Common Myths of Employment Law

By Greenberg, David | Workforce, November 1998 | Go to article overview

Common Myths of Employment Law


Greenberg, David, Workforce


This following is taken from the "Daily Legal Tip" section of WORKFORCE ONLINE, which can be found at http://www.work forceonline.com/legaltip.

Employment law is a very complicated field, and is also very misunderstood. Below are a variety of common incorrect beliefs about employee rights.

Employees cannot be fired without cause.

This is the most common myth regarding employee rights. In many states, employment is "at will." This means that the employer can fire the employee for no reason or any reason.

There are two exceptions to this general rule:

Discrimination. In some states, employers cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of age, race, sex, national origin, disability and a variety of other reasons.

Employers cannot discriminate against an employee because he or she has "whistleblown," which is reporting illegal activity of the employer. They cannot discriminate against an employee for engaging in other protected activities, such as filing workers' compensation claims. If an employer fires an employee because of one of these factors, the action is against the law, and the employee can sue.

Contract. Even in an at-will state, if any employee has a contract with the employer, the employee probably cannot be fired without just cause. Contracts can be written or implied. A common way for an employee to have a written contract is to be in a union.

Other than these exceptions and a few rare others, employers can fire employees for any reason, even because they just don't like the employee.

Employees cannot be harassed.

"Harassment," standing alone, is not illegal. The harassment must be based on an illegal factor, like those listed in the above description of "discrimination." In other words, the employer cannot harass the employee because of his race, but he can harass him because he just doesn't like him. …

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