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Detroit Employment Law Blog

A brief survey for victims of workplace discrimination

When you've been wronged by discrimination at your workplace, you'll know it. Most victims of workplace discrimination suspect that they lost their jobs, didn't get hired or got passed up for a promotion for unfair reasons related to their race, gender or for some other protected reason.

If you suspect you were wronged by workplace discrimination, you might want to ask yourself the following questions. If you answer yes to any of the following your situation warrants a deeper investigation:

  • Do you have evidence that your employer terminated you due to a discriminatory reason? This could be written or verbal evidence that you took notes on.
  • Do you have circumstantial evidence related to the discriminatory reason? Perhaps, for example, you lost your job as soon as your employer discovered your ethnicity, religion or age.
  • Does your employer treat employees of a similar status differently because of the race, gender, age or another protected characteristic? Perhaps the employer lets white employees arrive to work late without any repercussions, but black employees get a warning and a write-up.
  • Has your employer exhibited behaviors, make comments or show decision-making patterns that indicate an unlawful bias?
  • Are there any witnesses to the discriminatory behaviors, decisions, communications and actions of your employer?

Workers with disabilities: The employer's duty to accommodate

When Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, individuals with various health and ability challenges throughout the United States achieved a major victory. The ADA requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations so that individuals with disabilities could perform their job duties and work for them.

The ADA also protects individuals with disabilities from discriminatory firing, pay and employment practices. Employers, for example, cannot pay someone with a disability less than someone else who is performing the same job duties.

Is your noncompete agreement legally binding?

If you signed a noncompete agreement as a part of your employment, but you don't work for the same company anymore, it's understandable why you might want to "get out of" your noncompete agreement. In some cases, your noncompete might not be legally valid. In other cases, it will be.

Here are a few situations in which your noncompete agreement might not be valid:

Federal appeals court says employers cannot ask about pay history

The gender pay gap has been in the news recently, thanks in part due to a court ruling that said employers cannot ask prospective employees about their pay history.

In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit sided with a California worker who argued that "considering prior compensation when setting a worker's pay perpetuates gender disparities and defies the spirit of the federal Equal Pay Act."

Is your employer doing its part to stop sexual harassment?

The vast majority of companies offer some form of sexual harassment training. According to the Association for Talent Development, approximately 71 percent of employers have implemented a form of sexual harassment prevention training that they require all employees to complete. An even higher percentage of employers have created a written policy on sexual harassment that defines the behavior and provides guidelines for victims who need to report such abuses to make them stop.

How does your employer measure up? Is your employer one of the few hold-outs that have -- through laziness or lack of care -- neglected to create sexual harassment guidelines to which employees and supervisors must adhere? Does your workplace have a reputation among your coworkers for being a hotbed for rude and inappropriate jokes and comments about the appearance and sexuality of others? Are employees simply supposed to put up with toxic junior high-style working conditions where every other thing that comes out of their colleague's mouths relates to sex?

Are your coworkers making annoying comments about your age?

Old age is a fact of life. At some point in our evolution, we simply look, feel and even act like we're getting older. The thing is, just because we're getting older and have a few more gray hairs is not a valid reason for employers to discriminate against us on the job. Age discrimination is unlawful and the employers who discriminate against the aging members of their workforce unfairly can be held accountable in court.

In many cases, age discrimination starts in subtle ways like other types of discrimination do. Perhaps your boss asks you in a nice kind of way, "Are you planning to retire anytime soon?" This is a sign that your boss is looking at you differently because you're getting older.

Were your whistleblower rights violated?

What if you're a federal employee who saw a coworker breaking the law, but when you reported the behavior to your supervisor, you were told to keep quiet? Would you tell your supervisor's boss about what happened? Would you go to the appropriate legal authorities and tell them what's going on?

Perhaps you realize that your boss has instituted a policy that results in the violation of federal environmental protection laws. Many federal employees face this kind of ethical dilemma at their workplaces on a daily basis. Should you report illegal behavior that you witness at your work even if it could result in the loss of your job or some other negative employment consequence? In fact, employees who report illegal behavior can receive protection under the federal law from any kind of retaliation.

Jury awards nearly $17 million in discrimination case

A federal jury in Michigan has awarded a former Ford engineer nearly $17 million in a discrimination lawsuit.

The suit alleged that Ford discriminated against the man for his Arab background and then retaliated against him after he reported the discrimination.

6 things to look for in an employment contract

You have reached a point in your career where you are more than an employee. Companies come to you with contracts when they want your services.

It is absolutely critical that you understand exactly what benefits the contract offers. Below are six things you should look for:

  1. Job security: Does the contract protect you from being fired? How much warning should you get and what steps need to be followed if you are going to be terminated?
  2. Reasons for termination: Make sure these are as specific as possible. When things are open-ended, you may not have the security that you want.
  3. End dates and start dates: Is the contract going to last until you resign or get fired? Or will you only work for the company for a specific time, at the end of which, you'll have to negotiate a new contract?
  4. Exclusive employment clauses: If you sign the deal, are you only allowed to work for that company? If you do freelance work on the side -- for a charity you're involved with, for instance -- do you run the risk of getting fired?
  5. The full compensation package: Do not just look at the monthly or yearly pay. Check out retirement benefits, health care options and more.
  6. Your status if the company is sold: Are the new owners obligated to keep you on, or can they fire you and start over with a new staff? Do you get any compensation if the company is sold and you lose your job?

Filing a discrimination case in Michigan

Michigan law is very specific about protecting its citizens from workplace discrimination. The law makes it clear that it is illegal to discriminate against any person on the "basis of age, arrest record, color, height, marital status, national origin, physical or mental disability (including AIDS and HIV), race, religion, sex and weight." No company, no matter how big or small, is exempt from the discrimination laws.

When it comes to filing a discrimination case, Michigan laws are also specific. Having an attorney at the onset is a good idea since he or she will readily know the steps to take and the evidence you may need.

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