Employer Misconduct And Legal Issues At Work

It isn't just the unemployed who suffer during a recession. Employees in bad workplace environments may keep a job because of the lack of other options. Whether besieged by harassing bosses, unsafe work conditions, questionable wage practices or co-worker misbehavior, an employee in a down economy may be hesitant to speak up regarding illegal activity for fear of losing his or her job. Yet employees subjected to these types of work-related ills have rights in the face of this illegal behavior.

Workers' Compensation

Federal and state laws require employers to provide healthy and safe work environments. If an employer is in violation, a worker can request an inspection by compliance safety and health officers under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, or OSHA. It is illegal for employers discourage workers' complaints about unsafe conditions or to undermine efforts to seek medical attention and appropriate workers' compensation.

Discrimination and Harassment

Most employers understand discrimination and harassment are forbidden in the workplace; unfortunately, religious, ethnic, racial, age, and gender discrimination claims are on the rise. Employers cannot deny employees benefits, promotions, better working conditions or pay based on protected status, but it happens. In addition, workers who support or complain about disparate treatment are often targeted. These actions are against the law.

Wrongful Discharge

Most jobs are classified as at-will employment, meaning an employee can be fired at any time and for almost any reason. However, employers cannot terminate an employee for discriminatory purposes or for an action protected under the law. This means it is illegal for an employer to fire whistle-blowers, workers filing for workers' compensation or even for taking family medical leave for a pregnancy.

Employee Options

In each of these cases, employees are not left without remedies. For those suffering from discrimination, filing a claim for discrimination or sexual harassment can stop such behavior. For those injured on the job, filing a workers' compensation claim is essential. For wrongful discharge, a lawsuit can restore the fired employee to the position - or pay the employee for what he or she could have earned. Employers cannot fire an employee in retaliation for bringing any of these claims.

Employees should not be held hostage by the illegal actions of their employers. Seek the advice of an experienced employment law attorney to protect your rights.