Most companies should be conscious enough to eliminate or reduce workplace discrimination. If a company fails to do so eliminate or reduce discrimination in the workplace this could cause issues such as employees missing work; low employee morale and productivity from employees, high employee turnover and high legal costs to name a few (U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2017). Therefore, it is very important that companies try to be proactive and prevent discrimination from taking place. Employees are currently protected against many forms of discrimination by employment laws. Discrimination laws were put into place to stop employers from actively discriminating against certain employees. Employees here in the U.S. are lucky to have labor laws that help protect them from work related issues such as discrimination. Although most companies pay attention to labor laws and document policies to fight challenging issues, people still may have issues in the workplace. There have been several anti-discrimination laws passed to protect employees against discrimination in the workplace. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 and 1870 were the first anti-discrimination employment statues that dealt directly with Issue of discrimination (Jennings, 2018). But since then other acts have been developed such as the Employment Equality Acts focuses on whether a person has been treated less favorably in the workplace than another person in a similar situation on any of the nine grounds, including disability.
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Regardless of the anti-discrimination laws some employers believe because they have an employment at-will agreements they can terminate employees and not be impacted. Employment at-will is an agreement that the working relationship is for an open-ended period of time and may be ended either by employer or employee. Under employment at will, either party is free to end the employment relationship for any reason. So this means an employee can quit with no reason and no notice, and it’s the same for employers. However, there are some exceptions where there are certain reasons as to why termination could still be considered wrongful. These exceptions can typically vary by state. The exceptions are public policy exception, implied contract, and implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Muhl, 2001). The public policy exception recognizes that there are many employment government policies and laws, such as anti-discrimination laws that protect employees. These laws and policies could void employment at will from being used as a defense in a wrongful termination suit. Criteria for what violates public policy in a particular state varies from state to state. The implied contract exception means that an employee employment contracts, either formal ones or those that are implied, also undermine the securities offered to employers under at will employment. Some states recognize an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in employment relationships. Under this exception, an employer typically may not terminate an employee in bad faith or terminate an employee when the termination is motivated by hatred. The promise of good faith means that the employer and employee have to be fair and forthright with each other. Neither party can undermine the other’s rights or benefits. In states that follow this covenant, employers must have just cause to fire someone, such as a company policy violation, insubordination, or poor performance.
These law requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer’s business. This means an employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow an employee to practice his or her religion. In the case of Joann, there does not seem like there is enough reasonable documentation to show that the actions of Joann are impacting the operations of the company. If Joann would be terminated she would have a case for wrongful termination. Because of the laws that protect employees, it can require employers to make some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift changes, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) an employer must reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless it impacts a company’s operations. The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (commonly shortened to “RFRA” and pronounced “Rifra”) was passed in 1993 to provide stronger protections for religious free exercise. Then in in 2017, some states have the 2017 Religious Freedom Restoration Act Legislation.
Labor law prohibits employers from deterring employees from joining a union. Labor law prohibits the unfair Labor practices. Employers are permitted by law to ensure they are treating employees fairly when they want to form a union. As the employer you should work with your immediate supervisors to educate them on things they should do in the case of employees’ openly discussing grievances and wanting to start a union. Jamal should have sat down with the employee and told the employee what he thinks about a union so long as they don’t use threats or undue influence. This was an opportunity for the supervisor to share with the employee how good the working conditions are at the company and worked with the employee on how to solve some of the employee issues that he/she thought could be solved by a union. The employee may have information to state that he/she did not return to work because the Supervisor threatened. So there is a chance that any lawsuit the employee could prevail.
Most companies have a parental leave company policy outlining their requirements for employees who have children. This is because most companies want their employees to be able to balance their job and family duties. However, every company policy is different. Some companies offer maternity leave and some companies offer paternal leave for fathers so they are allowed to partake in the raising of their children as well. In the case of Brian’s request for parental leave the wrongful termination could heavily determine on what the company policy states. However, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave (U.S. Department of Labor). FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. It also seeks to accommodate the legitimate interests of employers and promote equal employment opportunity for men and women. If the company decides to not approve Brian’s leave request based on FMLA policies there is a cause for wrongful termination. The paid leave portion of the request depends on the companies parental leave policy.
Employees with pre-existing conditions can experience workplace discrimination in several forms. However, in this instance, if Peter pre-existing condition is making his condition worse and thus impacting his performance at work. The employer because functioning as an employment at-will employer can argue that the day to day activities of the employee is not being met. Thus has enough to terminate the employee. Peter has been with the company for 1 year so this would show that his pre-existing condition did not impact being hired and working for a year; however the performance is declining thus the reason for termination. Peter should not have a case for wrongful termination.
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Today, employees enjoy numerous legal protections designed to protect them in the workplace from being discriminated against. However, almost all U.S. employees are at-will employees. This means a vast majority of employees can be fired for almost any reason, so long as it is not discriminatory in nature. Discrimination in the workplace can happen during the hiring process and even after an employee is hired. The EEOC outlines not only who we cannot discriminate against, but also what is considered discrimination. There are so many exceptions to the at will employment doctrine, that it’s in an employer’s best interest to follow sound HR practices, including stating that “employment is at will” in all employee documentation. However, fair treatment at the workplace involves providing equal employment opportunities and a working environment where each employee despite their race, color, sexual orientation, religion gender or other such criteria is treated with fairness, dignity and respect. To ensure company growth, fair treatment of employees in the workplace is not just a moral responsibility but also necessary. Companies should document involuntary terminations with a valid reasoning so that they are prepared in advance should a law suit be fine to defend themselves against a wrongful termination lawsuit.
- Jennings, Marianne. (2018). Business: It’s Legal, Ethical, and Global Environment (11th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.
- Muhl, Charles J. (2001). The employment-at-will doctrine: three major exceptions. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- United States Department of Labor. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/workhours/fmla
- United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Equal Employment Opportunity https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/discrimination
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