Employment Frequently Asked Questions
- As an employee, how does Michigan employment law protect me?
- Can my old employer say derogatory things about me to my prospective new employer?
- Are there some questions that an employer can’t ask during a job interview?
- I’ve become ill and have used up my sick leave. Is there any other way I can get time off?
- Can an employer monitor my phone calls and email at work?
- What activities count as work time under the wage and hour laws?
- Wage and hour claims – In Michigan, a non-exempt employee who works overtime should be paid for it. Sometimes a company will try to avoid that by re-classifying you as a manager or independent contractor.
- Wrongful termination – protects you against being fired without just cause. Contracts of employment can be written or implied. So even if you have no written contract, a firing could regarded as a breach of contract, or as wrongful termination.
- Racial discrimination– Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits:
- Intentional discrimination
- Neutral job policies that disproportionately exclude minorities
- Discrimination against any employee or applicant based on the person’s race or stereotypes about their abilities
- Age discrimination– this applies to those who are 40 or older and who work in:
- The public sector
- Private companies with more than 20 employees
- Sexual discrimination – defined by Title VII as “.unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
- Sexual harassment – defined by the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature … when … submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions… or such conduct has the purpose or effect of … creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.”
top Can my old employer say derogatory things about me to my prospective new employer? Your former employer can defame you to potential employers. Worse yet, the law actually gives employers qualified immunity to defame its employees. top Are there some questions that an employer can’t ask during a job interview? Yes, there are several kinds of questions they can’t legally ask, e.g.
- Questions about your medical status
- Questions about your national origin, race, religion, or plans for becoming pregnant
- What your age is
- Whether you’ve ever been arrested (although they can ask if you’ve ever been convicted)
- Whether you’ve ever been part of a strike or other union activity
top I’ve become ill and have used up my sick leave. Is there any other way I can get time off? If you’ve also used all your vacation time and personal leave, there are other ways you can get time off, though it won’t necessarily be paid time. An experienced employment attorney can help you zero in on the best approach. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for serious illness (whether of the employee or a family member The Americans with Disabilities Act provides for an unspecified amount of time off as long as that time isn’t unduly burdensome for the employer. So the amount of time will depend on the size of the employer and how well it can afford to keep you on without you doing any work for them. The state workers’ compensation statute may entitle you to some paid time off if you were injured on the job. top Can an employer monitor my phone calls and email at work? Employers can monitor phone calls if:
- They tell you they’re doing it;
- It’s in the “ordinary course of business”, such as training or monitoring company performance, or
- They believe that an employee is using the phone to somehow damage the company (and again, they must tell you they’re monitoring you)
When you send or receive email through your employer’s network and Internet access, you should assume it’s not private. Employers can monitor their employees’ use of email and the Internet, and many do. top What activities count as work time under the wage and hour laws? If your employer “suffers or permits” you to do any given piece of work, they must pay you for doing it. This time spent will be counted towards your weekly 40 hours, and if this time runs you over 40 hours, you’ll be entitled to overtime pay. However, if you perform work that you weren’t authorized to do, your employer can discipline you for that, even though they must also pay you for it. Over the years, the courts have made many decisions as to what constitutes work time, and here are some of the decisions they’ve made:
- Commuting time is not work time.
- Performing preparatory work like assembling tools is work time.
- Short breaks of 15 minutes are work time.
- To not count as work time, a lunch break must be at least a half-hour long.
- Being on call is work time if you must be present at the work site. But if you’re free to live your life while you’re on call, that is not work time.
- Time voluntarily spent on training or education is not work time.
- Travel time, when it’s between multiple work sites or to an out-of-town site, and is part of your main job activities, is work time.
top Jay Trucks & Associates, in Flint Michigan, are employment law attorneys who have successfully represented thousands of people and collected millions of dollars on their behalf. We are strong advocates for employees and tough negotiators with employers. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.