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Private Sector and Federal Employee Law Blog

Firefighter files $2.5 million wrongful termination lawsuit

Sometimes, workers who try to do the right thing by reporting employer misdeeds, are wrongfully fired for doing so. However, when this is the case, it is possible that the employee may have legal recourse. Take, for example, a Washington, D.C., fire captain, who has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the district in the amount of $2.5 million. She claims she was wrongfully terminated after being unfairly blamed for a sluggish response, the fire department had to a 2008 fire in an apartment complex in Mount Pleasant. The woman had been a firefighter for 18 years.

The woman emailed the fire chief, explaining that her supervisor did not allow her to inspect the apartment complex's basement where the blaze began. A later investigation determined that the department's failure to inspect the basement was fatal to its ability to control the blaze, which did indeed begin in the basement. After sending the email to the fire chief, the woman was asked to undergo a psychological evaluation. She declined to do so and was ultimately let go from her job in October 2009.

Settlement may preferred in some wrongful termination claims

When an employee in Washington, D.C., believes he or she was wrongfully terminated, they may take legal action, via filing a lawsuit against their employer. However, while a successful lawsuit may allow the employee to recover compensation, such as compensatory damages and back pay, there is always the chance that the employee's lawsuit will not succeed, meaning the employee will get nothing. Moreover, in some situations, it is hard to prove one was wrongfully terminated. Therefore, many employees in Washington, D.C., who have filed a wrongful termination lawsuit ultimately decide to settle.

In fact, many wrongful termination lawsuits never see a courtroom. Employees have to show that they were fired for an impermissible or unlawful reason, such as discrimination, being a whistleblower or reporting sexual harassment in the workplace. It is not always to prove this to a jury. Therefore, a settlement may be the most appropriate option for some employees.

Do pregnant women deserve better treatment in the American workplace?

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As Marianne Levine reports for Politico, some areas of the country have been beefing up their pregnancy discrimination laws over the past couple of years. That includes the District of Columbia. "Tired of waiting for Washington to act [on the federal level]," Levine writes, "states are passing legislation to shield pregnant workers from discrimination in the workplace."

First Lady transcends party lines with powerful speech on women's rights

This post is not a political endorsement. Its purpose is to call attention to the way our culture often treats women in America.

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In 1920, roughly one century ago, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, women gained the right to vote. Just a few days ago, however, the Twitter hashtag "#RepealThe19th" made its rounds on the web. This was an unsavory response to a report indicating that Hillary Clinton would enjoy a landslide win if only women had the right to vote - vice versa for Donald Trump if only men had the right to vote, as it was prior to 1920.

So came on Oct. 13, on the stump for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, First Lady Michelle Obama's justifiable rebuke of Trump's "locker room talk," and its subtext, in which an ugly part of our culture apparently feels free to reduce women to little more than objects, rather than human beings deserving of equal treatment.

What does it mean to be employed 'at-will' in Washington, D.C.?

Most people in Washington, D.C. who work are employed "at-will." For some, this is true even if there is an employee handbook or an employment contract. Therefore, it is important to understand what this means, particularly when it comes to wrongful termination.

By being an at-will employee, you could be fired at any point in time and for any lawful reason. It can even be something arbitrary, such as an employer not liking the was that the employee dresses. Your employer doesn't even need to provide an at-will employee with notice or good cause that he or she is going to be fired. Only if an employee's employment contract has a provision that the employee cannot be fired except for good cause, or if the employer broke the law in firing the employee, can an employee be legally protected from being fired at-will.

Standing up for victims of workplace discrimination

Some Washington, D.C. residents may have experienced being the target of workplace discrimination at some point. Not only does employment discrimination affect a person's job, but it can also have untold effects on their psyche. It could be so bad as to ultimately cause the employee to resign due to the hostile work environment that the discrimination fostered. In other cases, an employer might discriminate against, or even terminate, an employer who reports the hostile work environment.

Discrimination in the workplace can take a number of forms. For example, a worker could be discriminated against due to their gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, national origin, race or disability. While discriminatory comments and retaliatory acts may be obvious forms of discrimination, even establishing a "glass ceiling" in the workplace to keep a mid-level employee form being promoted could also be considered discrimination in certain circumstances

Some Wells Fargo whistleblowers experienced retaliation

Wells Fargo is a long-established name in the banking industry, and one expects that it will act with integrity in its business activities. Therefore, Washington D.C. residents may be shocked to hear that the banking giant got caught firing 5,300 workers for reporting that the company was making fictitious bank accounts, false bank card personal identification numbers and false email accounts. The bank was penalized $185 million for these actions.

The fired workers have found their lives turned upside down just for trying to do the ethical thing in reporting these egregious acts. For example, in September 2013, one worker phoned an ethics hotline and notified his human resource department that he was being asked to open false credit accounts and bank accounts. Eight days later, Wells Fargo fired that worker, citing tardiness. A former human resource employee of Wells Fargo reported that if a worker reported the bank's unethical activities, the bank would look for any little way to fire that worker, such as reporting to work a couple minutes late.

Chobani founder offers six weeks of paid leave to his workers

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The Family and Medical Leave Act, enacted in 1993, was a big step in the right direction for employee rights in the U.S. More often referred to in the form of its acronym, the FMLA allows employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave from their jobs for a protected family or medical reason, such as the birth of a child. (The time off need not be a continuous 12 weeks.) Under the FMLA, an employee is not to be demoted or terminated because the employee took leave - though the law does come with exceptions, such as for companies that employ fewer than 50 people.

What steps should you take to stop unethical activities at work?

This blog has covered numerous stories of individuals who blew the whistle on their employer's unlawful activities. It is important to hold Washington, D.C. employers accountable for their actions, and sometimes the only way to do that is to report your employer's acts to the appropriate authorities. Therefore, it is important to know what steps to take, should you find yourself in such a position.

First, if you believe your employer is acting unethically or breaking the law, it is important to document these acts. Keep a written record of the dates and times the acts took place, what the acts were and who was involved in them. Write down any spoken comments relating to the acts. Also, make copies of the original written record.

Think carefully before signing that employment contract

For some Washington, D.C. residents who have been diligently seeking employment, finally having a job offer is something to celebrate. When being offered a job, a worker may be given an employment contract to sign. However, workers in situations like this should not be hasty, but should make sure they look for key clauses that could have a major effect on their employment.

First of all, think about job security. Some employment contracts consider the job to be "at-will" while others may be for a "fixed-term." Either of these scenarios may show a lack of job security. Similarly, look for a start date and end date for the job. If the contract does not contain a start and end date, it is simply an offer letter. Workers should also make sure that the contract includes "just-cause" termination provisions.

I have been a litigator for close to 20 years and Alan is most certainly one of the best attorneys I have ever come across.
Mr. Lescht is an excellent Trial Lawyer, He is calm, cool, and collected.
I also appreciated Alan's frankness and his ability to identify what is important and what is not when going through a case like this.
I would highly recommend Alan to anyone who needs an exceptional and incredibly talented Employment Attorney.
Mr. Lescht is an extraordinarily responsive attorney, returning my emails and phone calls within minutes. I would absolutely recommend him to anyone who thinks they may need a lawyer. Definitely incredible work.
I was impressed with his knowledge and professionalism, and I will always be grateful for his guidance.

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