6 Kinds of Employer Misconduct
We’ve all heard horror stories about “monster” bosses or even dealt with them personally ourselves but being a horrible boss does not automatically mean employer misconduct. Your boss can be a cranky cheapstake but as long as he abides by federal and state labor laws, you can’t hold him liable for a “bad” personality.
However, you can hold your boss liable in court or before federal agencies if he does any of the following illegal acts:
• Failure to follow Wage and Hour Laws – There are strict laws all employees must comply with in terms of proper compensation as well as meal and rest breaks. For example, all employers should follow the minimum wage ($7.50 per hour) imposed but this is of course subject to the applicable state law. In California, as of January 1, 2008, all non-exempt employees must be paid the minimum wage of $8.00 per hour. This applies instead of the federal minimum wage because this is more favorable to the employee. Also, all employees who render overtime work, whether authorized or not, must be paid at the rate of one and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight up to an including 12 hours in any workday. Further, employers are required to provide their employees a meal period of not less than 30 minutes for a work period of more than five hours per day except that if the total work period per day of the employee is no more than six hours. If an employer violates the following laws, an employee may file a wage claim against the employer.
• Discrimination – There are several federal and state laws that protect employees against employment discrimination. Under the law, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against his employee through hiring, promotion, giving of benefits, compensation, and termination on the basis of the employee’s disability, age, nationality, religion, race, gender and even genetic information. Some states like California even have anti-discrimination laws against sexual orientation and status.
• Breach of Contract – Although most states adhere to the principle of employment at will, there are instances when your employment is set in a contact. Employment contracts are legally binding on both the employer and the employee so any violation of its provisions can give rise to a lawsuit.
• Willful and Serious Misconduct – An employer may be held liable for “serious and willful misconduct” if he was aware of a dangerous condition at work yet deliberately failed to take corrective action, which resulted to an employee’s injury. More than gross negligence, such actions/conduct is quasi-criminal in nature. The employer may be held liable to pay an amount equal to half the value of all benefits paid as a result of the injury which would include temporary and permanent disability, medical and vocational rehabilitation benefits.
• Sexual Harassment – Sexual harassment is one of the most pervasive employer misconduct to this day – the EEOC received as many 12,696 cases of sexual harassment in 2009 alone. Under the law, it is unlawful for an employer to sexually harass employees (whether male or female) through actions/misconduct like making unwanted sexual advances or requests, verbal and physical of a sexual nature, or a hostile work environment.
• Retaliation – An employer may be sued for retaliation if he fires, demotes, threatens to terminate, harasses, or punishes an employee who has engaged in a “protected activity”. The following are examples of protected activities under the law: reports corporate fraud and/or illicit activity, files a wage claim, time off to serve on a jury, reports to the OHSA about a safety or health hazard or refuses to perform hazardous work.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mesriani Law Group
Mesriani Law Group is an LA-based law firm that specializes in personal injury, employment and labor, social security and disability, and business and corporate cases. Under the helm of its founder, Rodney Mesriani the firm has been successfully representing clients for more than 15 years now.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.