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New Jersey Employment Law Blog

Whistleblower retaliation and OSHA: Protect your legal rights

As a whistleblower, it's natural to have concerns about retaliation. After all, there's a good chance your company won't be happy with you reporting its illegal business practices.

Although whistleblower retaliation is illegal under both federal and state laws, it still remains a concern. There are many forms of retaliation, including but not limited to:

  • Termination
  • Demotion
  • Disciplinary action
  • Reduced hours
  • Pay cut

Explaining disparate impact in the workplace

It's important to have an understanding of disparate impact in the workplace so you know whether or not you have encountered this issue. Disparate impact goes hand-in-hand with workplace discrimination. There is one major difference — disparate impact is defined as unintentional discrimination that occurs in the workplace. Let's explore this issue a little deeper in today's post.

The official definition of disparate impact is when a company's policies, rules, procedures or practices cause a disproportionate impact on employees who are considered a protected group despite these items being viewed as neutral.

Your rights after losing your job

It's never easy to learn that you're losing your job. Even if you were hoping to move on soon, there's something about being terminated that will turn your life upside down.

As frustrated as you may be, it's critical to protect your legal rights after losing your job. Here are some of the things to keep in mind:

  • The reason you were terminated: More specifically, determine if you are the victim of wrongful termination. Were you fired because of your age or sex? Were you fired because of your disability or religion? Once you understand the reason for your termination, you can decide what to do next.
  • Review your employment contract: If you have an employment contract, review it to better understand your rights upon termination. It'll outline things such as when you'll receive your final paycheck and if you're eligible to receive severance pay.
  • Don't act out: You're mad and frustrated, but you shouldn't retaliate against your employer. Don't yell at anyone on your way out the door. Don't break anything. Don't steal anything. Keeping your cool, as difficult as it may be, is a must.

Is it inappropriate for a co-worker to ask another on a date?

It is fairly common for co-workers to date each other. Think about it: you work in the same office for 40 or more hours per week. People are bound to develop feelings for each other and want to see how those feelings might evolve if the two were to start dating. Most companies allow relationships in the workplace, so long as they are disclosed to human resources. So, is it inappropriate for one co-worker to ask another out on a date?

Many companies, in an effort to prevent sexual harassment, have created policies that set forth rules for dating in the workplace. These policies might go as far as banning co-workers from dating each other if they aren't already in a relationship. Others simply require couples to disclose their relationship to human resources.

Things to review in your employee handbook

When you join a new company, you're likely to receive an employee handbook. This provides a variety of information, all of which could pertain to you now or at some point in the future.

While it's important to review your employee handbook from beginning to end, here are some areas that deserve the most attention:

  • Discrimination issues. Non-discrimination guidelines and protocols are set forth by the employer, but the employee handbook should also have information on federal and state discrimination laws.
  • Overtime. If you qualify for overtime pay, this section should be of interest to you. It can include information on requesting overtime hours, pay rate and other key details.
  • Compensation policies. This differs from company to company, but may touch on things such as payroll procedures, overtime pay and advances.
  • Leave policies. For example, if your employer has more than 50 employees, they may be required to comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Your handbook should include information pertaining to the FMLA, such as how to request leave.

Religious discrimination and the workplace

As you might imagine, discrimination based on an employee's religion or religious beliefs is prohibited by law in the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) outlines what religious discrimination is as well as the different ways it can occur. Today, we will examine religious discrimination in the workplace so you know what to look for if you believe you have been discriminated against.

The law governing religious discrimination protects employees and job applicants who practice traditional religions, such as Judaism, Catholicism, Islam and others as well as people who have steadfast religious beliefs, morals and ethics.

How to properly handle losing your job

Losing your job will impact your life in many ways. From your professional goals to your financial situation, you can expect things to change in the days, weeks and months to come.

While it's important to turn your immediate attention to finding a new job, there are some other things you must also take care of. Here are five tips to properly handle losing your job:

  • Find out why: It's one thing to lose your job, but another thing entirely to be the victim of wrongful termination. Dig around to better understand why your employment is being terminated.
  • Collect final compensation: It's critical to understand how much money you're owed before moving on. Read your employee handbook to better understand if you're in line to receive compensation for unused vacation days, sick days and personal days.
  • File for unemployment: If you're immediately starting a new job, you may not have to take this step. However, if you will be out of work for any period of time, file for unemployment. It won't completely replace your salary, but it will at least help you financially for the time being.
  • Review your budget: This is a good time to review your budget and cut unnecessary expenses. It's not something you want to do, but it will help you get by financially until you land another position.
  • Start your job search: As you're reviewing what went wrong with your former employer, turn your attention to your job search. Even if you're highly qualified, it's not always easy to land a new job. The sooner you get started, the better chance you have of securing a job in the near future.

Is your boss a bully?

Your boss is in charge, naturally, but that does not mean they have to treat you with disdain or push you around in the workplace. A boss who does this may be a bully, and it can create a toxic workplace.

It could be that your boss is just trying to make sure you will do what they say, regardless of your rights as an employee. For instance, maybe they want you to sign out and then work off of the clock until a job gets done. You know you have a right to get paid for the hours you put in -- and to get overtime pay for excessive hours -- but your boss may bully you to try to get you to accept an unfair assignment and less pay.

Importance of documenting sexual harassment at work

If you are ever the victim of sexual harassment at work, you need to document every single occurrence. Why? Having documentation, or a log, of all the times you were harassed can help build a case against the offender. Today, we will explain the importance of documenting sexual harassment at work and provide some tips for doing so.

Why is documenting sexual harassment important? The answer is simple: Whether you are the victim, or you witnessed someone else become the victim, a detailed log of what happened makes it easier when filing a complaint with your employer about the accused. The issue cannot be ignored when you walk into a supervisor's office with a list of incident dates, descriptions and even digital communication.

What to do if you’re passed over for a promotion

You put your heart and soul into your job with the hopes of receiving a promotion one day. However, when the time comes, you're passed over in favor of another employee.

While there are legitimate reasons this could happen, it shouldn't stop you from taking action. Here are some things to do:

  • Keep your emotions in check: This isn't the right time to become angry or reckless. Stay calm, keep positive and assess the situation from many different angles.
  • Find out why: Once you've reviewed the situation, consider why you may have been passed over for the promotion. There may be a very good reason for this, such as the position wasn't a good fit for your skill set.
  • Talk to your supervisor: If you feel that you should have received a promotion, talk to your supervisor about your feelings and the reason you were passed over. They may not be able to share everything with you, but it'll at least give you a better feel for what's going on.
  • Keep up your hard work: Don't give up on your job just because you were passed over for a promotion. Keeping up your hard work will put you in better position to reach your goal in the future.
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