If you are considering filing a lawsuit against an employer, know you are entitled to certain protections under federal and state law. They are strong, comprehensive, and written to safeguard employee rights against powerful businesses across multiple industries.
When employers violate employment laws, there are steps that you can take to support your claim and get results.
Here are key steps you need to take to protect your workplace rights:
- Know Your Employee Rights
- Gather and Document Important Information
- Be Discreet and Contain Your Emotions at Work
- Be Expeditious – Do Not Delay Action
- Consult with an Employee Rights Attorney
5 Key Steps to Help You Protect Your Rights in the Workplace
1. Know Your Employee Rights
Employee rights are wide-ranging. Employment law covers many areas that employers are legally obligated to follow. This includes protection against:
- Discrimination – Employees have the right to not be discriminated against due to race, sex and gender, age (40 and older), disability, religion, pregnancy, national origin, and genetic information in any aspect of their job. Additional rights are protected under the law, including no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. From the hiring process to promotions and more, laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) offer tremendous protections.
- Sexual Harassment – Sexual harassment is against the law. Period. Everyone deserves the right to a safe working environment. Employers are increasingly being held accountable for their actions and must take steps to stopping sexual harassment and safeguard employees and their careers.
- Wages – Employees are entitled to be paid what they are lawfully owed. When filing a lawsuit against an employer, attorneys work hard to build strong cases for payment of wages legally owed, including unpaid overtime, back pay, unpaid wages and commissions, fulfillment of employment contracts, and more.
- Whistleblowing – When employees are trying to do the right thing, they should not be retaliated against. According to Florida’s Private Whistleblower’s Act, Florida’s Public Whistleblower Act and numerous statutes such as OSHAct, it is unlawful for employers to terminate employees for uncovering, objecting to, or reporting violations of state and federal law.
- FMLA and Workers’ Compensation Retaliation– Employee rights are also strong regarding family and medical leave and protections against retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Employee rights attorneys work closely and confidentiality with clients each step of the way when filing a lawsuit against an employer. Knowing your rights is the first important step to a resolution.
2. Gathering and Documenting Important Information
When you are considering filing a lawsuit against an employer, documenting the situation as soon as possible is a key way to protect your workplace rights. Documentation such as employee handbooks, wage/salary documentation, employment contracts, relevant emails and texts, memos, reviews, and other HR or related physical or electronic documentation can be strong case builders.
If there were incidents, such as verbal, physical, or sexual harassment, offensive language, or other actions related to the situation, documenting what, where, who, and when of what happened to the best of your ability is important. Also, include any potential witnesses to the event/actions.
Even if you feel you do not have a lot of documentation, you may have more than you think. Employment attorneys are highly skilled at assessing the situation and can build cases in different ways.
3. Be Discreet and Contain Your Emotions at Work
When employers act in potentially unlawful ways, it can be very upsetting. Doing your best to be discreet and contain your emotions at work can not only be helpful to your case when filing a lawsuit against an employer, but it can also be good for your mental health. Discussing the situation with colleagues, especially when emotions are heated, may exacerbate the problem. Failure to meet your job requirements, disruption of work, outbursts, even if you believe them to be justified can provide an employer with an independent basis for your termination, which may allow the employer to escape liability even if you can prove there ws prior discrimination or harassment.
Seek out stress-relieving activities away from work as you are working toward a resolution to the issue. From physical activity to meditation, yoga, and more, taking steps outside of work to channel your emotions will help you to be discreet and professional in the workplace as your case is progressing.
4. Be Expeditious – Do Not Delay Action
Just as in other types of legal matters, there are time limits (statutes of limitations) for filing a lawsuit against an employer for violations of employment laws. The statutes of limitations vary depending upon the case, but it is important not to delay action.
For example, if you are considering filing a lawsuit for discrimination, you first need to file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This process applies if you are bringing a claim under a law administered by the EEOC, except for those under the Equal Pay Act. Once the investigation is completed by the EEOC, they will send a Notice of Right to Sue. A request can also be submitted during the investigation process. You do not have to file a charge on your own- in fact, you should seek counsel before signing a charge if time permits. You do not need to sit patiently on the sideline while the EEOC “investigates” your charge. The EEOC does not represent you and will not be advocating your position your attorney will. Significant progress can be made by you and your attorney before the charge is filed and while it is pending.
Important note: After you receive the Notice of Right to Sue, you only have 90 days to file a lawsuit under many federal laws. This 90-day limited time frame is set by law.
5. Consult with an Employment Law Attorney
When financial stability and careers are at stake, having a full understanding of your rights – and your potential legal options – will give you the resources you need to make the correct decision for you, your career, and even your family.
Employment Law attorneys understand how difficult it can be when someone is considering filing a lawsuit against an employer. They understand the short and long-term impacts of moving forward (or not moving forward) with a case. Client consultations are confidential, offering an objective and expert assessment of individual situations to help employees make critical decisions regarding employee rights and potential lawsuits.
They can also inform you of potential resolutions to violations of your employee rights. They work aggressively to get justice against powerful employers who break the law.
Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. is included in U.S. News & World Report’s list of 2020 Best Law Firms as well as Tampa Magazine’s 2019 list of Top Lawyers.
Please Note: At the time this article was written, the information contained within it was current based on the prevailing law at the time. Laws and precedents are subject to change, so this information may not be up to date. Always speak with a law firm regarding any legal situation to get the most current information available.