Thirteen Employment Law Questions — And Answers — From Nationally Respected Employment Law Attorney
Mindy G. Farber
Founder of Farber Legal LLC
Former Attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Labor
Board Member of the National Center for Labor and Employment Law
Question #1: Do I have a case if my boss fires me without a good reason?
Probably not. We are an employment at will country. This means that an employer can fire you for any reason, no reason, a good reason or a bad reason, without the law intervening.
Question #2: Are there any exceptions to employment at will?
Yes. An employer cannot fire someone where a motivating factor was discrimination of any kind or where the reason for firing violates some strong public policy, or where the firing would breach a written employment agreement.
Question #3: If my employer fires me, am I entitled to severance pay?
No. There is no law that says an employer must pay severance. However, this is something you can try to negotiate. Check your employee handbook, if your employer has one, to see what it provides for severance.
Question #4: I was injured on the job and now receive worker's compensation. Doesn't my employer have to take me back when I am certified as able to work?
No. Your employer has no obligation to return a worker who is no longer certified as needing worker's compensation and is ready to return to work.
Question #5: My boss keeps making sexual comments and constantly comments on my appearance, but there is no one higher in the company to complain to. What do I do?
Tell your boss his behavior is making you uncomfortable and he must stop immediately. If he persists, you can file a complaint of sexual harassment with your local county Office of Human Rights, the Maryland or D.C. Human Relations Commission ( or your state's equivalent), or the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Question #6: My doctor recommends that I work from home as a way to accommodate my disability. Is my employer required to agree to this?
Normally not, unless you can show this is reasonable and will not disrupt the employer's normal practices. Equally, as an accommodation, you cannot force the employer to fire someone else to give you that person's job.
Question #7: Can I ever get out of a non-compete agreement that I foolishly signed when I began employment?
It might be possible, depending on how the language reads and the circumstances behind your termination. Ask an employment attorney immediately to review what you signed.
Question #8: I am 55 years old and my boss just replaced me with someone who is 41. Can this still be age discrimination, even though my replacement is also over 40?
Yes. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that if your replacement is substantially younger than you, generally meaning 10 years or more, you can still argue a case of age discrimination, no matter how old the replacement is.
Question #9: One week I work 45 hours and one week I work 35 hours, both in the same pay period. My boss says I am not entitled to overtime, because my payroll hours do not exceed 80. Is he right?
No. The U.S. Department of Labor looks at each individual week. In any one work week, if you work more than 40 hours, and you are a non-exempt employee, you might be entitled to overtime, that is, time and a half, even if your total pay period of two weeks does not exceed 80 hours.
Question #10: My employer says he will not pay me when I am called to jury duty. Can he possibly be right, given it is my obligatory civic duty?
Generally, while an employer has to keep your job open, if you have run out of leave, it does not have to pay you while you are on jury duty.
Question #11: That leads me to ask: Am I entitled to all my accrued vacation paid out when I leave my job?
It depends on your employer's policy. If the employer has an express policy that it does not pay out accrued vacation when an employee leaves, then the employer will not be forced to do otherwise.
Question #12: Am I allowed to see my personnel file on request?
No, unless your employer is willing to show it to you. An employer is not obligated to share an employee's personnel file on request.
Question #13: Is it expensive to take a case to trial?
Yes. We estimate that an average court case will exceed $75,000. That is why most parties try to settle a case.
You're Invited To Call Or E-Mail
"If you have questions about any aspect of employment and labor law -- such as sexual harassment, any type of discrimination, compensation, non-compete agreements, academic issues such as tenure and termination, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or Federal service regulatory law -- please don't hesitate to call or send me an e-mail. I'll be happy to help you in every way." -- Mindy
For more information, contact an employment lawyer at Farber Legal. We offer an initial consultation at a discounted fee. We represent clients in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., area, including Rockville and North Bethesda.