Legal Issues at the Work Place

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Introduction

There are various stipulated laws and regulations meant to govern conduct of employees at the work place and at the same time there are laws and regulations both at the state and federal level meant to protect employees from acts such as discrimination, unlawful termination, workplace harassment and a lot more. The laws governing employees and employers are mostly outlined within the contractual documents and federal as well as state statutes. Employers are required to comply to these labor related laws when making any decisions that pertain to hiring, firing,  and promoting employees, additionally they govern how workers should be treated, paid and accorded appropriate working condition and any other fringe benefits in addition to their remuneration.


In this paper, the case of Mr. Oiler, an employee at Win Dixie stores incorporation is highlighted. Mr. Oiler was terminated for off-the-job behavior on 2000 January for cross-dressing. Later, he filed a law suit on the grounds of discrimination which he failed to win, but later decided not to appeal and he took up a similar job elsewhere. Terminations that result from off-duty cases may actually pose a challenge to any company especially; when there is no clear connection between the behavior and work performance. Mr. Oilers performance may have been high, but in this case the Win Dixie Incorporation defended itself on the grounds of image-claiming that Mr. Oilers contact with clients or the general public would create a negative image that would taint the companys outlook. Such instances pose challenges to companies including potential law suits from terminated employees, low morale, bad publicity and high turn over of employees (Hirschman, 2003).


Mr.Oilers case presented a slight challenge to the company in the legal suit, but finally they were able to win. The filed suit cited discrimination on the grounds of gender as the main reason of termination. However, Win Dixie prevailed because the judge stated that the federal laws on discrimination do not cover transgendered individuals such as Mr.Oiler because his biological sexual identity does not match the gender identity portrayed off-duty. In actual sense there are federal provisions meant to protect employees against discrimination on the grounds sex (including pregnancy), color, race, national origin and religion (FindLaw, 20100). This is in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unfortunately, at the moment there are no explicit federal laws which prohibit the private sector from discrimination of employees based on sexual orientation. The (ENDA act) Employment Non-discrimination Act 2009 which would prohibit discrimination on sexual orientation including transgender people is under consideration in Congress.


A part from lacking protection at the federal level Mr. Oiler was also unable to protect him self at the state level. The 47 year old resident of Avondale, Los Angeles lived in the state of California and fortunately, the state of California is one among the few states that have legislation to protect against gender discrimination, and therefore; based solely on this ground Mr. Oiler should have been protected (Hirschman, 2003). But the provisions which offer private employees the right to terminate employment for virtually any reason as long as it is not illegal, worked against Mr. Oiler and thus the company prevailed. These provisions within the œat will doctrine made it possible for Mr. Oiler to be fired.


Employees have a right to privacy and their employer should not monitor their activities while off-duty and this largely applies to the public sector in the U.S. However, at the private sector level employers have less legal restriction to monitor their employees. However; despite the courts ruling Mr. Oiler had rights of privacy with regard to this issue by virtue of the fact that he lived in the state of California which prohibits employees from taking any termination action on employees because of their off-duty conduct. But th œat will doctrine may have prevailed (Mesriani Law group, 2010).


Just cause is a labor arbitration standard in most U.S labor Unions, this provision protects against unjust terminations at the work place and instills some job security. It is mostly used in many job contracts and its stipulations require that an employer should provide a just cause before an arbitrator for termination to be allowed, and the burden of proof lies with the employer. Due process is a legal principle which requires the state or justice system to take in to account all the rights of an individual and thus holding the government accountable to the law of the land. Due process id meant to safeguard citizens from the government.


Employment at will doctrine forms part of the American law which governs employment relations. The parties to an employment are at will to break away from the relations as long as there are no binding contracts that define periods and the parties form no part in any union. On the other hand, wrongful discharge defines an employment termination which has occurred in a manner that breaches the employment contract or federal and state laws which govern employment.


All these legal terms actually apply to Mr.Oiler; firstly, his termination was a wrongful discharge according to him and his attorneys and as a result they sought legal measures to have the employer give a just cause for terminating Mr. Oiler for the employment to become legally recognized. After the filing of a legal suit the court had to follow a due process in determining the legality of the termination by examining all rights that were due to Mr. Oiler in this case and compare them against the just cause to determine whether indeed he was legally terminated. The process was actually done and the employer found a solid ground on the at will employment doctrine as the reason why he had a right to terminate him.


A progressive discipline system with regard to the workplace refers to a step-by-step process where gradual steps are taken to deter bad behavior at the work place and these steps finally may culminate into termination if the earlier steps do not yield positive results. These gradual steps include a verbal reprimand on the employee, followed by a written reprimand, a suspension and finally termination if there is no improvement on the side of the employee. This system is meant to avoid legal hitches and suits from terminated employees as well as offer them a chance to reconsider and rectify their conduct as a fair means of correction. This should have worked for Mr. Oiler and he should have been offered a second chance. He would have probably reconsidered and changed his habits, however; he was not offered a chance and this portrays the unfair side of the company (Miletsky, 2008).


If this had occurred today there would have been no different outcomes because the statutes have not changed any more. The statutes amended under FEHA were supposed to be effective due 1st January 2000, and these revisions made effective on this date were supposed to protect Mr. Oilers transgender nature, but the fact that the court overruled his application due to the at will doctrine, thus there is nothing that may have changed by now (FINDUS Law, 2010).


References

FindLaw (20100),. Your rights against sexual orientation discrimination in the work place, retrieved on 9th January, 2011 from http://employment.findlaw.com/employment/employment-employee-discrimination-harassment/employment-employee-gay-lesbian-discrimination/employment-employee-gay-lesbian-discrimination%281%29.html

FINDUS Law (2010),. California Fair Employment and Housing Act-FEHA-Government Code 12900-12996, retrieved on 9th January, 2011 from http://finduslaw.com/california_fair_employment_and_housing_act_feha_government_code_12900_12996

Hirschman, C. (2003),. Off-duty out of work, Human Resource Magazine, New York: NY, volume 48, issue number 2, pg 50, 7.

Mesriani Law group (2010),. Top three laws that protect against gender discrimination in Los Angeles, retrieved on 9th January, 2011 from http://www.infobarrel.com/Top_3_Laws_that_Protect_Against_Gender_Discrimination_in_Los_Angeles

Miletsky, J. R. (2008),. How to avoid claims and lawsuits when hiring and firing employees at will, Contractors Business Management Report, New York; NY, issue number 11 pgs 1, 5.

January, 2011 from http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/off-duty-conduct-employee-rights-33590.html

Ramsey, D. R. (1998),. Guidelines for progressive discipline of employees, Super Vision: Burlington, volume number 59, issue number 2, pgs 10, 3.

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