Can you sue your employer for unfair treatment?
CAN YOU SUE YOUR EMPLOYER FOR UNFAIR TREATMENT?
Can you sue your employer for unfair treatment? The short answer is: Yes, you sometimes can, but not always, and not for every sort of unfairness. While most American workers expect to be treated fairly in the workplace, the reality falls far short of this ideal. Although unfair treatment abounds in the workplace, not all unfair treatment at work is grounds for legal action. Because of the pernicious rule known as œemployment at will, employers have wide latitude to treat people unfairly and to terminate them for any reason. Legal claims arise only when the unfair treatment violates a specific law, an employment contract, or when it is so severe that it becomes actionable as a common law civil harm. Minor unfairness such as unequal enforcement of rules, unequal assignments, or unfair standards are often not severe enough to give rise to legal remedies.
One type of unfairness that is illegal is discrimination. Federal, state, and local laws prohibit unfair treatment of any kind when it is based on certain œprotected classes such as race, gender, religion, national origin, and many others. If the unfair treatment is based on one of these classes it will likely give rise to a legal claim. Often workers are employed under contracts. Executives are often engaged under contracts. Unionized workers are parties to collective agreements which govern their employment. Sometimes a company’s own policies create an œimplied contract of employment. If the unfair treatment violates the terms of an agreement, it is presumptively actionable in a court.
When an employer’s unfair treatment rises to the level of extreme conduct such as assault, abuse, threats, restraint, harassment, or other physical or mental abuse, it may be actionable under various common law tort theories such as intentional infliction of emotional distress, unlawful restraint, or civil assault.
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