There are many laws, rules and regulations today that help to protect workers in the unequal conflicts with employers. In an ideal work place, these rules merely define the relationship between workers and bosses; there is no need for either side to rely on lawyers to guide them through the legal rules. Unfortunately, the ideal situation seldom if ever exists. Because of the plethora of rules and regulations established by various levels of government, both sides of the employee/employer equation frequently rely on lawyers to guide them through the rights and obligations of this relationship.
While few employees actually sign an employment contract today, there are elements of contract law that apply to every employment situation. Frequently these elements are specifically outlined in company policy manuals. Any company that prepares such a manual with out at least having it reviewed by a lawyer versed in labor law sets it self up for future litigation. If provisions in the policy manual contradict or violate local, state or federal laws protecting the rights of employees, the company sets itself quickly onto the road to various lawsuits. Further law suits can be expected if a company does not rigorously follow its own procedures. Most of these law suits could be avoided it the company had the manual, and all of its updates, reviewed by a lawyer prior to publishing the manual.
While the individual employee will seldom take a company policy manual to a lawyer unless there is some underlying complaint that takes them to the lawyer first, labor unions and some worker’s rights organizations will certainly have their legal staff review such manuals as a matter of course. The individual employee should read and be familiar with the company policy manual. Then, if the employer takes any adverse action against the employee that appears to contradict that manual, the employee should contact a lawyer versed in labor or employment law to help protect the employee’s rights.
There are certain things that should always send an employee to an employment lawyer. Any discrimination based on sex, race, religion, age, or handicap, if not immediately corrected by the employer when the employee complains through established channels, should be brought to a lawyer. Any harassment for the same reasons, again if not corrected upon a proper complaint, should also result in a trip to a lawyer. Very strict and specific laws govern this area of employment relations. This frequently makes law suits unnecessary to correct blatant problems; a letter or call from an attorney is sometimes sufficient.
When companies violate rules regarding health and safety of employees, there are usually specific routes for employees to bring these to the attention of the appropriate government agencies. What is seldom explained to employees is that improperly filed reports of this nature can land the employee in legal hot water. It is probably wise to get some assistance of an employment lawyer so that appropriate protections under whistleblower laws can be obtained when filing these complaints.
Employee terminations are another area where both sides of the relationship may benefit from the assistance of a lawyer versed in employment law. Again there are a wide variety of rules and regulations that have an effect on this area of employee/employer relationships. Most of these rules have been put into place to protect the rights of employees. A company that has not had its termination procedures reviewed by a lawyer can rest assured that a lawyer for the other side will be reviewing the procedures at some time in the future. Any employee that feels that they have been unfairly terminated or treated poorly in the termination process should contact a lawyer to ensure that their rights have been properly protected.
Conflicts between workers and management will always be a part of the workplace. There is a wide body of employment law that tries to mitigate the effects of that conflict and to level the playing field so that the conflicts can be fairly resolved. While good intentions on both sides can frequently reduce the level of conflict; it is inevitable that an employment lawyer will be called in at sometime to mediate that resolution.