Employee Protection and Workers’ Compensation

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The company hired me as a business consultant to help it deliver decisions regarding employee protection. The main topics that the company managers want to be covered include workplace discrimination, regulations concerning employment-at-will and exceptions when this doctrine cannot be used, and the problem of undocumented workers’ compensation. For this reason, the current paper seeks to discuss in detail the aforementioned questions and examine which legislature documents are involved in the employee protection process.

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Workplace Discrimination

The problem of workplace discrimination has been attracting significant attention from lawmakers since the second half of the last century. As a result, legislators developed numerous groundbreaking documents such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964), The Equal Pay Act (1963), and The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (1967). These laws are intended to protect workers from employers’ bias due to employee’s race, sex, age, and religious views, to name a few.

Recently, following the new social trends in the U.S., the focus of political and legal practitioners has shifted towards discrimination on the grounds of workers’ gender identity and sexual orientation. In this regard, numerous cases showed that previous legal documents do not directly protect people from that type of prejudice; rather, the legality and illegality of such actions are determined based on people’s interpretations. Therefore, to address this problem on the federal level, on January 20, 2021, U.S. president Joe Biden signed Executive Order 13988 titled “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation “. Moreover, on February 23, 2021, the bill titled Equality Act was introduced to the U.S. Congress following similar purposes as the aforementioned document.

Additionally, the recent Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 extends the protection from discrimination in a workplace into the sphere of workforce development. In this regard, the document states that “no individual shall be… subjected to discrimination…because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or political affiliation or belief” (WIOA, 2014, sec.188). It implies that nobody can be excluded from participation in programs that help people to enhance their skills and assess training programs and career services based on the latter factors.

However, although most states mimic the federal regulations concerning workplace discrimination, some details may still vary. For instance, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 – federal law – protects all people older than 40 years from age-related discrimination without the upper limit. On the other hand, the Indiana Age Discrimination Act prohibits such behavior only concerning people from 40 to 75 years old. However, Nagele-Piazza (2017) states that when resolving the conflicts between employees and employers, the courts usually decide between federal or state regulations application based on their favor towards the worker. Therefore, it is equally important for the company managers to be aware of federal as well as local legislature concerning labor and employment.

Employment-at-Will

Employment-at-will implies that either employee or employer can terminate a working relationship with another party without any reason for such a decision if special conditions were not agreed on beforehand. However, there are several circumstances that may make such termination illegal. Firstly, the existence of employment contracts where the terms of partnership between counteragents are strictly defined. In this case, work relationship termination before the due time is only possible when one or both sides could not fulfill their responsibilities.

Secondly, at-will firing of the employee or worker’s leave may be prohibited if it violates public policy. For instance, employers cannot dismiss employees because the latter refused to do something against local laws. Finally, the covenant of good faith and fair dealing may serve as an exception for terminating working relationships at will. It implies that either of the parties cannot end the partnership with the intention to hurt another side.

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Now, based on the previous discussion of the employment-at-will concept, it is suggested to analyze various scenarios regarding the termination of working relationships. Each case illustrates the company manager’s intention to discharge or actual dismissal of his/her subordinate. Therefore, it is necessary to answer whether the decision to fire a worker was good and whether it is possible to use the employment-at-will argument if an employee wants to sue the company.

The Case of Brenda

The company manager Brenda, firstly, reprimanded the worker who criticized the company for not promoting Asian Americans within two years and the CEO for his/her performance and relationship with workers. Then, after the same employee proposed to colleagues to create a union, Brenda decided to dismiss that subordinate. In this regard, even fast analysis reveals that such a decision cannot be called very wise, neither from management nor legal perspectives. If the employee decides to sue the company, the employment-at-will argument will not work as an attempt to retaliate is evident. Additionally, justification will fail in court as it can be argued that the worker’s dismissal was against public policy as the employee was advocating for the rights of Asian Americans.

Jason and Alice

Jason wants to fire his worker Alice because she has been bringing political and religious flyers to the employee breakroom and has been out for a prayer during the busiest time of the day. Although firing this worker may be understandable from the performance point of view, such a decision would be discriminating based on legal and ethical standards. Therefore, in court, the company will not be able to justify Alice’s dismissal using employment-at-will. Moreover, the employee can argue that she was fired in retaliation for disseminating Right-to-Life flyers.

Brian and Lori

The company manager Brian wants to fire his employee Lori due to leaving for jury duty without permission when there was much work to do. In this case, it is clear that there is no sign of retaliation or malice. However, jury duty is one of the important citizen responsibilities; thus, the court would not accept the employment-at-will argument. Therefore, it is concluded that Lori’s dismissal may not be a good idea.

The Case of Peter

Peter has rare liver disease, and the work with the chemicals further aggravates his condition. As a result, his continuing performance decline made his boss want Peter to leave. This case is the only one among others that portrays the right decision to dismiss the worker as none of the exceptions would deter the company from using the employment-at-will justification in court. Although Peter can claim discrimination towards him, this argument can be rebuked by the claim that the employee’s performance was very bad; thus, it is not regarded as discrimination according to the law.

Undocumented Workers and Compensation

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 is the federal law that regulates the hiring of undocumented workers. According to it, businesses cannot knowingly employ people who stay in the U.S. illegally. However, if such type of employee for some reason was working and got injured, many states make companies liable to pay compensations. In this regard, it is argued that employers should compensate undocumented workers in the cases (Matthiesen, Wickert, and Lehrer, 2021). It also should apply when the former was unaware of the illegal status of the latter before hiring them. However, employers should, in turn, be able to sue dishonest workers. Contrary, the job givers should be forced to compensate illegal employees as the company should enjoy benefits of such partnership as well as bare responsibilities based on common law.

References

Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer. (2021). Workers’ compensation claims by undocumented employees. Web.

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Nagele-Piazza, L. (2017). Not all state employment discrimination laws are created equal. Web.

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, Pub. L. No. 113–128, 128 Stat. 1425 (2014). Web.

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