Employment and Labor Law

I Was Fired Because of My Race, Sex or Gender; Do I Need a Connecticut Attorney?

The State of Connecticut has in place a very comprehensive statutory scheme, the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, which strictly prohibits discriminatory practices in employment based on:

Race, color, religious creed, sex, age, gender identity or expression, marital status, national origin, ancestry, present or past history of mental disability, mental retardation, and learning disability or physical disability.

In all practices by an employer, including hiring and firing, an employer’s decision cannot be based on one of the above bases. In Connecticut, an employer of with just 3 or more employees is subject to the state antidiscrimination laws and can be persecuted for violating them. If an employer is found guilty of employment discrimination there are very serious consequences, both at the state and federal levels. To ensure your rights are protected in such a discriminatory instance, a Connecticut employment law attorney is a necessity. The sooner you contact an experienced Connecticut employment law attorney, the sooner they can help you prevent further discrimination by that employer and remedy the discrimination you have already experienced.

If you are the victim of discriminatory practices and treatment in the workplace, the lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., can assist you effectively and efficiently. To schedule an appointment with one of our Employment Law Group attorneys, call (203) 221-3100 or email Ask@mayalaw.com.

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I Was Fired Because of My Race, Sex or Gender; Do I Need a Connecticut Attorney?

The State of Connecticut has in place a very comprehensive statutory scheme, the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, which strictly prohibits discriminatory practices in employment based on:

Race, color, religious creed, sex, age, gender identity or expression, marital status, national origin, ancestry, present or past history of mental disability, mental retardation, and learning disability or physical disability.

In all practices by an employer, including hiring and firing, an employer’s decision cannot be based on one of the above bases. In Connecticut, an employer of with just 3 or more employees is subject to the state antidiscrimination laws and can be persecuted for violating them. If an employer is found guilty of employment discrimination there are very serious consequences, both at the state and federal levels. To ensure your rights are protected in such a discriminatory instance, a Connecticut employment law attorney is a necessity. The sooner you contact an experienced Connecticut employment law attorney, the sooner they can help you prevent further discrimination by that employer and remedy the discrimination you have already experienced.

If you are the victim of discriminatory practices and treatment in the workplace, the lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., can assist you effectively and efficiently. To schedule an appointment with one of our Employment Law Group attorneys, call (203) 221-3100 or email Ask@mayalaw.com.

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Can an Employee Sue for Wrongful Discharge Even Though the Employee Did Not Have an Employment Contract?

In Connecticut, employees who do not have a contract spelling out the duration of their employment are considered “at-will” employees. In an at-will employment relationship, either party (the employer or the employee) may terminate the employment whenever they choose, for any reason or no reason at all. Of course, both federal and state laws protect employees from discrimination, including termination, based on gender, race, age, religion, national origin, disability, and sexual orientation, among other things. However, in limited circumstances, an at-will employee may be able to sue his or her employer for wrongful discharge even without a case of discrimination if the discharge is against public policy, or if the employee can prove that there was an implied employment contract.

Under the public policy exception, an employee can bring an action for wrongful termination if his or her discharge is contrary to a clear public policy, and the court (rather than a jury) must determine at the outset whether an important public policy is at issue in the case. Such public policy may be found in constitutional provisions, statutes or in judicially conceived notions. These would include prohibitions against firing an employee for filing a claim for unemployment benefits, filing a wage enforcement claim, and exercising federal or state constitutional rights, such as religious or free speech rights. Although courts construe this exception narrowly, some have, for example, held that an employee may maintain an action for wrongful discharge where the plaintiff alleged that he was fired for refusing to participate in a scheme to defraud the government in violation of a federal statute, or was fired for reporting that a supervisor had sold alcohol to a minor in violation of a state statue.

Connecticut courts also recognize a cause of action for wrongful termination based on an implied employment contract. To prevail on such a claim, the employee must prove that the employer agreed, through words or actions, not to terminate the employee without just cause. This exception, too, is narrowly construed. Such claims have arisen where an employee manual was distributed to the now discharged employee that contained language concerning job security (e.g., that the employee could not be discharged without just cause) that he or she relied upon in deciding to remain with his employer.

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, contact one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. to discuss your legal remedies today. An attorney may be reached at 203-221-3100 or by emailing Ask@mayalaw.com.

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Can an Employee Sue for Wrongful Discharge Even Though the Employee Did Not Have an Employment Contract?

In Connecticut, employees who do not have a contract spelling out the duration of their employment are considered “at-will” employees. In an at-will employment relationship, either party (the employer or the employee) may terminate the employment whenever they choose, for any reason or no reason at all. Of course, both federal and state laws protect employees from discrimination, including termination, based on gender, race, age, religion, national origin, disability, and sexual orientation, among other things. However, in limited circumstances, an at-will employee may be able to sue his or her employer for wrongful discharge even without a case of discrimination if the discharge is against public policy, or if the employee can prove that there was an implied employment contract.

Under the public policy exception, an employee can bring an action for wrongful termination if his or her discharge is contrary to a clear public policy, and the court (rather than a jury) must determine at the outset whether an important public policy is at issue in the case. Such public policy may be found in constitutional provisions, statutes or in judicially conceived notions. These would include prohibitions against firing an employee for filing a claim for unemployment benefits, filing a wage enforcement claim, and exercising federal or state constitutional rights, such as religious or free speech rights. Although courts construe this exception narrowly, some have, for example, held that an employee may maintain an action for wrongful discharge where the plaintiff alleged that he was fired for refusing to participate in a scheme to defraud the government in violation of a federal statute, or was fired for reporting that a supervisor had sold alcohol to a minor in violation of a state statue.

Connecticut courts also recognize a cause of action for wrongful termination based on an implied employment contract. To prevail on such a claim, the employee must prove that the employer agreed, through words or actions, not to terminate the employee without just cause. This exception, too, is narrowly construed. Such claims have arisen where an employee manual was distributed to the now discharged employee that contained language concerning job security (e.g., that the employee could not be discharged without just cause) that he or she relied upon in deciding to remain with his employer.

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, contact one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. to discuss your legal remedies today. An attorney may be reached at 203-221-3100 or by emailing Ask@mayalaw.com.

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Can an Employee Who Waived Discrimination Claims in a Severance Agreement Still Sue for Discrimination?

If an employee who signed an agreement waiving discrimination claims later files a lawsuit asserting such claims, he or she will argue that the waiver is legally invalid while the employer will, of course, argue the opposite. A court, therefore, would have to determine whether the waiver is valid and binding on the employee before considering the substance of the underlying discrimination action.

A waiver in a severance agreement generally is valid if the employee knowingly and voluntarily consented to it. Courts look to different factors to determine whether the consent was knowing and voluntary, and this could depend upon the statute under which the discrimination action is brought. While some courts rely on traditional contract interpretation principles and focus on whether the language of the waiver was clear, most courts will look at a number of factors, or what is referred to as “the totality of the circumstances,” to determine if the employee knowingly and voluntarily waived his or her right to bring a lawsuit.

When an employee asserts claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Equal Pay Act, courts considering the totality of circumstances will look to:

Whether the waiver was clear, specific (e.g., explicitly referred to the types of claims being waived), and written in a way that the employee could understand given his or her education and experience;

Whether the waiver was induced by fraud, duress, undue influence or other improper conduct by the employer;

Whether the employee had enough time to consider the waiver and the advantages or disadvantages of signing it;

Whether the employee consulted an attorney or was encouraged or discouraged from doing so by the employer;

Whether the employee had input in negotiating the terms of the agreement; and

Whether the employer offered the employee consideration, such as additional pay or benefits, beyond what the employee was already entitled to by law or under a contract, and the employee accepted this consideration.

When an employee brings a lawsuit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), courts will look to additional factors under this statute to determine whether the waiver was knowing and voluntary. For example, the waiver for an ADEA claim must specifically refer to rights or claims arising under the ADEA, must advise the employee to consult with an attorney, must provide the employee with at least 21 days to consider the offer and a further seven days to revoke his or her signature, and the waiver may not include any rights or claims that arise after the date the waiver is signed.

Accordingly, if some or all of the factors listed above are not met, an employer may still face exposure to a discrimination lawsuit – although it appeared that company was insulated from due to a waiver signed by its former employee.

Do you need an employment law attorney? Look no further than to the nearly two decades of employment law experience at Maya Murphy. Our lawyers have practiced in the courts of Connecticut and New York on countless employment law issues and can help you with any employment law matter. Call 203-221-3100 or email Ask@mayalaw.com for a free consultation today!

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Can an Employee Who Waived Discrimination Claims in a Severance Agreement Still Sue for Discrimination?

If an employee who signed an agreement waiving discrimination claims later files a lawsuit asserting such claims, he or she will argue that the waiver is legally invalid while the employer will, of course, argue the opposite. A court, therefore, would have to determine whether the waiver is valid and binding on the employee before considering the substance of the underlying discrimination action.

A waiver in a severance agreement generally is valid if the employee knowingly and voluntarily consented to it. Courts look to different factors to determine whether the consent was knowing and voluntary, and this could depend upon the statute under which the discrimination action is brought. While some courts rely on traditional contract interpretation principles and focus on whether the language of the waiver was clear, most courts will look at a number of factors, or what is referred to as “the totality of the circumstances,” to determine if the employee knowingly and voluntarily waived his or her right to bring a lawsuit.

When an employee asserts claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Equal Pay Act, courts considering the totality of circumstances will look to:

Whether the waiver was clear, specific (e.g., explicitly referred to the types of claims being waived), and written in a way that the employee could understand given his or her education and experience;

Whether the waiver was induced by fraud, duress, undue influence or other improper conduct by the employer;

Whether the employee had enough time to consider the waiver and the advantages or disadvantages of signing it;

Whether the employee consulted an attorney or was encouraged or discouraged from doing so by the employer;

Whether the employee had input in negotiating the terms of the agreement; and

Whether the employer offered the employee consideration, such as additional pay or benefits, beyond what the employee was already entitled to by law or under a contract, and the employee accepted this consideration.

When an employee brings a lawsuit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), courts will look to additional factors under this statute to determine whether the waiver was knowing and voluntary. For example, the waiver for an ADEA claim must specifically refer to rights or claims arising under the ADEA, must advise the employee to consult with an attorney, must provide the employee with at least 21 days to consider the offer and a further seven days to revoke his or her signature, and the waiver may not include any rights or claims that arise after the date the waiver is signed.

Accordingly, if some or all of the factors listed above are not met, an employer may still face exposure to a discrimination lawsuit – although it appeared that company was insulated from due to a waiver signed by its former employee.

Do you need an employment law attorney? Look no further than to the nearly two decades of employment law experience at Maya Murphy. Our lawyers have practiced in the courts of Connecticut and New York on countless employment law issues and can help you with any employment law matter. Call 203-221-3100 or email Ask@mayalaw.com for a free consultation today!

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How do I negotiate a severance package in Connecticut?

During these tough economic times layoffs have become increasingly frequent. Unfortunately, employees of all experience levels are left with no job and facing a bare economy. At a time like this, most employees may think accepting a severance package is the best choice. But before signing anything, it is important to understand the basics of the severance package and the potential rights that might be relinquished in the process.
Before you attempt negotiations, you should first understand that there is no statutory minimum amount of time an employee must be given to consider the severance agreement. A prevalent misconception is that all employees are entitled to 21 days to review a severance package offer. Unless the package is offered to an employee over the age of forty, however, there is no specific review period defined by law.
Before deciding to accept, negotiate, or reject a severance package, it is important to understand completely what is being offered to you, including compensation, benefits and insurance. If you are in an industry that provides for deferred stock options or bonus, it is important to understand whether you would still be entitled to it. You should gather information concerning your employer’s welfare plans, health plans, vacation and sick leave policies, as well as any structured bonus plans or stock options. If the severance package is only offering you what you would be entitled to, the agreement may lack adequate consideration.
Consideration, in the context of severance packages, means that an employee must receive something of value in exchange for giving up certain rights. This “something of value” must be something other than what the employee is already entitled to. Often, this comes in the form of additional pay or prolonged benefits.
Because the employee is receiving consideration, most severance agreements contain a release of a variety of legal claims against the employer. This typically involves a release of all claims against the former employer that are based on age, race, national origin, gender, disability, and religion. These are critical rights all employees are granted under the ADEA, Americans with Disabilities Act, Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
When negotiating, it is important to keep the above facts in mind, but also that most employers are willing to negotiate severance on some level. While it seem like the package is a “take it or leave it” deal, most employers are open to reasonable requests in negotiation. There is always a risk that an employer will revoke the offer if any negotiation are attempted, but your chances of negotiating successfully increase if there is a claim that your particular severance package is not fair in light of your industry, your position, or the circumstances of your employment. Additionally, the negotiations should not focus solely on the dollar amount connected with the severance agreement. Employers might be willing to extend insurance coverage, disability benefits, or other items in lieu of an increase in dollar amount.
Given the breadth of the claims released and the intricacies of most severance packages, it is extremely important to consult with an attorney before signing. The attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C., have years of experience in all sectors of employment law. If you have any questions relating to your severance agreement, please contact Maya Murphy by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at Ask@Mayalaw.com.

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How do I negotiate a severance package in Connecticut?

During these tough economic times layoffs have become increasingly frequent. Unfortunately, employees of all experience levels are left with no job and facing a bare economy. At a time like this, most employees may think accepting a severance package is the best choice. But before signing anything, it is important to understand the basics of the severance package and the potential rights that might be relinquished in the process.
Before you attempt negotiations, you should first understand that there is no statutory minimum amount of time an employee must be given to consider the severance agreement. A prevalent misconception is that all employees are entitled to 21 days to review a severance package offer. Unless the package is offered to an employee over the age of forty, however, there is no specific review period defined by law.
Before deciding to accept, negotiate, or reject a severance package, it is important to understand completely what is being offered to you, including compensation, benefits and insurance. If you are in an industry that provides for deferred stock options or bonus, it is important to understand whether you would still be entitled to it. You should gather information concerning your employer’s welfare plans, health plans, vacation and sick leave policies, as well as any structured bonus plans or stock options. If the severance package is only offering you what you would be entitled to, the agreement may lack adequate consideration.
Consideration, in the context of severance packages, means that an employee must receive something of value in exchange for giving up certain rights. This “something of value” must be something other than what the employee is already entitled to. Often, this comes in the form of additional pay or prolonged benefits.
Because the employee is receiving consideration, most severance agreements contain a release of a variety of legal claims against the employer. This typically involves a release of all claims against the former employer that are based on age, race, national origin, gender, disability, and religion. These are critical rights all employees are granted under the ADEA, Americans with Disabilities Act, Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
When negotiating, it is important to keep the above facts in mind, but also that most employers are willing to negotiate severance on some level. While it seem like the package is a “take it or leave it” deal, most employers are open to reasonable requests in negotiation. There is always a risk that an employer will revoke the offer if any negotiation are attempted, but your chances of negotiating successfully increase if there is a claim that your particular severance package is not fair in light of your industry, your position, or the circumstances of your employment. Additionally, the negotiations should not focus solely on the dollar amount connected with the severance agreement. Employers might be willing to extend insurance coverage, disability benefits, or other items in lieu of an increase in dollar amount.
Given the breadth of the claims released and the intricacies of most severance packages, it is extremely important to consult with an attorney before signing. The attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C., have years of experience in all sectors of employment law. If you have any questions relating to your severance agreement, please contact Maya Murphy by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at Ask@Mayalaw.com.

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What is the enforceability of an employment contract in Connecticut?

In Connecticut, the enforceability of an employment contract is based on general contract principals. This contract can be verbal, written or a combination of the two. In addition, employment contracts in Connecticut can be either express or implied. An employment contract is an express contract if it is written and signed by both parties. A valid express employment contract will contain wording that describes the job duties, working conditions, compensation, benefits and other employment details.

If, alternatively, an employment contract is implied, the terms of the contract would come from the conduct of the parties, verbal promises made before employment started, information stated in an employee handbook, promises made in an offer letter, and other sources.

Today, most employers have their employees sign a document agreeing to at-will employment as opposed to a defined term in an employment contract. This way, either the employer or the employee may end the employment relationship at any time, and usually for any reason.

In any case, Connecticut courts regularly find employment contracts enforceable against both parties. Such agreements will be upheld by Connecticut courts as long they do not violate any laws and were not entered fraudulently, under duress, or by mistake of the parties. If valid, both parties to the contract will be held responsible for abiding by its terms and liable for any breach. Frequently, allegations of breach of an employment contract involve issues of compensation and termination of employment.

If you are interested in drafting an enforceable employment contract, or interested in determining whether an employment contract you have already signed is binding, please feel free to call the Employment Law Group of Maya Murphy, P.C. in Westport, CT at 203-221-3100 or email Ask@mayalaw.com today.

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Is it Illegal for an Employer to Terminate Someone While They Are out on Disability Leave in Connecticut?

No, it is generally not illegal for an employer to terminate and employee while they are on disability leave.  It is common to terminate someone while they are on disability and is not against the law unless the employee is under the FMLA regulations.  These regulations do not apply to every employer so the circumstances and facts of your case must be evaluated closely to determine what the proper course of action might be.  For this reason it would be beneficial to sit down with an experienced employment law attorney to educate you on your rights.

If you have any questions regarding employment law in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at (203) 221-3100 or e-mail him directly at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.