You may have faced a situation at your workplace that made you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. You may have been victimized, discriminated against, or faced inappropriate behavior from a coworker or supervisor. You may have encountered a situation where your boss made you feel uncomfortable and thought you had to continue to suffer shame and embarrassment because of limited job opportunities. If you have been treated unfairly, or wrongfully lost your job, help and resources are available. Premier Law Group’s employment law attorneys are here to give you answers to your questions as you fight for your right to fair treatment from your employer.
Free eBook: The Washington State Guide to Severance & Employment Contracts
Washington State employment laws are complicated and often difficult to understand. To help Washington residents navigate the process with confidence, our firm created The Washington State Guide to Severance & Employment Contracts. We take the most important concepts and break them into easy to understand books and resources. After reading the book you will be able to make important decisions as you choose if you want to file a lawsuit.
Download A FREE Copy of Premier Law Group’s Guide to Employment and Severance Contracts
In your FREE copy of this eBook, you will discover…
- What severance pay is… and what it isn’t
- Hot tips for negotiating your employment contract
- Your rights as a worker, whether you have a contract or not
- Hiring the right lawyer for your employment case
Navigating Various Employment Cases in Washington
There are several areas of the law that protect workers’ rights. Knowing what these are can make all the difference in winning your fight for justice. See the linked categories below for details regarding each type of employment case.
- Wrongful Termination – If you’ve been terminated as a result of discrimination based on your ethnicity, age, gender, religion, or sexual harassment, then you have an opportunity to regain your job status and lost wages.
- Wage and Hour Disputes – If you are aware of the inequitable pay rate you have been receiving since you started your job or transferred to another position, you can obtain legal help to recover compensation that may be owed to you. Compensation areas can include hourly rates, overtime, and training time.
- Retaliation – If you were harassed, terminated, or encountered a negative action from your employer which can be proven, an employment issue attorney can work with you to fight your case.
- Family and Medical Leave Act Claims – If you’ve been denied approval of a FMLA request and your situation falls under the legal categories that permit time off work, you have a right to insist upon fair treatment and protection of your job while off work.
- Sexual Harassment – Experiencing, sexual harassment is never acceptable and should not be tolerated especially while on your job. If you believe you have a sexual harassment case, an employment attorney can help protect your rights as a worker particularly against sexual advances including rape and assault, exposure to sexual images, and inappropriate verbal and nonverbal communication.
- Coercive Sexual Conduct – This category also covers inappropriate sexual behavior. However, victims are forced into compromising situations which cause fear regarding their job security. This type of behavior can cause prolonged stress especially when not dealt with after the first occurrence. Nevertheless, legal help is available to put an end to such behavior.
- Severance Agreement and Packages – Before you sign an employers’ severance agreement, be sure an employment attorney reviews the documents to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.
- Employment Contracts and Contract Review – Employment contracts can create transparency between employer and employee. But before you sign, be sure a knowledgeable attorney has read the fine print to ensure there are no employment dangers down the road.
- Disability Discrimination – Disability discrimination occurs when an employer engages in verbal or physical activities that create a hostile environment. Disability discrimination can occur from a coworker, a supervisor, at work, at school, and in the public sector.
- Age Discrimination – Washington state laws prohibit workplace age discrimination. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects certain applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment. If you feel you have been treated unfairly due to age discrimination, contact our employment lawyers to get the fair treatment you deserve.
- Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace – The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits discrimination against an employee for pregnancy, childbirth, and similar medical conditions. If you feel you have been treated unfairly due to pregnancy, contact our employment lawyers to get the fair treatment you deserve.
- Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) – The ADA protects disabled persons rights’ to equal opportunity in the workplace, at buildings, and with public transportation. If you feel your rights have been violated, there is help!
Understanding Workplace Retaliation
First of all, the employee must be able to prove that the action they believe they are being fired for is protected under the law. Some examples of these protected rights are complaining about discrimination in the workplace, taking allowed time off work, or inquiring about missing pay or benefits. It is also important to note that if you report the wrongdoings of your employer, which is a protected action, but turn out to be wrong, you are still protected as long as you did so in good faith. This small list is by no means exhaustive, but should give an example of the types of actions that are protected under the law. Whether or not your actions fall under this umbrella is something that you can only determine by speaking with an experienced Seattle labor attorney.
The second component in a retaliation case is proving that the employer took an adverse action against you. Sometimes this can be as simple as being fired, but there are other actions that can be considered retaliatory as well. Employers are not allowed to dock your pay, give an unjustified negative reference, or harass you out of retaliation. Generally, if the employer’s action would serve as a deterrent for people to assert their rights, it may be considered retaliation. Actions that may fall under this umbrella include being transferred to an undesirable location and being demoted to a position of lesser prestige.
The final piece of evidence needed in a retaliation case is the connection between the employee’s action and the employer’s reaction. This is always the most difficult part to prove, because employers almost never admit to retaliatory action, because they know the action is illegal. One very important component is time. If an employer waits a few months before taking adverse action against the employee, it does not give the appearance to a jury that it was in retaliation. There needs to have been some sort of quick action taken by the employer that shows disapproval with the actions of the employee.
Employees are protected by the law to exercise their legal rights. When an employer responds in a negative manner to these protected rights, this may be a case of retaliation and grounds for taking legal action.
Addressing Pregnancy Discrimination in Seattle’s Workplaces
Rights and Protections for Expectant Workers
It is against the law to discriminate against a woman due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment — hiring, pay, firing, benefits, or the like. If you feel that your employer has violated your rights, read on for information about what you can do.
If you are temporarily unable to perform your job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or child birth, the law mandates that you are treated the same as any other temporarily disabled employee according to both federal and state law, and company policy. Some potential conditions are also covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
If your employer allows temporarily disabled employees to take disability leave or leave without pay, it must also allow a temporarily disabled employee to do the same. It is against the law to single out pregnant women for different treatment.
Additionally, you are protected from harassment due to pregnancy or childbirth. Harassment is illegal when it is frequent and/or severe enough to create a “hostile work environment.” Harassment can come from a coworker, supervisor, or someone who is not employed by the company, such as a client or customer. Harassment is against the law.
How a Washington Lawyer Can Safeguard Against Pregnancy Discrimination Pitfalls
If you are pregnant and think your rights are being violated, it’s in your benefit to have your claim reviewed by an experienced employment attorney. Remember that delays can damage your case! The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Office (EEOC), which handles employment discrimination and harassment complaints, gives workers 180 days from the date of discrimination to file a claim. An experienced employment attorney can help you collect documentation and evidence of harassment, and help you meet the required deadlines to file your claim properly.
Differences Between the FLA and FMLA in Washington
The Family Leave Act (FLA) was passed in 2006 and is enforced by the Department of Labor & Industries.
The Washington State Family Leave Act was passed to ensure that eligible employees are able to take time off of work to welcome a new member of their family, recover from a serious illness or take care of a loved one who is ill. Below you will find an outline and explanation of the laws along with links to information on Washington State’s FLA.
How Washington’s FLA Enhances the Federal FMLA Provisions
Additional leave benefits for women who are pregnant
Leave for registered domestic partners
Family Leave that remains after the federal FMLA has been exhausted for an exigent deployment reason or as a military caregiver
Pregnancy disability that can exceed 8 weeks when a woman’s healthcare provider recommends additional leave
Leave for a period of time before childbirth
The Washington State Human Rights Commission has its own rules on pregnancy and childbirth disability. These rules expand upon the federal FMLA and entitle a woman to be on pregnancy or disability leave until she is released by her health care provider. The mission of the Washington State Human Rights Commission is to, “eliminate and prevent discrimination through fair application of the law, the efficient use of resources, and the establishment of productive partnerships in the community.”
Expanded Leave Protections Under Washington Law
Tackling Employment Discrimination in Washington
There are several different types of discrimination. If you are experiencing a hostile work environment, or if employment decisions have been made because of your race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation or disability, you have protected status in the State of Washington.
Nationally, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects anyone from being discriminated against because of their race, religion, color, national originor sex. This means that it is unlawful for your employer to make any employment decisions (including hiring and firing, terms of employment and any other employment privileges) based on your race, religion, color, national origin or sex. Employers are also not allowed to classify or limit their employees or applicants in any way that would negatively affect them on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin or sex.
This does not mean that all discrimination is malicious. If the employer has a neutral job policy in place that excludes minorities in a disproportionate manner, and the policy is not job related—that policy is unlawful. For example, a policy that would require employees to shave every day may be disproportionately discriminatory against African-American men, who are more likely to have a painful skin condition that is exacerbated by shaving.
In the State of Washington, your rights are protected by RCW 49.60 or the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD.) One of the major differences in our state law is the express addition of sexual orientation as a protected status. Though Title VII has been interpreted to include sexual orientation and gender identity as part of protection against discrimination “because of sex,” it is not explicitly protected. However, the WLAD does explicitly protect Washington State residents against that sort of discrimination.
To be protected from employment discrimination by the WLAD your employer must have eight or more employees and your complaint must be filed within 6 months of the alleged discrimination. You are also protected from retaliation for reporting discrimination at work. If you are discriminated against, or see discrimination taking place, you can report it without fear of being terminated because of the claim. It is illegal for an employer to terminate you for exercising your legal rights. You are also protected if you are not the victim, but are merely cooperating with a discrimination investigation.
Defining Employment Contracts: Their Role and Importance
Employment contracts can be good for employees and employers. They can provide job security and transparency between parties. But they can also contain many dangers for employees who sign a contract and they haven’t carefully read the fine print.
Having an experienced Seattle employment lawyer to review your employment contract is invaluable. An attorney can point out pitfalls and potential issues that could harm your salary and career.
Key Factors to Consider Before Committing to an Employment Agreement
- Termination clause: The most valuable part of an employment contract for an employee is how termination procedures are handled. A contract may state that you are guaranteed employment for three years, but the fine print could say that you could be fired for failure to perform — and then not define what failure to perform means. It’s also important to know what severance package is coming in the event of termination.
- Compensation: It is important that salary and benefits be detailed. Some contracts may state that a Seattle employer can change salary and benefits at whim. You could find yourself taking large salary cuts, seeing your benefits changed, or being relocated to a remote region. It is very important that compensation and benefits are detailed and transparent in the employment contract.
- Escape clause: Making sure you have an option to exit a company without problems is important. Many employment contracts today come with non-compete clauses, and these should be read very carefully. If leaving your industry for a year or two when you quit your job is not an option, try to renegotiate this part of the contract and if your prospective employer won’t budge, you may consider passing on the job.
Premier Law’s Proven Employment Law Strategy
Many employment law attorneys will offer a “free consultation” that is little more than a fancy sales pitch. But, when you’re having trouble with your employer, you don’t have time to waste. You need to get a game plan ready, take action, and move on with your life.
Starting with a Detailed Consultation: What to Expect
Most of our clients resolve their employment issues with just this easy and affordable step. We offer two no-nonsense plans for people experiencing wage and hour issues, employment contract disputes, and harassment at their workplace:
- For $375, you’ll get a full hour with one of our experienced employment attorneys who will listen to your case and give you the information you need based on the specific issues and concerns you are facing at your job.
- For $550, you’ll get the full hour of consultation, plus a review of your documents. Documents may include your severance package, employment contract, non-compete agreement, or any other legal documents related to your employment situation so you can cut through the legalese and clearly understand your rights and what you have the power to negotiate.
Progressing to Litigation: Ensuring Your Rights
Employment disputes can usually be worked out between the employee and employer. However, sometimes taking a case to trial is the only option. After your consultation, our attorney might determine that your case is worth taking to trial. If you agree and hire PLG to represent you in court, our fee changes to a contingency fee structure. A contingency fee means that our fee is based on how much we get for you (typically 1/3 if the case settles or 40% if the case goes to trial). If we are able to win money for you, we will refund your consultation fee.
What does this look like in a typical case? Here’s an example. Susan feels she is being harassed at work. She calls PLG and schedules an appointment with Patrick. Patrick carefully listens to her story, asking questions for clarification. After he hears her story, he informs Susan of her legal rights, and then presents her with several options: She can take immediate action in her workplace to either solve the problem or protect her interests if a trial should be necessary. At this point, Susan may be able to act on the game plan that she and Patrick discussed in the consultation and her problems with her employer may resolve. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The next day, Patrick calls Susan and tells her he thinks she has a case worth taking to trial. She agrees and signs the paperwork in Patrick’s office. After several months of litigation, Susan ends up with a $50,000 settlement. Patrick collects his 40% fee, and refunds Susan her $375 consultation fee. For coming in to have her case reviewed, Susan ends up with relief from the problems she’s been having at work, plus a $30,350 settlement.
Timeliness Matters: Why Delay Could Jeopardize Your Employment Case
If you are considering taking action against an employer or former employer, time is critical. Statute of limitations laws narrowly define the amount of time from an incident that you have to commit to a course of action. The employment law attorneys at Premier Law Group understand the stress and embarrassment that is associated with workplace harassment. You don’t have to continue to be a victim of your employer’s intimidating behavior. An employment attorney will work hard to uncover evidence that can support your workplace harassment claims. You shouldn’t take a chance of jeopardizing your job or rights as an employee. Premier Law Group has successfully represented clients with employment issue cases in Seattle, Bellevue, and all of Washington and can help you. If you would like to obtain legal services immediately, please feel free to contact us by phone, email, or submit the online request form today.