When someone gets treated unlawfully at their job because of that person’s race, age, gender, sex, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin, or color that person suffers more than just loss of income. A person’s job is often tied to their identity, their reputation, their sense of worth, and sense of purpose. Losing a job, not getting a promotion, not getting hired, or being subjected to severe or pervasive harassment causes very real pain and suffering. It can strain friendships, estrange family members, break up marriages, and ruin lives. Because unlawful employment discrimination causes that kind of actual damage, most employment laws allow a person to recover money for those things. In employment law, these damages are called compensatory damages and can be recovered in lawsuits against private employers, state and local government employers, and federal agencies.
One of the questions I get all of the time during consultations is, “what does it mean to be an ‘at will’ employee?” If you have this question, then you are in luck because that is what this week’s blog is all about!
First, “at will” employment is the default employment relationship in the state of Texas. That means if you do not have a contract or agreement defining some other type of employment relationship with your company, then you are an “at will” employee. By far, most employees are “at will” employees.
Every day our office receives calls and online inquiries from workers seeking legal advice. They want to know whether their boss’s actions are illegal and whether they have claims to pursue. And, if the answer to both of those questions is yes, they have to think about whether they are ready to take action to protect their rights. But still, before even contacting an attorney they may be afraid. They don’t know when they need an attorney, how long to wait before contacting an attorney, or even if contacting an attorney is the right choice for them. That’s why consultations are a very important part of the practice of law.
How do I know I need an employment attorney?
If you are even asking this question the safest answer is seek a consultation.
Do you find yourself in a situation where you are being discriminated at work, but you have no idea what to even do beyond going to HR? This is probably one of the most common scenarios I encounter during consultations. What I’d like to do is go over some very basic things to keep in mind if you find yourself in a situation where you suspect that you are the victim of discrimination.
Documentation is king.
The very first thing to do is take stock of the documents you have that are related to your employment. For example, any type of disciplinary documents, employee handbook, company memos, pertinent emails, termination letter, any complaints that you have filed or sent to anyone at the company like your boss, HR, or a coworker, or anything that may be relevant.
Jury trials and the lawyers and firms who do them are increasingly rare. But it is well worth seeking one out if you have an employment dispute even if you don’t want to go to trial. That is because Jury trial experience informs every decision made in a case and may drive up settlement value leading to better, more informed representation.
A short time ago, at the federal courthouse, I was talking to a named partner from a prominent employment defense firm in Austin, Texas. During a break in his jury trial that I happened to be watching, he told me that the last time he tried a case to a jury was almost four years ago when we were on opposite sides of a state court retaliation claim. At the time of the conversation, I had already done one jury trial that year and would do another in about two months. Moreover, I had done two jury trials the previous year. During the trial we did together almost four years ago, he had remarked to me that although he had represented that particular client for 10 years, this was only the second jury trial he had done for them.
In the face of a global pandemic, workplaces as we know them have drastically changed. Working from home has become common place, jobs that were undervalued in our society are now seen as essential, and workplaces once seen as safe now have increasing health and safety risks. The circumstances in this essentially unprecedented time serve as an important reminder to why we fight for the rights of workers and why it is so important to continue advancing that fight.
Continue Reading COVID-19 is an important reminder why we fight for employee rights
“[Defendant] contends that it twice offered [the employee] a reasonable accommodation in the form of clerical work, which offers she ignored or rejected. This first offer was undisputedly made, but made at a time when [she] was unable to return to work and on FMLA leave. [The employee] declined the offer on the advice of…
“[The employee’s] claim that she was temporarily totally disabled for the purposes of private disability benefits is not inconsistent with the claim that she could work if provided an accommodation. . . . [Plaintiff argued that] the definition of ‘qualified individual’ in the ADA was not incompatible with the definition of ‘disabled’ within the…
“[Defendant] also contends that a written job description in this case establishes that the essential functions of [the employee’s] duties include lifting and pushing more than ten pounds. While written job descriptions warrant deference, ‘this deference is not absolute,’ and we must ask ‘whether the employer actually requires employees in the position to perform the…
“At oral argument, counsel for [Defendant] suggested we reject the [Plaintiff]’s evidence as self-serving. But this is summary judgment, and we may not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations.” Equal Emp’t Opportunity Comm’n v. Vicksburg Healthcare, LLC, — F. App’x —, 2016 WL 5939424, at *3 (5th Cir. Oct. 12, 2016) (internal citations