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Scottsdale Employment Law Blog

Your behavior at the office holiday party can cost you your job

Holiday parties -- particularly when they're held at offsite venues -- are a way for businesses to thank their employees for all of their hard work during the year. They also provide a chance for employees to socialize with their colleagues in a festive, relaxed atmosphere.

Unfortunately, especially when alcohol is available and free of charge, things can get a little too relaxed. It's essential to remember that even though you're "off the clock" and away from the office, you still need to behave professionally. People can get fired for things they do at the annual holiday party, the company picnic and other work-related social events.

What should and shouldn't be in your personnel files at work?

Personnel files used to be kept in file cabinets that filled rooms. Now, many of them are digitized. Either way, employers need to be careful about what information they keep in an employee's file.

Even though access to these files should be strictly limited, the information in them must be factual and unbiased. For example, documentation of an allegation made by a colleague, manager or anyone else that was not pursued or proven should never be in an employee's file.

Why are there more workplace discrimination cases than ever?

The federal law commonly know as Title VII makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees because of their race, gender, religion, color and national origin. Discrimination based on disability and pregnancy, are protected under federal law as well. While many employers are more scrupulous about complying with the law than ever, the number of employment discrimination lawsuits is increasing.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in 2016, over a third of discrimination cases involved race. Disability wasn't far behind, at just under 31 percent. Almost 30 percent involved sex. Close to 23 percent involved age.

How can you avoid breaching a nonsolicitation agreement?

In many industries, professionals accumulate customers over the years who are devoted to them more than the company they work for. When these professionals leave their employers for another company or to start a business, their customers often want to follow them. If that happened regularly, it could destroy a company.

That's why many companies require their employees to sign nonsolicitation agreements. These state that if they take a customer away from the business, they can be sued. Some nonsolicitation agreements apply to other employees as well. They state that if a person leaves the company, they can't entice other employees to come with them.

Managers can lose their jobs if they retaliate

Retaliation is a serious issue that plagues many workplaces in the Scottsdale area and the rest of the country. Retaliation often leads to wrongful termination cases when an employee loses their job for speaking up about unethical or illegal practices at their place of employment, also known as blowing the whistle. It's not out of the question for managers to lose their jobs if they retaliate against an employee.

The law protects an employee or applicant from retaliation if they make a claim against a company. This protection is in place whether the claim they make is true or false. The reason for this is that the government wants employees and applicants to know they can speak up when something is wrong without fear of retaliation.

What makes a termination 'wrongful?'

Many people who get fired believe that the action was unfair. Whether it's illegal, which would make it "wrongful termination," is another matter. Approximately 150,000 Americans are wrongfully terminated annually in the United States. Arizona is an "at-will" state, which means that most employees can be terminated for just about any reason, as long as it's not illegal.

So how can you determine whether your termination was illegal? Let's look at some reasons for terminating employees that are forbidden by law.

A discrimination claim could result in certain remedies

The federal government and the state of Arizona both have laws protecting you from discrimination in the workplace. Your employer cannot harass you, discriminate against you or retaliate against you if you belong to a protected class.

For instance, your employer may not use your race, gender or religion to justify not giving you a deserved promotion, bonuses or the opportunity to work on certain assignments. Your boss could be discriminating against you if you suddenly begin receiving bad reviews or are subjected to offensive comments. Working may become unbearable, and you just want some relief.

Supreme Court asked to take up transgender discrimination case

Many transgender Americans fear that some of the gains they've made in protecting their rights in all aspects of their lives could be at risk.

Now the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is asking the Supreme Court to take up a case regarding a transgender employee who was fired. The DOJ is arguing that the federal civil rights law that bans discrimination in the workplace based on gender doesn't apply to transgender people who allege employment discrimination based on their gender identity.

What should you do if you're being harassed in the workplace?

If you're being harassed at work, it may feel like you're alone. However, the law is supposed to protect you. Federal and state laws prohibit harassment of Arizona employees because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, pregnancy, age, disability and other characteristics.

There are steps that you can and should try to take if you're being harassed. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which helps employees who are suffering harassment and/or discrimination, recommends the following:

Mediation could help you avoid the trauma of a courtroom drama

When you took your job, you hoped that you had found a home there. Perhaps you hoped that you could make some friends, rise through the ranks and otherwise succeed. Then, those hopes were dashed when you began to notice that your co-workers or a manager began treating you differently.

At first, you shrugged it off thinking it was an isolated incident, but it continued to increase to the point where it made you uncomfortable and created a hostile work environment. You complained to your boss in accordance with the company's policies, but your superiors did nothing to curtail the discrimination.