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Other Employee Rights - FAQs - Miscellaneous

I was fired from my last job and all my prospective employers ask for my ex-employer's contact information and reference. If my employer badmouths me, what should I do?

If the parting has not been on cordial terms, there is risk of bad references. You cannot stop a former employer from giving bad references. However, it is in your interest if you personally ask for a reference letter at the time of leaving your organization. The employer may desist from making bad remarks and you'll know what is in the letter. However, you cannot stop prospective employers from contacting your ex-employer to obtain more information about you. If ex-employers lie about you, then they are liable for defamation.

Is it lawful to be asked questions based on my national origin, sex, race, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, age, or disability, and then deny me employment on that basis?

No. Prospective employers cannot ask questions based on national origin, sex, race, pregnancy, marital status, age, or disability. It is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 1964. Applicants may file complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and seek damages.

The prospective employer cannot deny a job to the applicant on those parameters. Every qualified applicant has the same chance to get a job without prejudice shown toward a special class.

Can I be asked to undergo a disability test to prove my job eligibility?

It is unlawful to ask questions regarding disability or require an applicant to undergo a disability test until and unless it relates to ability to perform the job being applied for safely and competently. But you can be asked questions about the disability if they relate to workplace accommodation necessary for you.

I belong to a protected class, and I believe I have not been hired/not promoted/denied benefits/was terminated because of my protected status. What should I do?

If you believe that you were denied employment or employment related benefits or privileges because of your sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, sexual preferences, marital status, or political status, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Does an employer have the right to monitor e-mail messages or intercept my mail?

It depends on the facts of each case or the company's policy, and the law in your state. Few states have legislation to protect workers from employers reading their e-mail. More than one-third of all companies responding to a recent American Management Association survey acknowledged searching e-mail for business necessity.

However, the employer may have the right to review e-mail with such a policy in place. But they generally cannot open your personal mail, especially it it's marked "personal and confidential". If you feel your privacy rights have been violated, speak to an employment attorney.

Who is entitled to the job if both a qualified U.S. citizen and a qualified alien applied for the job?

When a qualified U.S. citizen applies for any position, that person must be given preference over a qualified alien, even if the citizen is less qualified.

I was hired on a probationary period, but was fired before the end of probation. Is this legal?

Even employees taken on probation are "employment at will" employees, and their employment relationship can be terminated at any time without reason; it depends solely on the employer's will. In certain cases, you may be entitled to receive salary or other benefits until the end of the probationary period.

I had asked for permission to go through my personnel file, but it was denied. Is this legal?

You would have to check your state's employment laws to see if you are permitted to review the contents of your file. If it does, you should regularly review the contents, especially if you believe your employer is treating you unfairly.

What is the law regarding telephone tapping at work?

The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 prohibits deliberate interception of oral communications, including telephone conversations. The conversations between employees, uttered with the expectation that such communications are private and confidential, should be that way, and employers are forbidden from eavesdropping under this statute.

Is smoking at the workplace legal?

Various federal agencies, including the Merit Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), have ruled that employers must take reasonable steps to keep smoke away from workers who are sensitive to it. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued similar requirements to enhance safety in the workplace. If you are having problems with smoking by co-workers, you should inform the proper authority. If the authority does not act, you can file a complaint with OSHA or the EEOC to protect your rights.

Does an employer have the right to enforce a no-fraternization rule at curbing interoffice romance?

It depends on the facts. Although it may be legal to forbid employees from fraternization, all employees must be treated similarly to avoid violations.

I was fired at the end of year and was denied a year-end bonus about to vest in the following year. What should I do?

If you are fired at the end of the year and denied a year-end bonus or other benefits about to vest in the following year, consult an attorney immediately to enforce your rights. But try to negotiate it first with the proper authority in the organization.

Should I resign or wait to get fired?

Many people have the notion that it is better to resign than be fired. However, this is not always true. By resigning, you may waive valuable benefits, including severance pay and other benefits. This is because many employers have written policies stating that no severance pay or post-termination benefits will be paid to workers who resign. In some states, you are not entitled to unemployment benefits if you voluntarily resign from a job.

How do I file for unemployment compensation?

To receive UI compensation, you must file a claim at your local state unemployment office. File as soon as possible after unemployment begins, since you will not receive benefits until all the paperwork is processed and eligibility for benefits is verified.

You should also take the following documents to the unemployment office to help in verifying your eligibility: social security card, recent pay stubs, and any document showing the reason for the job loss. After filing the claim, you usually must report regularly to the unemployment office to verify your continued eligibility for benefits. You can lose benefits if you do not report.

While at work, I suffered permanent disability. What are my rights?

If you suffer an on-the-job injury which results in a permanent disability, whether partial or total, you are eligible for payment to compensate for the decrease in earnings attributable to the permanent nature of disability. The amount you will receive may be determined by a schedule, or by a percentage of the weekly wage.

If the workplace injury results in your death, money is generally provided to your spouse and children (if any). Death benefits consist of a burial allowance and a percentage of your weekly wages. There may be a maximum limit (cap) on benefits. Death benefits are provided to a spouse until remarriage and to the children until they reach majority.

What happens if I have been wrongfully disciplined?

If an employer has disciplined you or discharged you in violation of the law, you are entitled to be "made whole" - that is, put in the position you were in had your employer not discriminated against you. For example, if you were demoted, you can be returned to your previous position. If you were denied the promotion, you can be awarded the promotion and the raise retroactively. If fired, you can be reinstated with back pay and interest, along with damages in an amount equal to your back pay. You can also recover attorney's fees and court costs.

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