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Washington D.C. Employment Law Blog

What is retaliation and can it constitute wrongful termination?

Employees in Washington, D.C. are generally considered to have employment at will. This means that an employee may leave employment or an employer can terminate an employee for no cause at any all. Despite this general employment-at-will, however, there are situations in which the firing of an employee is considered to be unlawful. For example, situations involving retaliation often constitute wrongful termination. An employee fired in retaliation may have a legal case against his or her employer for compensation or restitution.

The law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees. Retaliation, according to its legal definition, occurs when a covered individual suffers an adverse action undertaken by his or her employer or labor organization as a result of the employee's participation in a protected activity. If the individual is not characterized as a "covered individual" under the law, if the action taken by the employer is not considered "adverse" or if the action taken by the employee that results in the termination is not a "protected activity," then no retaliation exists under the law.

Understanding the exempt vs. non-exempt distinction

Many wage laws have to do with the payment of overtime. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the perfect example. Although the FLSA contains specific provisions relating to overtime pay, however, some employees are exempt from those provisions. This means that such employees are not required to be paid overtime in the same way that non-exempt are. In order to understand whether one's employer is violating the overtime provisions of the FLSA, an employee must understand whether he or she is classified as exempt.

There are many different reasons that an employee can be classified as exempt. The reasons often depend on the type of labor performed by the employee and sometimes the employee's rate of pay. If an employee performs duties that are classified as exempt along with duties that are classified as non-exempt in the same work week, however, that employee would not be classified as an exempt employee for that work week. As a result, he or she would be entitled to overtime pay for any overtime hours worked that week.

Alleged religious discrimination examined by Supreme Court

The workplace-related civil rights protections that now exist in this country ensure that a person's ability to find or maintain a job is not adversely affected by his or her age, sex, national origin, religion or certain other protected characteristics. The existence of such anti-discrimination laws does not mean that workplace discrimination never occurs, however. In DC and across the country, these types of incidents still take place. Recently, the Supreme Court heard what could be a landmark case related to alleged religious discrimination.

The case currently at the Supreme Court involves a woman who applied for a job in 2008 at Abercrombie and Fitch, the prospective employer. The woman, who is a practicing Muslim, wore her hijab during the interview and ultimately did not get the job because she was wearing the headscarf. The reason for denying employment was the company's "look policy" that does not allow employees to wear black clothing or "caps." The company argues that the prospective employee never requested a religious accommodation and that accommodating her religious wear would have created an undue hardship. One of the key issues being debated in the case is whether a prospective employee must affirmatively ask for an accommodation or whether it is the responsibility of the employer to inquire if there is a need for an accommodation.

Facing DC sexual harassment at work? We can help.

Your workplace should be a place where you feel safe to focus on your job duties and professional responsibilities. Unfortunately, if you have been a victim of harassment, your workplace may have an entirely different -- even hostile -- atmosphere. Whether the sexual harassment takes the form of lewd comments, requests for sexual favors, inappropriate touching or other inappropriate words or actions, the effect of the harassment can be damaging. In some cases, it can create serious mental and physical health problems for the person suffering the harassment, whereas in other situations the harassment may result in job loss or demotion.

If you are suffering sexual harassment or if you have questions about whether the treatment you are enduring constitutes sexual harassment, we can help. We understand the toll that sexual harassment can take on you. We also understand the importance of protecting both your job and your mental and physical health. If you choose to file a sexual harassment claim, we will be with you every step of the way, explaining the process carefully and consulting you about what you want and how you want to proceed.

What DC maternity leave rights do employees have under the FMLA?

Many working DC women who also plan on having children want to know what kinds of employee rights they have relating to maternity leave. As society continues to see social progress with equality and blurring of the lines between gender roles, many propsective fathers have questions about paternity leave, as well. The good news is that regardless of any employer-specific policies, federal law protects the rights of new mothers and fathers to take maternity or paternity leave.

The federal law relating to paternity and maternity leave is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In addition to covering maternity and paternity leave, it also applies to taking leave from work to care for a family member suffering from a serious health condition or taking leave from work to care for the employee's own health condition. The benefits guaranteed by the FMLA are up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave that can be used in certain situations. The employee's job is protected during the leave and the employee is able to return to his or her job at the end of the leave period.

The essential elements of DC employment at will

Although most people think they understand the concept of employment at will, many people actually misunderstand what employment at will really means. First of all, it is important to understand that the concept of employment at will also encompasses the concept of termination at will. Both employment at will and termination at will is the general law in all states except for Montana.

The concept of employment at will embodies three essential elements. First, it means that employers can dismiss an employee at any time and no cause is needed. Second, it means that an employee can leave his or her position at any time with or without reason, without suffering any legal consequence. Third, it also encompasses the principle that an employer can change the essential terms of an employee's employment contract without notice or consequences. These changes can include wage decreases, a reduction of paid time off, a termination of benefits, schedule changes, etc.

DC firefighters' wage and hour dispute coming to an end

Disputes between employees and employers are not uncommon. These disputes can take many forms, ranging from violations of workers' rights to sexual harassment to wrongful termination. One of the most common types of disputes that occurs between employees and their employers is wage and hour disputes. Many workers are entitled to overtime pay but are frequently denied this compensation.

In Washington, D.C., a year's long dispute over overtime pay may finally be coming to an end as the result of a decision by the highest court in the District ruling. The dispute is between firefighters and the District government. The issue began in the 1990s when a financial control board attempted to balance the budget, in part by overturning some collective bargaining agreements of city employees'--agreements that also had implications for overtime pay.

Attorneys can help after workplace discrimination

Despite laws that are intended to protect against it, workplace and employment discrimination are all too common. One reason that workplace discrimination is so common is that it can take so many different forms: age discrimination, discrimination based on sexual orientation, religious discrimination and gender-based discrimination are just a few. The manner of discrimination can also differ. In some cases, it may be outright mistreatment and harassment, while in other cases it may be subtle and take the form of disparate or unfair wages or consistently being passed up for a promotion.

Regardless of the specific details, if you are the victim of unlawful employment discrimination, your civil rights are being violated and you may have a case for compensation or other forms of restitution under the law. Knowing that you are being discriminated against is quite different from proving it in a court of law, however. In order to effectively prove your case and convince a jury that you deserve compensation, you need the help of a skilled and experienced attorney who not only understands the specific elements of the law but also knows what the jury and the judge are looking for in terms of proof.

Does the law protect against sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is commonly discussed in the media, but many employees may not have a complete understanding of what kinds of actions constitute sexual harassment or the laws that protect against sexual harassment. Under the law, any kind of harassment that is based on or due to a person's sex is classified as sexual harassment and is unlawful.

Sexual harassment can take many forms. Some of the most commonly discussed types of sexual harassment include requests for sexual favors and unwanted sexual advances, as well as other physical actions or verbal comments that are sexual in nature. Offensive sexual comments that make a person feel uncomfortable--such as comments relating to a person's appearance or body or other sexual topics--fall into the category of sexual harassment, but so do more generalized comments about a person's sex, such as derogatory comments about women.

Understanding the Fair Labor Standards Act

In the workplace, the employers tend to have the upper hand. Employees need to maintain their employment in order to pay their bills, provide for their basic needs and take care of their families. Employers, knowing how much employees rely on and need their employment, may attempt to take advantage of employees in certain situations. For this reason, the federal government has passed certain laws, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, that help protect employee rights.

The Fair Labor Standards Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation related to employee rights. In general, its provisions relate to the minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and youth employment standards. The FLSA applies to private sector and government employees in the state, local and federal levels. The latest minimum wage provided for in the FLSA was established in July 2009. It mandates that all employees must be paid, at a minimum, $7.25 per hour. Individual states can set the minimum wage higher. In Washington, it's currently $9.47 for adult employees.

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