Employer policies can impact your ability to bring a claim in court and in some cases can create contracts between the employer and employee. To learn more about different types of employer policies and their lawfulness, read below: Does an employer have to follow its own handbook or personnel policy? Some state courts have held that an employer handbook is a contract unless the handbook expressly states that it is not a contract. If the handbook is deemed to be a contract by the court, then the employer can be liable for breaching that contract if it fails to follow the procedures outlined within the handbook.
Additionally handbooks can play an important role in wrongful termination or discrimination suits. If an employers handbook or personnel policies provide procedures to be followed in terms of employee discipline or termination, those procedures should be followed and applied evenly.
For instance, if an employer applies the policies discriminatorily, such as following the handbook for men but not for women, this can be used as evidence of discrimination. Another possible claim an employee may bring if an employer fails to follow discipline or termination policies is a breach of contract claim. State laws vary in evaluating whether a handbook is a contract. You should consult your own state's law to determine if it considers handbooks to be contracts between employers and employees.
Additionally, it is important to realize that an employer can generally change its handbook or personnel policy at anytime, so if your employer sends out a personnel policy update be sure to read through it to be aware of your rights.
My employer has a general policy, but it only seems to affect certain employees- is this legal? It is true that sometimes facially neutral policies policies that are applied to all employees equally and are not expressly illegal can sometimes violate the law.
For example, a policy may prohibit promotion when an employee takes off four or more consecutive weeks during the year. A policy like this would tend to discriminate against women who took time off due to pregnancy or employees who were sick or otherwise temporarily disabled. Individuals negatively affected by a policy like this could potentially file a lawsuit against their employer.
What are examples of employer policies that might help prevent different types of discrimination or affect my ability to bring a claim in court? Some company policies go further than the minimum requirements provided by state and federal law to expand employee protection e. When an employer does not follow their own policy regarding the ways in which an employee in a protected category is treated, this can raise the inference of discrimination.
Companies can minimize liability by having anti-harassment policies. These can include various obligations, for example, an obligation to put an employer on notice or to follow the harassment policy when making a claim. If an employee does not follow the internal procedures outlined by the policy they may not be able to pursue a claim in court.
These types of policies include inter-office dating policies and anti-nepotism policies that prohibit or limit situations in which employer and employee relatives can work at the company. These policies are legal and you should be aware of them as violation of the policies may lead to discipline or termination. Non-Disparagement or Confidentiality Clauses: Non-Compete and Arbitration clauses: Non-Compete and Arbitration clauses are common in employment contracts and are generally legal and binding.
While an employer cannot technically force you to sign a non-compete agreement or an arbitration clause, they can legally choose not to hire you or to terminate you if you refuse to sign the agreements.
For more information on Non-Compete and Arbitration clauses and how they affect your workplace rights, see our respective pages: Non-Compete Agreements and Arbitration Agreements. Social Media and Internet Usage Policies: In fact, employers are generally able to monitor your internet usage without an express personnel policy on the matter.
It is important to note that you can generally be fired for not following internet usage policies or if the employer finds your internet usage unacceptable. There are no federal laws that prohibit an employer from requiring an employee or job applicant to provide their username and password for social media accounts; however, a number of states have enacted laws with various levels of protection in regards to employees social media accounts.
Employers generally can and do use information from accessible social media accounts to make employment decisions. Information gathered from social media can be used in the hiring process with some limitations ie: But in general, an employer can fire you for having a personal website or blog that it deems inappropriate, with very limited exceptions. Thus, protesting about working conditions might be protected, while complaining about a boss might not be. Thus, OSHA provides the minimum guidelines for health and safety that employers must implement.
Additionally if you suffer a workplace injury you may be eligible for workers' compensation. This is an important benefit that provides for replacement income and medical expenses for employees who are injured at work and unable to continue working due their injuries. Workers' compensation extends to illnesses that are specifically caused by something unique to the workplace.
Employers may implement leave policies that more generous than those required by law, but there are important minimum standards set by federal and state law mandating employee leave in certain situations.
The Family and Medical Leave Act is the primary federal law protecting the right to take family or medical leave without losing your job and health insurance benefits or suffering retaliation. The FMLA guarantees an employee, male or female, who has been working at least a year for a company with 50 or more employees the right to job-protected, week, unpaid leave to recover from a serious medical condition or to care for a newborn, a newly adopted child, or a seriously ill child, parent or spouse.
Additionally, some states and localities have imposed more generous state laws mandating family and medical leave, and sometimes providing for paid leave. Members of the United States Armed Forces are entitled to special workplace protections under federal and state law.
The laws also aim to ensure that servicemembers do not face employment discrimination due to their military commitments. Additionally, some states have enacted their own laws providing additional protections to servicemembers. See our State Laws on Military Leave page for a list of applicable state laws.
Unlike many countries, the United States does not require employers to offer vacation time. However, most employers do, though the way they go about it can differ significantly between employers.
To learn more about employee rights with respect to vacation policies see our Vacation Pay page. Possible concerns regarding employer policies include, but are not limited to: This may be the most immediate way to address your concern and some legal claims require that this step be completed prior to filing a claim. If internal grievance procedures are inadequate or ineffective to resolve the issue, you may have access to a legal remedy.
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