All employers across the U.S. are required to follow federal employment law as set forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). There are also individual laws in each state.
If an employer fails to follow these laws, they may face legal consequences, including fines and lawsuits. Additionally, depending on the violation, employees may be entitled to back pay, reinstatement or other forms of compensation.
At Nomberg Law Firm, we believe that every Alabama employee has the right to fair and equal treatment under the law. If you believe you’ve been the victim of unfair treatment or discrimination in the workplace, our experienced employment law attorneys can help fight for your rights.
What is employment law?
Employment law encompasses all the rights, responsibilities and obligations of both employers and employees over the course of a working relationship. It governs areas like:
- Safety in the workplace
- Employee wages
- Wrongful termination
Some of these aspects, specifically discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination, are prohibited by law and carry serious consequences for any employers that violate them.
If a worker faces unfair treatment of any kind in the workplace, they have a right to fight back, retain an employment attorney and file a lawsuit against their employer.
Employment law covers a wide range of different areas. These are a few of them.
Wage and hour laws
In Alabama, there is no set law pertaining to minimum wage. As a result, workers are entitled to receive the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or the local minimum wage, whichever amount is higher. Any employee who earns tips as part of their wages is subject to the federal laws governing tips and minimum wage rules for those who earn them as part of their salary.
Any worker who does not receive all the wages they are due can file a lawsuit against their employer. This can be done with the help of an attorney or through the Alabama Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division by filing a complaint.
Wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires an employee for unfair reasons that violate the worker’s rights. It also violates employment laws. There are many situations where a worker can be wrongfully terminated.
For example, let’s say an employee filed a complaint against their employer for not paying them all their wages or because they disregarded their own anti-discrimination policy. This not only constitutes wrongful termination but is also considered workplace retaliation.
What is at-will employment?
Alabama is a state that follows at-will employment. This means that the employer/employee relationship can end at any point without giving a reason. However, there are some exceptions to at-will employment.
Employers cannot let an employee go due to discriminatory reasons, such as gender, age, race and other protected characteristics, when it would equate to a breach of contract.
Other examples of wrongful termination include the following:
- Firing a worker because they served as a whistleblower by reporting illegal or unethical workplace practices
- Firing a pregnant employee because of her pregnancy status
- Firing an injured worker because they filed a workers’ compensation claim
Additionally, Alabama employers cannot terminate employees based on time-off requests, jury duty, military service, breach of contract or needing time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Any employee who faces wrongful termination based on these situations has grounds to file a lawsuit and should contact an experienced unemployment law attorney to help explain their rights.
Workplace harassment constitutes any type of offensive conduct that creates a hostile work environment or becomes intimidating or abusive. This behavior is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Different forms of workplace harassment exist and may include any of the following:
- Verbal insults
- Threats and epithets
- Demeaning slurs
- Racial, sexual or other protected class jokes
- Comments about appearance and inappropriate gestures
Alabama employers with 15 or more workers must abide by the laws under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They are obligated to educate all staff about acceptable workplace conduct and encourage staff to identify, report and prevent workplace harassment.
Workers who face harassment can file a claim against their employer if they are able to prove that the employer violated these laws or if they knew about the harassment but failed to take the proper actions against it.
Workplace retaliation refers to any negative action an employer takes against an employee in response to the employee engaging in a legally protected activity, such as reporting discrimination or harassment.
If you believe that you have experienced workplace retaliation, it is important to know your rights and take action.
By law, certain groups are protected against discrimination, and this also applies to the workplace. It’s illegal to discriminate against employees based on their:
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- Color Religion
- National origin
- Pregnancy status
- Political affiliation or beliefs
Employers who take any of the following actions against an employee solely based on their protected class are in violation of state and federal anti-discrimination laws:
- Refusing to hire them
- Withholding promotions, raises, job duties or projects
- Firing or demoting them
Employees who face discrimination at work are entitled to file a complaint against their employer. Any of the above examples of unfair treatment warrant speaking with an employment lawyer and filing a formal complaint or lawsuit.
Breach of contract
Breach of contract occurs when an employer fails to uphold their end of a signed formal agreement. Once a contract is signed, if the duties outlined in it are not met, it equates to a breach of contract.
There are 4 types of breach of contract.
Minor or partial breach
A minor or partial breach refers to a situation where one party to a contract fails to fulfill some of the terms of the agreement, but the breach is not serious enough to cause a fundamental breakdown of the contract.
For example, if an employer fails to provide an employee with their scheduled break on a single occasion but not on a regular basis, this could qualify as a minor or partial breach.
A material breach, also known as a major breach, is a failure to perform a significant term or obligation of a contract that goes to the heart of the agreement. It’s a breach that is serious enough to completely undermine the purpose of the contract.
For example, if an employer fails to pay an employee their wages for several months, this could qualify as a material breach. This breach would be significant as it goes to the heart of the employment relationship, as the employee relies on their wages to live and support themselves.
Fundamental or actual breach
A fundamental breach, also known as an actual breach, is the most serious type of breach of contract. It occurs when one party fails to perform a fundamental obligation of the contract, which deprives the other party of the whole benefit of the agreement.
A fundamental breach is a breach that goes to the very heart of the contract, rendering it impossible for the other party to fulfill their obligations or significantly affecting the value or purpose of the contract. It essentially destroys the basis of the contract and excuses the non-breaching party from further performance under the agreement.
For example, if an employer subjects an employee to harassment or a hostile work environment, such as by subjecting them to unwanted advances or abusive behavior, this could qualify as a fundamental breach. This breach would be significant as it violates the employee’s right to a safe and respectful workplace and can have a significant impact on their well-being and ability to perform their job.
An anticipatory breach occurs when one party indicates, either explicitly or through their actions, that they don’t plan to honor their obligations under the contract before the performance time has arrived.
For example, if an employer informs an employee that they will be required to work in a different location that is significantly farther away from their home, even though the employment contract states that the employee will be working at a specific location, this could qualify as an anticipatory breach.
If a worker is harmed due to a breach of contract, they can file a lawsuit against their employer if they suffer damages.
Damages available in an employment lawsuit
Certain damages are available in a successful employment lawsuit.
- Economic damages are those that cover any monetary losses, such as lost wages and lost benefits.
- Non-economic damages are those that don’t have a financial cost. They include things like emotional distress, embarrassment, inconvenience, loss of reputation and loss of enjoyment of life.
In some cases, punitive damages may be available to punish the employer. They may be awarded if it’s determined that the employer acted in a willfully malicious or reckless manner.
If you have faced any of these issues in the workplace in Alabama, contact an employment lawyer to discuss your case. An employment attorney can help ensure the lawsuit is filed within the statute of limitations, which is 6 years in Alabama.
Successful employment law cases at Nomberg Law Firm
Sexual Harassment: six-figure settlement in Houston County
Attorney Bernard Nomberg negotiated a six-figure settlement for 2 clients in a sexual harassment case against a kid’s indoor fun facility in Houston County. The harasser was also a co-owner of the facility. He did the hiring and firing, but he also had a propensity for hitting on and propositioning the newly hired females. These claims were settled prior to litigation.
Breach of Contract: Favorable settlement for our client
Attorneys Bernard and David Nomberg defended a sales representative in a breach of contract and fraud case brought against our client. The company she sold durable medical equipment for sued her for allegedly violating her non-compete agreement. The company sought to enforce a non-compete agreement and enjoin our client from selling durable medical equipment.
We were successful at the preliminary injunction stage of litigation, proving our client was an independent contractor; thus the non-compete agreement was void under Alabama law. This win allowed our client to continue to sell products. The plaintiff appealed the trial court’s ruling, which was affirmed by the Alabama Supreme Court. Litigation continued, ultimately resulting in the plaintiff paying our client money to settle the litigation.
Contact Nomberg Law Firm for help with your employment law case
If you believe you were wrongfully fired or your employer has discriminated against you or otherwise violated your legal rights as an employee, you may be entitled to significant compensation. At Nomberg Law Firm, our attorneys are knowledgeable about the various federal and state employment laws and can help you get the justice and compensation you deserve.
Contact us today for a free consultation of your case.