You’ve landed your dream job, and you could not be more excited. You want to believe the company behaves ethically and legally. Most will behave legally and ethically, but not all. That is why it is so important that you understand the employment laws in your state. Understanding your rights will allow you to make sure they are not violated.
If you work in the government, there is a code of professional ethics you must follow. This includes public school teachers, university professors, and lawyers. As a public employee, you are bound by certain rules. Expect to see some of the following examples in your contract:
- Restrictions on use of confidential information.
- Laws against using your position to gain benefits and perks outside your place of employment.
- Using state time and supplies for private gain.
- Documented and justified payment reimbursal.
- You are not permitted to receive tips for public services rendered.
Professionals and employees:
Salaried professionals and hourly employees fall under different sets of wage rules. According to The Fair Labor Standards Act, some outside salespeople and administrative professionals are exempt from overtime pay. However, employers must pay overtime to hourly employees. They are eligible for overtime pay if they work over 40 hours per week. Companies are required to pay overtime if they meet the following criteria:
- Employ Interstate commerce production employees.
- Companies who have sales that exceed $500,000 yearly.
- Government positions, hospitals, and nursing homes.
Some companies are not obligated to pay overtime for 40+ hours worked per week. Some are only obligated to pay overtime for 48 or more hours worked per week.
Your rights as a public-school teacher are dependent on how long you’ve have been teaching.
Probationary teachers – these teachers have recently earned their license to teach in Minnesota. They are under probation during the first three years of teaching. Their employment contract is like an at-will employment agreement. Their contract can be non-renewed for the next school year for any reason if it’s legal.
Once the three-year probation is complete, they can be considered tenure or continuing contract teachers. This process provides them with a more job protection. Termination of first-class teachers must be for ‘just cause’, examples include:
- Insubordination or conduct unbecoming of a teacher.
- Failure to teach the class according to the state standards.
- Sudden illness with a communicable disease.
- Lack of students.
If you are a non-first-class city teacher, the rules are different for non-probationary contracts. Non-first-class teachers who are no longer on probation can be terminated for the following reasons:
- Modification of the contract.
- Not fulfilling the duties expressed in the contract.
- Conduct unbecoming of a teacher.
There are several reasons an employer can legally deny a job to an applicant. Employment discrimination occurs when an applicant is denied employment illegally. There are protected employment classes or applicants.
- National origin
Title VII of the civil rights act of 1964 protects the above classes from discrimination. All private businesses with 15 employees or more must abide by this law. Businesses with 100 employees or more must submit an annual EEO-1 report to the government.
- Sexual orientation
- Age (ADEA) – This applies to private sector businesses with 20 or employees on their books. Employers may not deny employment because an applicant is 40 years old or older. They also may not terminate employment due to age either.
- Disability (ADA) – The ADA is in place for employees and applicants. It applies to business with 15 or more employees on the books. They must provide reasonable accommodations for the employee to do their job. The requested accommodations must not be an undue financial or administrative burden to the business.
- Physical health
Many states are at-will states. Meaning an employee can quit at any time without legal repercussions. Employers can also terminate employment at any time with no notice. The exception is if an employer terminates the employee for discriminatory reasons.
Many people have worked in a hostile work environment. However, it doesn’t mean the company is breaking the law. Unless illegal harassment is occurring in the workplace.
Sexual harassment: If a supervisor or employee makes unwanted sexual advances to a co-worker. Sexual jokes, language, or actions is sexual harassment. Terminating an employee because they reject your sexual advances is also illegal. If the victim can prove this occurred at work, they can sue the company for sexual harassment. The victim must show that the company knew, or reasonably should have known about the harassment. They must prove that they did not act to resolve the situation legally.
Minnesota respectful workplace policy: Bullying is not a workplace crime in many states. It is harassment, but it is not considered illegal. In 2012 Hennepin County created a respectful workplace internal policy for government workers. It was created to stop bullying behavior that is intimidating, threatening, or humiliating.
Exposing illegal activity within an organization is whistleblowing. Prior to the Whistleblower’s protection act, whistleblowers were disciplined for exposing the company’s illegal activity. Often, they were victim to illegal and unfair retribution for their actions. They would experience demotions, pay reductions, reassignments, blacklisting, denial of benefits, or termination. The whistleblower’s protection act protects those who work for the government.
Job retaliation occurs after a whistleblowing complaint is processed. Retaliation can include some of the following actions:
- Reprimanding an employee unfairly.
- Providing a performance evaluation that is unfair and inaccurate.
- Emotional, verbal, or physical abuse in the workplace.
- Spreading false rumors about the victim.
- Unnecessarily micromanaging the employee.
The supreme court deemed the following actions to be unlawful retaliation in the workplace:
- Transferring the victim to a more difficult job with no increase in pay.
- Drastically changing the schedule of an employee with young children.
- The employee was not included in training that would help to promote within the company.
The retaliation must occur after a complaint has been filed. Otherwise, it will not stand up in court.
Whether you work in the public or private sector you must know your employment rights. Otherwise, you risk unlawful discrimination or unjust retaliation. You don’t want your career tarnished by someone else. Be proactive and protect yourself. If you believe you have been a victim of workplace discrimination call the professionals at Villaume & Schiek. We work hard to protect your rights and get you justice. Contact us today.