Dearborn Employment Law Attorneys
Multiple state and federal laws protect employees from misconduct by their employers. These rules and regulations govern how employees are paid and treated in the workplace, among other matters. Employers violating these laws may be liable for any harm caused.
If you suspect mistreatment by your employer, don’t wait to seek legal counsel. Talk to an experienced Dearborn employment law attorney at Sommers Schwartz P.C. today. Our skilled employment lawyers will help you determine the best legal strategy for your unique situation.
Types of Employment Law Violations
State and federal employment laws cover a wide range of workplace legal matters. As a result, employment law claims vary widely in type and severity. The most common workplace legal matters and employment law violations include discrimination claims, employee misclassification issues, and retaliation and whistleblower claims. We explain each category in further detail below.
Federal laws and Michigan state law prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on age, sex, sexual orientation, gender, pregnancy, race, color, religion, national origin, height, weight, disability, or marital status.
Discrimination can take many forms. Common examples of prohibited discrimination may include:
- An employer firing an employee because the employee takes time off for religious observance.
- An employer deciding not to grant a promotion to a qualified employee because that employee uses a wheelchair.
- An employer choosing not to offer raises to employees who have become pregnant in the past year.
- An employer excluding certain employees from being scheduled for overtime because those employees are people of color.
Other types of prohibited discrimination exist as well. All discrimination claims share one thing in common — an employee is treated unfairly based on a protected characteristic.
Although Michigan is an “at-will” employment state, at-will employment laws do not allow employers to terminate employees for any reason at all. If an employer fires an employee for a prohibited reason, the employee may bring a discrimination claim. In addition, Michigan employers may not fire employees for engaging in whistleblowing practices, refusing to break the law for the employer, or taking other legal steps when dealing with local, state, or federal authorities. Specific employment-related actions, such as filing a workers’ compensation claim, are also protected under at-will employment laws.
Federal law also includes harassment claims within the scope of employment discrimination. Harassment occurs when a worker is disparaged or mistreated due to their inclusion in a protected class. If you’re facing workplace harassment, it is in your best interest to speak with a Dearborn employment law attorney who can help you end the mistreatment and protect your legal rights.
What is the best way to define the relationship between a worker and the person or entity receiving the benefit of the work? In some cases, a worker is an employee. In other cases, the worker is a contractor. Properly defining this relationship is essential when understanding legal protections.
Federal and state laws provide rules and guidelines for determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. Employees receive legal protections and considerations that independent contractors do not. As a result, it often benefits a company to classify its workers as independent contractors whenever possible – even if those workers actually meet the legal definition of employees.
Sometimes, misclassification is a mistake or oversight. In other cases, employers deliberately misclassify workers to avoid paying certain taxes, providing required benefits, or including those workers in their workers’ compensation insurance coverage.
The nature of gig work, remote work, and other new work arrangements have raised questions about employee misclassification. Many companies have taken advantage of the confusion to misclassify workers in ways that benefit the company – at the expense of the worker.
Retaliation and Whistleblower Claims
Many workers know or suspect their employer treats them unfairly or illegally, yet they do not speak up. Often, these workers fear their employer will retaliate by docking their pay, demoting them, assigning them less desirable work, or firing them outright if they report the mistreatment.
Both state and federal laws prohibit employers from retaliating against workplace whistleblowers. All types of retaliation are prohibited, including:
- Firing a whistleblowing employee.
- Demoting or failing to promote a whistleblower.
- Withholding pay, benefits, or bonuses due to whistleblowing.
- Transferring a whistleblower to less desirable shifts, locations, or schedules.
- Harassing a whistleblowing employee.
- Treating a whistleblower in other unfavorable ways.
Blowing the whistle on employer misbehavior counts as protected whistleblowing. For instance, if you file a discrimination claim, your employer may not retaliate against you for filing the claim. If your employer retaliates, they may be liable for retaliation in addition to any underlying claim.
Pay, Minimum Wage, and Overtime Violations
Wage-and-hour violations are the most common employment law violations in the United States. Wage theft, in which employers fail to pay the full amount of wages their workers are due, costs U.S. workers more than all other types of theft combined.
Employers have devised various methods for withholding workers’ pay. Common examples of wage-and-hour violations include:
- Employee misclassification resulting in workers being compensated improperly because they are misclassified as independent contractors rather than employees. Employers may also improperly classify workers as exempt salaried employees, resulting in workers being paid less than the law requires.
- Improperly withholding portions of an employee’s wage for reasons the law does not allow or in amounts the law does not allow – such as reducing pay to less than minimum wage.
- Failing to pay properly for overtime work, either by not tracking overtime (ex: forcing workers to clock out before putting in those hours) or paying overtime at a lower rate than the required legal minimum.
- Improperly deducting items like excessive deductions for tips or deducting the price of goods employers provide so employees can do their work.
- Designating certain break times as unpaid yet requiring workers to work during those break times. For example, if your lunch break is unpaid, an employer cannot require you to do any work during that break.
Other types of wage-and-hour violations can also occur. If you suspect you’ve faced any of these issues, talk to an experienced Dearborn employment lawyer immediately.
Other Types of Employment Law Disputes
While discrimination, retaliation, and wage-and-hour disputes are among the most common types of employment law disputes, they are not the only areas covered by employment law. The experienced Dearborn employment law attorneys at Sommers Schwartz also help executives and companies navigate claims related to topics including:
- Award and compensation plans, including stock options, performance bonuses, and commissions.
- Compensation plans.
- Equity acquisitions and separation agreements.
- Executive employment agreements.
- Non-competition and non-solicitation agreements.
- Misappropriation of trade secrets.
What To Do If You’re Facing an Employment Law Claim
Many employers have an established complaint process for workers who suspect discrimination, wage-and-hour violations, and other wrongdoing. Following this process can create a necessary record, proving you’ve taken steps to resolve the issue. Check your employee handbook or speak to the human resources department to learn about the procedure in your workplace.
If you’ve already followed internal procedures with no resolution, the employer refuses to cooperate, or you cannot pursue your complaint internally, you may need to speak to an experienced employment attorney.
Michigan Statutes of Limitations for Employment Law Claims
A statute of limitations limits the time workers have to file employment law claims. In Michigan, statutes of limitation can vary from just 90 days to up to three years from the date of the violation to file a claim. If you don’t file your claim within this window, it will likely be dismissed.
Time can move quickly, especially when you’re still trying to overcome the shock of a firing and understand what happened or your employer ignores you or stalls progress. Talking to an attorney can help you understand how to proceed so you can move forward in time to protect your legal rights.
Contact a Dearborn Employment Lawyer Today
At Sommers Schwartz P.C., our experienced employment law attorneys are here to review your case, determine your legal rights, and position you for the best possible outcome. We’ll look for alternative methods of dispute resolution that can help you get the results you deserve without the stress of a trial. But we are ready to fight for your rights in court if a lawsuit becomes necessary. Contact the employment lawyers at Sommers Schwartz P.C. today to schedule a free and confidential consultation about your case.