Wayne County Employment Law Experts
What Employees Should Know About Employment Violations
Americans spend about one-third of their lives at work. When difficulties arise in the workplace, it can wreak havoc in an employee’s professional and personal life. Whether a person has worked for a company for several years or recently started a new job, they have the right to file a claim and fight for justice if their employer violates their rights.
If you have experienced a situation on the job you believe to be unlawful, do not ignore it. You have rights at work that are guaranteed by law. At Sommers Schwartz, our team of employment lawyers is amongst Michigan’s best. We take pride in our community, and we will fight for Michigan workers in all types of employment law situations.
How Many Employment Cases Occur Each Year?
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 67,448 charges of workplace discrimination were filed during Fiscal Year 2020. The top 10 reasons for pressing charges against an employer were:
- Retaliation: 37,632
- Disability: 24,324
- Race: 22,064
- Sex: 21,398
- Age: 14,183
- National Origin: 6,377
- Color: 3,562
- Religion: 2,404
- Equal Pay Act: 980
- Genetic Information: 440
Employees and employers need to understand their policies and ensure they comply with federal, state, and local laws. Discrimination and retaliation issues can often be avoided. Companies should ensure they have proper employment policies in place, including policies regarding investigating complaints. If an employee has mistreated someone, they should be held accountable. If a company policy effectively marginalizes or discriminates against protected individuals or groups, it should be changed.
Most companies should have written, universally distributed policies addressing:
- General Non-Discrimination
- Reasonable Accommodation
- Protected Leave
Most Common Types of Employment Violations in Wayne County
Employers must ensure their employees feel safe in their workplaces. However, employee concerns often are unheard, ignored, or silenced. Some of the most common complaints Wayne County employees make against their employers are about:
- Sexual Harassment
The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs gives examples of behavior that often constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace. These examples include requests for sexual favors, unwelcome physical contact, offensive language, displaying inappropriate pictures, and continuing certain behaviors after another person has objected to that behavior. This list is not exhaustive; many other behaviors may amount to sexual harassment. Individuals who believe they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace can fill out a complaint form here. If you have experienced retaliation or lost opportunities because of workplace sexual harassment, you should consult with an attorney.
Under federal law and Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, it is illegal for an employer to treat an employee differently based on their religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, marital status, height, weight, disability, or family status. This includes failure to hire and any adverse employment action taken towards existing employees. If an employee feels they have been wrongly treated or discriminated against based on one or more of these factors, they need to communicate with an experienced lawyer.
- Family Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave without fear of losing their job. A person may substitute paid leave if their amount of time worked has accrued to the time off they need. A total of 12 workweeks in any 12 months is allowed. Recent expansions and modifications to the FMLA because of the COVID-19 pandemic have made determining eligibility more confusing than ever. If you have questions or concerns about using protected leave, consulting with an attorney can help you understand your rights and options.
- Retaliation & Whistleblower Claims
Taking adverse action against an employee for exercising their rights under the law is retaliation. “Adverse actions” include firing, demoting, denying a raise or promotion, and many other subtle and specific consequences. Retaliating against an employee who reports sexual harassment, fraud, misconduct, or other illegal actions is prohibited under Michigan’s Whistleblower’s Protection Act and federal law. An employee who is the victim of retaliation may be entitled to full restoration of their rightful position as well as significant compensatory damages.
- Breach of Contract
Most Michigan workers are employed “at-will” rather than according to the terms of a contract or employment agreement. However, certain employees have a contractual relationship with their employer. In some cases, an employer’s handbook may create contractual obligations; in others, the worker enters into a specific agreement. An employee has six years to bring an action to recover damages or money due for breach of contract if an employer violates the terms of an employment contract. Employees who wish to contest restrictive covenants following the end of an employment relationship may also need representation to avoid breach of contract liability.
- Wage Disputes
The Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) protects workers’ rights to earn a set minimum wage and overtime. Michigan’s mandatory minimum wage rose to $10.10 per hour on January 1, 2023. Employers may improperly fail to pay workers the appropriate hourly wage, improperly classify workers as independent contractors, or refuse to pay entitled employees overtime pay for working over 40 hours per week. If you believe your employer has wrongfully withheld compensation you have earned, you should contact an attorney.
Responding to Harassment in the Workplace
Employees should feel safe and comfortable reporting misconduct in the workplace. A supervisor, manager, human resources representative, director, or another classified employee should be tasked with regulating unjust actions and reporting misconduct. An appointing authority, in good faith, must try to eliminate and prevent discriminatory harassment in the workplace.
If you believe you have experienced unfair treatment, harassment, or other misconduct in the workplace, you should speak with a supervisor or human resources employee. You can also consult with a qualified employment attorney.
Where to File a Discrimination Claim in Michigan
A discrimination claim can be filed with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You do not need to file a claim with both agencies; if there are overlapping state and federal claims, the agencies will work together and coordinate their responses.
An MDCR complaint must be filed within 180 days of the date of the discriminatory action, but a complainant has 300 days to file an EEOC claim in Michigan.
Although an attorney is not required to file a claim, an experienced employment attorney can help you understand your options. Filing an agency complaint can be complex and stressful; an attorney can help you fulfill the practical requirements and advise you about the best overall strategy in your situation.
An individual may wish to file a lawsuit instead of or in addition to filing an administrative agency complaint for discrimination. An attorney can help you understand your options and determine the best strategy for your situation. If pursuing a lawsuit in Michigan state court is the right option, it must be filed within three years of the date a person believes they faced discrimination.
What Are the Next Steps If I Have an Employment Lawsuit?
We understand that it can be uncomfortable to speak up and speak out against your employer. You may feel uneasy and afraid of retaliation. If you are unsure about how to proceed, let us help you.
Our experienced team at Sommers Schwartz, P.C. will stand with you and fight for your rights. Often, claims can be settled more quickly, economically, and peacefully using alternative solutions such as mediation and arbitration. Our attorneys are skilled negotiators, and we will work to settle your claims for the best possible result. If litigation is needed, however, we will vigorously represent you. After evaluating your unique situation, we will work to obtain the best solution for you.
Contact an Accomplished Wayne County Employment Attorney
While we call Wayne County home, the employment lawyers at Sommers Schwartz help clients across the nation. Well respected by clients and colleagues alike, we are here to fight for the unheard communities in Michigan and beyond.