All employees are protected from having their employment terminated for certain reasons, even if they are employed “at will.” Notably, employees cannot have their employment terminated for discriminatory reasons, retaliatory reasons, or in breach of an employment contract or company policy. Employees who are fired for engaging in a protected activity may have grounds to bring a wrongful termination lawsuit.
The law recognizes two forms of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when submission to, or rejection of, unwelcome sexual conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions.
A hostile work environment is present when the unwelcome behavior is pervasive such that it interferes with job performance or forces the person to quit.
If an employer has treated you less well than others because of a protected characteristic, you may have grounds to bring a discrimination lawsuit.
It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who engages in a protected activity such as making a complaint about discrimination, harassment, or illegal business practices. Employees who make a complaint in good faith are protected, even if the complaint itself is ultimately refuted. Employees who participate in an investigation or file a lawsuit against their employer are similarly protected from retaliation.
In the employment context, a breach of contract typically involves a failure to abide by the terms of an employment agreement, employer policy, or severance agreement. In certain circumstances, an oral agreement may also be binding. The non-breaching party has the right to be made whole, which generally is accomplished through monetary damages.
At-will employees are generally not entitled to severance. In many circumstances, however, an employer will ask an employee to sign a severance agreement in exchange for the employee’s waiver of the right to sue for violations of workplace rights. It is important to review any offered severance agreement with an experienced employment attorney, who will ensure that you understand the agreement and negotiate on your behalf to maximize your severance.
If your employer has withheld wages you are owed or failed to pay you for overtime, you may be entitled to compensation. Wage violations, as well as the amount an employee is entitled to recover, are often governed by multiple statutes and regulations from state and federal agencies.
Whistleblowers — those who report their employers’ unlawful conduct — are often protected by federal and state laws. If you witness unlawful practices in your workplace, you may be protected from retaliation and may be rewarded for reporting those practices.
Non-competition agreements aim to restrict the right of an employee to engage in work that is competitive with the work of a former employer. These agreements may be unenforceable if their restrictions exceed those necessary to protect the employer’s legitimate business interests.
Non-solicitation agreements aim to prevent employees from taking customers or employees with them after they change jobs. As with non-competition agreements, the scope of non-solicitation agreements is often determinative of their enforceability.
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