Posts tagged with "ct employment law attorney"

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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