual, usually on an as-needed basis. Under the law, independent contractors are not considered employees. Thus, employers do not need to provide independent contractors benefits, and the FLSA does not cover independent contractors.
Employers commonly misclassify employees as independent contractors to save money on benefits, overtime, or other costs associated with hiring an employee. Those misclassified as independent contractors may be entitled to financial compensation based on the wages and benefits they should have received as employees. At Sommers Schwartz, our nationally recognized team of Michigan employment lawyers holds employers accountable for misclassifying employees as independent contractors.
Family and Medical Leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects employees while they deal with family or medical situations that take them from the workplace for an extended period, either in a single block of time or intermittently. The FMLA provides eligible workers with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year, mandates the continuation of group health insurance benefits during the leave as if the employee was still working, and entitles a worker to return to the same or an equivalent job at the end of their leave.
The FMLA applies to private and public employers with 50 or more employees. To be eligible to take leave under the law, an employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and logged at least 1,250 non-overtime hours throughout the year immediately preceding the first day of leave. The employee also must work in a location that has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.
The 12 months of employment do not need to be consecutive for the employee to qualify. They may be affected by breaks in service due to military obligations or under a collective bargaining or other written agreement.
FMLA leave can be taken following a qualifying event, including:
- The arrival of a newborn baby
- The adoption of a child
- The care of a family member who is suffering from a serious health condition
- An employee’s own serious health condition (including pregnancy, in some cases)
Legislation passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), established additional paid and unpaid leave rights under the FMLA for those impacted by the virus. If your employer has violated your rights under the FMLA, the law provides you with powerful remedies, including the recovery of economic losses, liquidated damages doubling the amount of economic losses for intentional violations, job reinstatement, and recoupment of your attorney fees and costs.
At Sommers Schwartz, our employment law attorneys stand up for workers who face unfair and illegal treatment when they need to care for themselves or their families. We fight tirelessly to protect their rights and their jobs and have recovered substantial compensation for FMLA violations.
Other Michigan Employment Issues and Disputes
Sommers Schwartz employment lawyers also have robust experience representing executives and employees in other matters relating to their careers and livelihoods, including claims involving:
- Whistleblower rights
- Breach of employment contract
- Stock options
- Bonuses and performance awards
- Non-compete agreements
- Sales commissions
- Tipped workers
- Breach of confidential information
- Misappropriation of trade secrets
- Intellectual property infringement
- Compensation structures
Contact a Michigan Employee Rights Attorney Today
You work hard, and the employment law attorneys at Sommers Schwartz work equally hard to ensure that your employer pays you what you earned, treats you with respect, and allows you to exercise all the rights provided to you by the law. When employers fail to hold up their end of the bargain and deny employees their pay and rights, we fight tirelessly to get such workers the justice and compensation they deserve.