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Washington D.C. Employment Law Blog

Navy supports extending paid maternity leave to 12 weeks

Even though a person's life consists of much more than his or her job or career, employment does constitute an extremely important aspect of one's life. Employment not only provides income, which enables people to survive and enjoy life, but it also provides fulfillment in many situations. For these reasons, people often value their employment greatly. However, employees should not be exploited, face harassment or discrimination or be prevented from enjoying other aspects of their lives in an effort to maintain their employment. Federal and state laws protect a number of significant employee rights. One right that continues to be in forefront of public discussion is maternity leave.

As people continue to debate gender inequality in the workplace, one cannot avoid discussing the topic of maternity leave. Many people advocate for different or greater maternity leave policies in order to improve working conditions for women. The U.S. Navy may be taking steps to improve maternity leave for women. Recently the Navy Secretary introduced a proposal to extend paid maternity leave from six weeks to twelve weeks for women in the Navy. This proposal was one of several focused on females in the Navy and their quality of life. However, despite the support of the higher leadership for such a policy, extending paid maternity leave would require Congressional action. If successful, though, the Navy would become one of the institutions most supportive of new mothers in the United States.

Remedies and options after wrongful termination

Losing your job unexpectedly is always a severe blow. Those who have been terminated often experience shock, anger, stress, worry and fear. Wrongful termination, or being illegally fired, has a particular sting. This may be especially true in cases where the termination constitutes retaliation in response to an action you legally took. After suffering a wrongful termination, many people want to do something to stand up for themselves and to protect their rights and interests.

Although employers generally have wide latitude in making decisions relating to the hiring and firing of employees, there are many different situations in which it is illegal for an employer to terminate employment. Two of the most common illegal reasons for firing are discrimination and retaliation.

What is a wrongful termination claim?

For most individuals, job security is an important daily concern in their lives. When a job has been lost, employees may wonder what wrongful termination is and what rights they may have if wrongfully terminated. There are two circumstances in which an employee can potentially wrongfully lose their job. Wrongful termination can occur when an employment contract has been breached or the termination of the employee violated the law.

Generally, employment contracts include a provision that termination cannot be arbitrary but must be for cause. The majority of employment relationships, however, are at will and can be terminated at the discretion of either party. In some instances, such as in certain circumstances involving an employee handbook, it may be possible to establish an implied contract and breach of that contract.

What is age discrimination?

There are many different ways that workplace discrimination can occur. Regardless of the particular manifestation, however, discrimination is always a violation of employee rights in the workplace. One of the lesser discussed types of discrimination is age discrimination. Age discrimination is a significant concern, however--so much so that there is federal legislation that protects against it.

In general, age discrimination includes any action that treats someone less favorably--or gives preferential treatment to someone else--due to his or her age. The federal law that relates to age discrimination is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. With regard to this act, the legal limit for qualifying as a victim of age discrimination is 40. Employees under 40 are not protected against age discrimination under the ADEA. However, in some states there are other laws to protect younger victims.

Understanding what constitutes sexual harassment

The workplace should be a place that is safe and comfortable for everyone working there. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many people who suffer sexual harassment at the workplace. Sexual harassment is frequently misunderstood and many people may contribute to creating a hostile work environment for others simply because they do not understand what kinds of actions are included in the general term "sexual harassment."

The definition that is most commonly used to define sexual harassment is provided by the EEOC, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The basic definition is "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature" that occurs in at least one of three different situations. First, when the conduct unreasonably interferes with a person's performance of their job duties or causes a hostile work environment. Second, when an employee is required to submit or acquiesce to such conduct in order to maintain his or her employment. Lastly, when employment decisions are made based on how an employee reacts to such conduct.

House Committee Votes to Upend Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act

In January of 2015, newly elected DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser signed into law The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act. The Act broadened the definition of discrimination and made it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee who seeks contraception or family planning services. Under the Act, it would also be unlawful for an employer to discriminate based on the employee's decision to use medical treatments to either induce or terminate pregnancy. The Act, however, stalled under review by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who voted 20-16 to block the law. 

Health-care workers sue employers in D.C. wage and hour claim

When employees are denied the wages to which they are entitled, or the overtime pay which they have earned, their rights are being violated. Because of the power differential between employers and employees, however, many employees do not know how to effectively advocate for themselves and ensure that they receive fair pay for their work. Fortunately, there are many different laws that can help employees who have wage and hour claims. In some situations, when there are widespread violations, employees may band together to file a lawsuit against employers.

In Washington, D.C. a group of home health-care workers are suing their employers for wage theft and failure to pay overtime and sick pay. The agencies named in the lawsuit are Human Touch, T&N Nursing, Capitol View Home Health Agency, and VMT Home Health. According to the lawsuit, the wage theft and denial of overtime and sick pay occurred during a three-period when the agencies were paying the health-care workers less than the D.C-mandated living wage. The wage theft and denial of other pay allegedly occurred after an investigation revealed that some of the agencies were involved in a Medicaid scheme, resulting in the loss of Medicaid funding.

Protecting employee rights with education and effective advocacy

As an employee, you may hesitate to protect your rights at your workplace because of the risk of losing your job. For most people, their jobs are critically important, and they would face severe hardship from a sudden termination. However, no employee should hesitate to protect his or her rights in the workplace. The first step to adequately protecting yourself is understanding exactly what rights you have and how the federal and state laws can protect you and provide recourse.

Employee rights can be guaranteed by several different sources. Although federal and state laws provide specific mandates and restrict certain actions by employees, an employee may also have other rights that stem from a contract or employer agreement or even an employee handbook. If you feel that your rights have been violated, it is often important to go through the processes that have been established to deal with such situations. It is generally wise to consult employee handbooks and other workplace-specific documents to determine how the employer wants such situations to be addressed. These documents can provide valuable information that will enable employees to determine whether the employer itself is following the correct procedures and respecting employee rights.

What acts can constitute sexual harassment?

While most of us know that sexual harassment is not a good thing, many people in Washington, D.C., are not aware of what behavior constitutes unlawful sexual harassment. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment as a form of unlawful sex discrimination. The law is applicable to places of employment that have 15 or more workers and this includes labor organizations, federal government jobs and employment agencies.

There are numerous ways in which sexual harassment can occur and it's not always the most obvious situations. Unlawful sexual harassment can include unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, physical and verbal activities that are considered sexual and other behaviors. If these interfere with the victim's work, the behavior may be deemed sexual harassment. The harasser isn't confined to a particular sex or sexual orientation. It can be male-female, female-male, male-male or female-female. The person committing the harassment can be a direct supervisor of the victim, an agent working for the employer, a supervisor in a separate area, a colleague or, in some cases, someone who doesn't even work at the business.

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