TAKE THE NEXT STEPS TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING YOUR EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS

QUESTION #1: IS IT WORTH IT?

Deciding whether to confront your employer legally is hard. Here are things you can do to decide whether this is a road that you want to take.

3 THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW:

1

HAVE A CLEAR OBJECTIVE.

Do you want a better severance agreement, to fight for a principle or something in between?

2

DETERMINE YOUR TOLERANCE FOR CONFLICT

Litigation is not fun. For some the best option, depending upon temperament, is to drop the dispute and move on with life.

3

GET INFO & BE REALISTIC

Many people over-estimate the value of their case. Web sites may help here, but the best way is to speak with an employment lawyer who is experienced in your state.

     

QUESTION #2: WHAT ABOUT UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS?

You’ve lost your job. Now what? For most people, the first step is to file for Unemployment Insurance benefits so you can pay the bills.

3 THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW:

1

ACT QUICKLY

Apply as soon as you can. The sooner you apply, the sooner you can begin to collect your benefits. If you lose your application,you can always appeal. You may win the second time around.

 

2

DETERMINE THE GROUNDS

The grounds on which you can be denied benefits are limited. Common ones are “misconduct” and “voluntarily quitting” your job. These terms have precise legal meanings, but sometimes employers use them incorrectly to oppose UI benefits.

3

SPEAK TO AN ATTORNEY

You can handle your unemployment hearing yourself, but an attorney may be able to help by representing you in a difficult case or helping you prepare to represent yourself. A reasonable flat fee may be available if you choose an attorney’s help.

     

QUESTION #3: SHOULD I GO TO THE EEOC?

When many people think of employment law, they think of the EEOC. The EEOC is a federal agency charged with enforcing United States law and is a necessary first step in many states. New Jersey is different, which is a good thing for employees. New Jersey has an employment rights statute called the Law Against Discrimination, referred to as the “LAD.” For very good reasons, most employment litigations in New Jersey are brought in state court under the LAD, without an intermediate stop at an agency.

3 THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW:

1

KEEP UNDER CONSIDERATION

While there can be good reasons to start with the EEOC or its state counterpart agency, here known as the Division on Civil Rights, in New Jersey this may not be advisable. Unless you are certain that you want to follow this path, talk to an employment lawyer before deciding whether or not to file.

2

TIMING IS IMPORTANT

If you want to file with EEOC/DCR, in New Jersey you have 300 days to do so. In some states, the time is just 180 days. To preserve your rights you must file on time.

 

 

3

KEEP YOUR OPTIONS OPEN

Even if you decide to file with the EEOC, do not rely just on the agency to help you. You may not get the result that you want. Continue to look for a lawyer.

 

 

     

QUESTION #4: HANDLING A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT

You’re working, but you think that you ‘ve been subjected to a hostile work environment. This has a specific meaning in the law. It does not mean that you have a difficult or unpleasant boss. A hostile work environment is a kind of employment discrimination. It is usually seen in cases of sexual harassment and gender discrimination, but it can arise in others as well, like race discrimination. If you think that you are suffering from a hostile work environment here are...

3 THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW:

1

REPORT MISCONDUCT IMMEDIATELY

Tell someone in authority or Human Resources. Having a paper trail of documented events can help build your case.

 

 

2

DOCUMENT EVERYTHING YOURSELF

Document what’s happening. Make notes somewhere, but not on a company-owned computer or computer system. You can not simply rely on your employer to keep this information. You need to take charge and keep your own records.

3

TALK TO A LAWYER

If you fear that you will lose your job, consult with counsel immediately. A lawyer probably cannot save your job but will be able to help you get positioned for a severance payment or lawsuit.

 

     

QUESTION #5: WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU ARE FIRED?

If you’ve lost your job, or think you’re about to, here are some things you can do to protect yourself.

3 THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW:

1

DON'T SIGN ANYTHING

If your employer offers you a severance agreement it will contain a waiver or release of your legal rights. Sign it and you will agree, in exchange for money, to give up your right to sue your employer. If you have reached your 40th birthday, your employer is legally required to give you 21 days (in some instances 45) to consider the severance agreement, to advise you to consult with an attorney about it, and if you do sign it, then another 7 days to revoke your acceptance. Just remember that signing and revoking can change the dynamics of any subsequent negotiation with the employer, so do not look at the right of revocation as a “free pass.”

2

DON'T TAKE ANYTHING THAT ISN'T YOURS

Generally speaking, you can print out your e-mails and similar information. But for heaven’s sake don’t go taking confidential information or going into areas that you’re not entitled to access.If your employer has issued you a laptop, never forget that it belongs to your employer, not you. And yet I can’t tell you how many people refer to the company’s laptop as “my laptop.” And how many times they don’t want to give it back. Take this one to the bank: keeping or modifying (i.e., deleting files from) a company laptop is one of the fastest ways known to man to escalate a manageable employment termination into a small war. And wars are both expensive and uncertain.

3

DON'T YELL, THREATEN, OR BREAK ANYTHING

Your mom taught you this. She was right. Although losing a job is a difficult and emotional experience, rise above the moment. Keep your cool, behave professionally and civilly. Losing your temper does nothing but give your employer ammunition against you. In some cases, it can get you arrested.