Learn About Your Rights As a Connecticut Employee
Our lawyers handle all types of employment law cases involving wrongful discharge, wrongful termination, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, and medical leave cases. Our lawyers handle cases throughout Connecticut. Our law office is located in Groton, Connecticut. Our lawyers handle cases in all state and federal courts.
We hope you find this substantive wrongful termination and employment law outline helpful. Our outline was prepared by our lawyers. It addresses most aspects of employment law including wrongful discharge, wrongful termination, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, medical leave, and other employment issues.
Modern unions first emerged during the industrial revolution in the later 1800’s. Unions fought poverty, misery, and abuse of workers. Unions acted to counterbalance the wealth and power of the industrialists who possessed immense wealth and power. Even during the early 1900’s it was common for people to work 12 to 14 hour daily shifts in unsafe conditions for little pay. Overtime pay did not exist. Child labor was common. Although there was great unrest at times and many protests were attempted, the law favored the industrialists and labor was repeatedly put down, sometimes by government military action. In 1914, the Clayton Act was passed. It specified that "the labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce." This key legal definition opened the way for today’s unions. Today in America, child labor is outlawed and workers are protected by laws that require safe work conditions and minimum wages. Working conditions and our standards of decency have evolved. But workers still need unions. Unions no longer fight the demons of the past – child labor, unsafe conditions, and long hours. Today unions fight for health care, fair and equitable pay, respectful treatment, short staffing, forced overtime, and job and retirement security for workers. For a good discussion the history of unions link to the sparticus.schoolnet website.
Employment Law Generally
Employment law consists of the body of law dealing with the relationship between employer and employee. Employment law deals with individual rights, contract rights, and collective bargaining. The rules between employer and employee are a combination of contract rights and individual rights created by statute, as well as contract rights created by collective bargaining. Additionally, some rules such as the employment-at-will rule come from the common law. Common topics in employment law today are wrongful termination law, wrongful discharge law, employment discrimination law, sexual harassment law, fair labor standards law, and medical leave law.
At Will Employment
The “at will employment rule” is the rule in wrongful termination law that says an employer can fire an employee for any reason at any time or even for no reason, and an employee can quit for any reason at any time or even for no reason. It recognizes the public policy that any employment relationship must be willing and voluntary on the part of both the employer and employee. The rule applies to all employment relationships unless the parties have contracted for something different. Those contract rights can be made between an individual employee and the employer through an employment contract, or by a union and an employee when the union is acting on behalf of the union members.
Also, the rule is not absolute as certain civil rights statutes limit the employment-at-will rule. For, example although an employer can fire an employee for any reason the employer cannot fire an employee in retaliation for the fact that the employee took medical leave under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1992. Also, the employer cannot "discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin" under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In some states such as Connecticut the protections to an employee are even broader then the protections that exist under federal law. Additionally, there are many other particular statutes and rules that provide exceptions to the at will employment rule.
Why You Need Protection
Employees need protection because without protection many employees will be victims of discrimination or other abuses. One only needs to study the American industrial revolution to understand the abuses that workers will face without protections of laws. Child labor, slave wages, long hours, and dangerous working conditions are all abuses that exist absent protections of law. Even today, in some uncivilized parts of the world these abuses still exist.
Contract rights in employment law
Contracts can be (1) written contracts, (2) oral contracts, or (3) implied contract by conduct. A contract is a promise. The employment relationship is a contract between the employer and the employee. The basic terms of the contract are that the employee will provide labor for the employer in exchange for a wage, and possibly other benefits such as health insurance. Each party to the contract has the right to have the contract enforced. Therefore, if an employer makes a promise to an employee the employee has the right to have the promise (contract) enforced.
Tort rights in employment law
A tort is a civil wrong. In the employment setting common law tort rights between employer and employee have been restricted over the years. For example, an employee cannot sue an employer in a court for an injury on the job even if the employer was careless and caused the injury. Over the years all states and the federal government have passed workers’ compensation statutes that bar workers from suing their employer for on the job injuries. In lieu of the right to sue in court, the injured worker is entitled to workers compensation benefits. Workers compensation is insurance that provides wage replacement, medical care, and other benefits to injured workers. The primary types of rules governing the employment relationship are contract rights, federal and state statutes, and collective bargaining rights.
Federal and state employment law statutes
There are many federal and state statutes that provide for many rights in the employment context. These statutes have been primarily designed to eliminate all types of discrimination in the workplace.
Unions and collective bargaining rights
If your employer has a unionized workforce then you will have rights under the union’s employment agreement. Workers have the right to bargain collectively. They can negotiate as a group instead of as individuals. The theory is that as a group, the group will have more bargaining power, and will be able to negotiate for better pay, benefits, and conditions. The whole is greater then the sum of its parts.
Federal Employment Laws Listed and Described
The National Labor Relations Act
Protects the right to unionize, and prohibits discrimination for filing a charge of an unfair labor practice.
Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938
Provides for a minimum wage, and mandatory overtime.
Title VII, The Civil Rights Act of 1964
An employer cannot discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Civil Rights Act of 1886
Prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in the formation of contracts.
Family Medical Leave Act of 1992
Requires the employer to allow the employee unpaid leave for medical care, or medical care of a family member.
Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990
Forbids discrimination against people with disabilities.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
Forbids age discrimination.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970
Protects employees who exercise their rights under the act or participate in proceedings against their employer.
The Clean Air Act
Prohibits discrimination for commencing or participating under the act.
The Consumer Protection Act
Prohibits job discrimination against an employee who has their wages garnished.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
Prohibits employers from preventing employees from exercising their rights to employee benefits plans.
The Energy Reorganization Act of 1974
Prohibits discrimination for employees who exercise their rights under the act or participate in proceedings under the act.
The Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970
Prohibits discrimination for employees who exercise their rights under the act or participate in proceedings under the act.
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act.
Prohibits discrimination for employees who initiate or participate in proceedings under the act.
The Jurors Employment Protection Act
Prohibits discrimination against those who attend jury service in federal courts.
The Longshormen’s and Harborworkers’ Compensation Act
Prohibits discrimination for seeking benefits under the act or for testifying in proceedings under the act.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Prohibits discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of handicap.
Discrimination is not always illegal. It is only illegal when the basis of the discrimination is illegal. For example, while Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race and other types of discrimination, it does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The first question to ask in any discrimination case is whether the basis of the discrimination is illegal. Although, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not prohibit discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation the Connecticut Fair Employment Practice Act does. It is broader then Title VII.
Discrimination on the basis of sex is illegal and actionable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act.
The Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature when (A) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, (B) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (C) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment. Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination and is illegal.
Age discrimination is illegal under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. It is also illegal under the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act.
Fair wages and conditions
When you work overtime you are generally entitled to overtime pay. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires time and one-half pay for overtime work.
You have the right under several state and federal statues to complain, and report unsafe working conditions. The law forbids discrimination if you complain about unsafe working conditions.
There are several sources of protection for people with disabilities. The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 forbids discrimination of the basis of disability. The term disability has been defined by caselaw to require a significant disability. Also, the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act forbids discrimination on the basis of a physical disability, or a past or present mental disability. The laws provide that your employer must make a reasonable accommodation for a disability if that is reasonably possible.
Whistle blower discrimination
Whistle blower discrimination is illegal. There a many laws that prohibits whistle blower discrimination. Also, employers cannot discriminate against participation in proceedings under many regulatory laws.
On the Job Injuries
When an employee is injured on the job the employee can collect workers’ compensation benefits.
Retaliation for Enforcing Your Rights
An employer cannot retaliate or punish an employee for complaining about a violation of an employment related law. For example, when an employee complains about sexual harassment, the employer cannot retaliate against the employee for the complaint.
Many employers provide compensations over and above a simple wage. Some employee benefits include health insurance, short and long term disability insurance, medical leave, life insurance, dental insurance, 401K, and profits sharing. When an employment case is evaluated by an attorney the value of the entire benefit package must be considered. Often, the benefits are just as valuable as the wages.
How to enforce your rights
Some employers have internal policies and procedures for addressing employee grievances. Some laws require that before suit is filed the employee grievance procedure or administrative remedies must be exhausted.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC is the federal agency charged with enforcing employment laws.
In addition to the EEOC state agencies also enforce employment laws. In Connecticut, the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, CHRO, enforces employment laws.
Lawsuits in the courts
Most employment laws permit lawsuits in the federal and state court to enforce employment rights.
Our lawyers handle all types of employment law including wrongful termination, wrongful discharge, sexual harassment, employment discrimination, and medical leave.
How to find a lawyer
The field of employment law is complicated. Make sure your attorney is experienced in employment law. Many employment law cases are brought in federal court so your attorney should be experienced in federal court practice. One measure of a lawyer’s interest and involvement in employment law matters is his or her participation in specialized lawyer organizations such as the National Employment Lawyers Association or the state association. For example, in Connecticut the Connecticut Employment Lawyers Association is a voluntary association of lawyers that practice employment law mainly representing employees.
How legal fees are established
There are several general types of fee arrangements. First, an hourly rate for work performed. Second, a contingent fee. Third, a flat or fixed fee. Fourth, a combination of two or more of the four. Employment law cases are difficult and take a great deal of resources to effectively litigate. You should make sure you fully understand the fee arrangement you make with your attorney.