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Detroit Employment Law Blog

What to do about discrimination in the workplace

Michigan employment discrimination laws are written to protect one's rights in the workplace. Discrimination is the act of treating an individual or group of people different or unfairly based upon membership in a protected class of people, such as race, sex, age or religion.

Under Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, it is illegal in the workplace for an employer to discriminate based on "religion, race, color, national origin, sex, age, weight, height, marital status, or arrest record." Employers also cannot discriminate based on a physical or mental disability, AIDS or HIV under the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act.

Superintendent to receive $82K in severance after resigning

In Norton Shores, the Mona Shores Public School Board has agreed to pay Greg Helmer, the former superintendent, $82,975.40 in severance pay through June 30, 2018. The agreement was made after Helmer turned in his resignation effective as of Nov. 14. He will also retain his health insurance coverage until June 30, 2018.

Helmer's contract for employment with the Mona Shores Public School Board was not set to expire until June 30, 2019. His decision to resign came after he was reprimanded and placed on paid administrative leave in early November for alleged retaliation against a fellow staff member. Helmer had been under investigation beginning earlier in the year for "bullying, harassment and intimidating behavior " toward a staff member, who claimed he was trying to get rid of her.

Are Michigan laws regarding marijuana use contradictory?

Michigan legislature passes laws, but interpretation is often done at the Court of Appeals. The use of marijuana for medical reasons was passed into law in Michigan in 2008 by a 63 percent voter approval. In 2009, a Walmart employee was discharged from his job after failing a drug test, which came back positive for cannabis. The employee was medically prescribed the drug for sinus cancer and a brain tumor.

A wrongful discharge suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Results of the lawsuit, held before a U.S. district judge, were favorable to Walmart. A later appeal before the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. Final synopsis is that it is legal for a Michigan business to fire an employee for using medical marijuana, even when used during nonworking hours.

As a legal immigrant, am I safe from workplace discrimination?

To be clear, you may not exactly "be safe from" workplace discrimination, but you do have federal protections against discrimination in the workplace. What this means is that while you certainly have a right to be free of discrimination, it could still happen to you in your workplace. Further, if someone – a boss or a co-worker – discriminates against you because of your immigration status, the law can help you find a remedy.

Like other workers in the nation, you have the right to work in an environment that is free of harassment, hostility and discrimination. The government puts a fine point on these rights by outlining what is not permissible in the workplace. The following list contains a few examples of illegal behaviors against immigrant workers in Detroit and elsewhere in the U.S.

  • Demanding that workers always speak English even when it is unnecessary for their job
  • Treating employees differently because they speak with a foreign accent
  • Engaging in or allowing harassment (e.g. ethnic slurs)
  • Imposing employment requirements that may result in screening out immigrants
  • Refusing to hire due to physical appearance (e.g. color of the skin)
  • Making fun of or disallowing immigrant customs
  • Harassing or retaliating because an immigrant seeks a discrimination claim

Restaurant chain settles age-discrimination case for $12 million

A national restaurant chain has agreed to pay $12 million to individuals who were affected by the company's practice of not hiring individuals over age 40 for certain jobs.

The settlement was reached earlier this year between Texas Roadhouse and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), according to media reports. The settlement came after a trial in Boston that resulted in a hung jury.

Nurses union files suit over whistleblower provision violations

According to a group of Michigan nurses with the Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital, there are serious safety issues at this health care facility. Allegations include inadequate staffing, patient harm and poor conditions just to name three. The nurses union to which these professionals belong also claims that hospital leaders "violated the whistleblower provisions of the Michigan Public Health Code."

Specifically, the union alleges that executives with the hospital are refusing to accept staff ADO (Assignment Despite Objection) reports about unsafe conditions. Staff members, including nurses, file these reports anytime they cannot carry out their assignments "safely in accordance with professional standards." When filed, these ADO reports must receive a response within 60 days.

A contract can protect you if your company tries to force you out

Executive employment contracts can provide you with a great deal of protection in Detroit's corporate arena. After all, the contract's provisions bind both you and your employer legally. This can make it challenging for "big bosses" to force executive employees out of their positions, but it can still happen.

Your best source of protection from unethical activities on the part of your employer is your executive employment contract. Before putting your name on the bottom line, it is wise to seek legal counsel in order to make sure your contract is airtight. An employment attorney will review your contract with a critical eye to ensure it provides you with the greatest amount of protection possible.

Workplace discrimination in the form of gender bias

The news is awash in stories of harassment and discrimination against women in the workplace. People are shocked and rightly so, but never forget that workplace discrimination based on gender has been a problem for far too many years to count. You should also remember that discrimination and even sexual harassment happens to male workers as well as to female employees.

Below you will find some timely examples of workplace discrimination that can happen to either gender. This information can help you determine if you are suffering from gender-based discrimination in your workplace. It can also raise awareness about these issues within the Michigan workforce.

Exploring the government's whistleblower bill of rights

Once a person has blown the whistle on corruption, ethics violations and other illegal activities, it is virtually impossible to back out of the situation. That is why it is so important to weigh the situation carefully before going forward. One thing that may make potential whistleblowers feel better about speaking out is learning about their rights as a whistleblower.

The federal government takes a very serious approach to protecting a whistleblower's rights. In fact, it has created what is essentially a bill of rights to ensure and preserve this protection in all matters involving the whistleblower. Some important elements of this bill of rights include:

  • Whistleblowers enjoy a broad freedom of speech right in disclosing any information about illegal or unethical activities.
  • Whistleblowers have access to a range of objective and fair procedures while the complaint is under investigation.
  • Whistleblowers are granted protection from any form of retaliation and are given options to hold parties accountable for retaliation.
  • Whistleblowers have the right to remain confidential if possible and to be notified in advance if their name will be released.
  • Whistleblowers are to be notified about their rights and how to use the available whistleblower complaint systems.
  • Whistleblowers have the right to contribute to the documentation of an investigation and to receive a copy of the final report.

What you need to know about employment contracts

If your career is on an upward trajectory, eventually you will earn a new opportunity that brings with it something you haven't encountered: an employment contract.

Employment contracts are serious business that can have far-reaching effects on you, your career and your family. With that in mind, here are questions that many people have about employment contracts.

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