In today’s politically contentious landscape, many employees find it difficult to abide by the golden rule: Never discuss politics in the workplace. This can create problems if heated political debates interfere with employees’ job duties and attentiveness to customers. Freedom of expression in the workplace differs from state to state. Employers should check with a labor rights lawyer in San Jose, CA for the reliable employment law advice they need to craft a written policy regarding political speech.
This video provides a brief introduction to this topic, including a discussion of the National Labor Relations Act, anti-discrimination laws, and the First Amendment. It’s a common misconception that the right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment extends to the workplace. In fact, it only prevents governmental action against the impingement of free speech. This means that employers can take action to limit political debates in the workplace, particularly if these debates could be considered harassment.
An intriguing question regarding unlawful termination has been making headlines lately: Are NFL team owners legally able to fire players who use time on the field to protest social injustices? Despite the urgings of the 45 th President, whether or not an NFL owner can let a player go because of protests is a bit more complicated than simply saying, “You’re fired.” Employment lawyers serving San Jose, CA would defer to the player’s contract and the collective bargaining agreement when determining whether a termination is unlawful or not.
In the typical workplace, an at-will employee can be fired at any time for any reason, as long as the termination does not arise from discrimination based on a protected class. Employees who work under a contract, such as NFL athletes, can only be fired under the terms specified in the contract. The typical NFL contract requires athletes to conduct themselves in a manner that befits the “public respect.” It’s possible for an NFL owner to fire an athlete if he or she claims that the athlete’s protests have diminished the public respect. However, since fans are about evenly split between disliking the protests and appreciating the true meaning behind them, the athlete could possibly argue that protesting in such a way actually upholds the public respect.
Legal protections in the workplace have come a long way from previous decades, but some employers still run afoul of employee protection laws, including those regarding pregnancy. Civil rights attorneys in San Jose, CA can offer employment law advice to employees who think they may have been discriminated against based on a protected class, such as pregnancy.
Asking About Pregnancies and Intended Pregnancies
It is not within an employer’s rights to ask about an employee’s intentions to become pregnant, or about whether she is currently pregnant. Employees have every right to consult a labor rights lawyer if they are asked this question. Likewise, employers may not ask job candidates about their intentions toward parenthood, nor can they base a hiring decision on whether a job candidate intends to become pregnant or is pregnant.
Disclosing a Pregnancy Status
Women often choose to give their employers a heads up when they are expecting to use maternity leave soon. However, not every new mother will take multiple weeks off. Women are within their rights to work up to their due date, and then take vacation time for the delivery and recovery period. Women who aren’t yet expecting, but intend to become pregnant, can use time off for doctor’s appointments and infertility treatments in accordance with the company’s policy.
Women who plan to take maternity leave given by the company—or time off requested under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—must give reasonable notice of the leave. Not every employee is eligible for FMLA. Those who do are lawfully allowed to take up to 12 weeks of leave within a 12-month period for family or medical reasons, such as the birth of a child. FMLA leave is unpaid. At the end of the leave, employers are legally required to restore the employee’s previous position, or an equivalent position that offers the same benefits and wages.
Requesting Reasonable Accommodations
It’s possible for a pregnant woman to be unable to carry out certain job duties due to the conditions of pregnancy. During the last few weeks, for example, she may not be cleared by a doctor to take a business trip. There may also be restrictions on heavy lifting. Although employers cannot ask about pregnancies or intended pregnancies, they should be given reasonable notice about any accommodations the employee needs.
In California, employers are not legally required to provide paid or unpaid vacation time to their employees. If an employer does have an established vacation time policy, then employment law can regulate it. If you think your employer may have violated your rights with regard to your vacation benefits, consider talking to a labor rights lawyer serving San Jose, CA. An employment law attorney can determine whether your accrual or denial of vacation time violates any state regulations.
The Accrual of Vacation Time
California law recognizes that vacation time is accrued as labor is performed. The longer an employee works for the company, the more vacation time he or she accrues. Hypothetically, if Sara is given two weeks of vacation each year, then she’ll only have half of that available to her by the six-month point.
The Disposal of Unused Vacation Time
An employee rights lawyer can advise you that your vacation benefits are considered to be earnings under state law. This means that, barring a contradictory clause in a collective bargaining agreement, your employer cannot legally deny you those benefits if any are unused when you resign or are terminated. Your employer must compensate you for these unused vacation hours, corresponding with your final rate of pay.
The Legality of a Waiting Period
It’s legal—and common practice—for employers to require a probationary period for new employees, during which they do not accrue vacation time. As long as the vacation plan cannot be considered subterfuge , it’s acceptable for an employer to impose this waiting period. For example, an employee may not accrue vacation time at all the first year, followed by four weeks the second year, followed by two weeks during the third year. An employment law attorney could argue this is subterfuge, since it’s implied that two of the four weeks during the second year actually accrued during the first year. A legally acceptable vacation plan might offer zero vacation time during the first year, followed by two weeks for years two through five, and three weeks for each year following that.
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