Sexual and Other Harassment
You have a right to work in a harassment-free work environment. It is unlawful to harass an employee because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, comments, vulgar jokes, unwelcome sexual touching or conversation, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex or gender. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general. Both the victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.
The law also prohibits employers and their employees from harassing other employees on the basis of race, ethnicity, pregnancy, age, religion, disability, or status as a veteran. This means your employer may not stand by and allow your co-workers to harass you on the basis of your race, ethnicity, pregnancy, age, religion, disability, or status as a veteran.
You have a right to a discrimination-free work environment. The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s race, ethnicity, sex/gender, pregnancy, age, religion, disability, or status as a veteran. That means employers are prohibited from using these factors in their decisions about your employment, including hiring, firing, determining pay and benefits, scheduling work, determining work assignments, promotions, discipline, and any other term or condition of employment.
Discrimination may take the form of verbal comments or harassment. For example, harassment can include racial slurs or offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s age or disability. The harasser can be an employee’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.
Discrimination may also involve treating someone unfavorably because the person is married to (or associated with) a person with one of these characteristics. For example, it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee because they have a disabled child that may increase the employer’s health insurance premiums.
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against you for reporting what you believe was unlawful discrimination, harassment, or other retaliation. For example, if you report a supervisor sexually harassing another employee and are terminated shortly thereafter for no apparent reason, you may have a claim of retaliation.
In certain instances, employers are prohibited from retaliating against you for “blowing the whistle” or reporting violations illegal conduct. For example, if you report your employer’s failure to pay overtime wages and your employer terminates you because of it, you may have claim of retaliation. Termination of your employment for refusing to engage in illegal conduct may also create a claim of retaliation. For example, if your employer fires you for refusing to give false testimony in a public hearing, you may have a claim for retaliation.
Wage and Hour Violations
With some narrow exceptions, workers in the United States have a right to overtime pay. Overtime compensation is time-and-a-half of the employee’s regular rate of pay for work over 40 hours a week. Some employers mistakenly believe they can avoid paying overtime by simply paying an employee a salary rather than by the hour, by misclassifying an employee as exempt, by falsifying time records or paychecks, or by requiring the employee to work “off the clock.” Likewise, some employees mistakenly believe that they are not entitled to overtime compensation if they do not complain about their employer’s failure to pay their overtime wages.
The law of wage and hour compensation is extraordinarily complex. Our attorneys, however, have specialized in this area of law for years. Both Amy and Matt been contributing editors for wage and hour treatises for the American Bar Association. More importantly, they have a proven track record of recovering millions in illegally withheld overtime compensation for employees.