Unfair vs. Illegal: When is your employer being unfair and when is it breaking the law?
There are many things an employer might do that are unfair, but that are not necessarily illegal. It can be challenging to understand the difference between the two.
At Robert A. Klingler Co., L.P.A., we often receive calls from disgruntled employees about the wrongs they experienced at work. Many of them want to sue or file complaints against an employer. And while many have valid cases, there are others who are the victim of unfair, but not illegal, practices. You can only take legal action when the employer has directed violated a labor, civil rights, disability, or other related law.
Below, we try to clear up some of common misconceptions about unfair vs. illegal workplace conditions and practices. If you believe your employer discriminated against you or you have otherwise been subjected to unlawful practices at work, call (513) 665-9500 for a free case review.
My employer does not allow me regular scheduled breaks. – Unfair, but not illegal. Unless you are a minor, your employer does not, by law, have to provide you with any break times.
My employer won’t let me take a break to nurse my baby. – Illegal. Under federal healthcare laws, employers must give breastfeeding mothers a break to nurse their baby.
I am never allowed to take vacation time from work. – Unfair, but not illegal. Vacation time is a privilege determined by and at the discretion of each employer; it’s not mandated by law.
Specific protected groups at work do not receive vacation time. – Illegal. If an employer denies vacation time to a protected class – such as by race, gender, etc. – then it is breaking anti-discrimination laws.
I am a good worker, but my boss fired me because of a personality conflict. – Unfair, but not illegal. Unless you have a contract or are a union member, your boss can fire you with no cause and no warning – even if it’s just because she doesn’t like you.
I was fired because I am gay, a woman, disabled, etc. – Illegal. If you are fired or discriminated against at work because you are a member of a protected class, you can take legal action against your employer.
I was fired because my boss wants to give my job to his girlfriend. – Unfair, but not illegal. Employers may choose to give jobs to friends or family members are may fire you without cause or warning.
I was fired because my boss only wants women working for him. – Illegal. Employers may not discriminate based on gender.
I was fired because I was the senior and highest paid employee and they found someone they could pay less.” – Unfair, but not illegal. Employers are under no obligation to retain employees based on their seniority and may fire an employee based on that employee’s pay.
I was fired because I was the senior and highest paid employee and my boss said they need to get younger people. – Illegal. Employers may not discriminate based on age.
My employer says I must work 60 hours a week or I’ll lose my job. – Unfair, but not illegal. There are no federal or Ohio laws that limit the number of hours an employer can require of its employees.
My employer is only paying me straight time for my overtime hours. – Illegal. Ohio labor laws mandate that employers pay their employees a rate of 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for all hours over 40 hours in a given workweek.
“I was fired from my nursing home job because a patient falsely accused me of abuse or neglect.” – Unfair, but not illegal. Employers may fire employees with or without cause, even if the reason they give employees for firing them are untrue.
“I was fired from my nursing home job because I reported suspected abuse or neglect of a patient to the patient’s family. – Illegal. Ohio Revised Code § 4113.52 prohibits firing an employee for reporting a public health or safety hazard.
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Issues
My employer promised to hold my new job, but then gave it to someone else while I was away on FMLA. – Unfair, but not illegal. In order to qualify for FMLA protections, you have to have worked at the job for at least 12 months or have put in at least 1,250 hours of service.
My employer says I can only take a couple of weeks off after the birth of my child. – Illegal. The FMLA stipulates that employers must give you at least 12 weeks off after a serious life/family event (major illness, birth/care of a child, adoption process, etc.) – without fear of job loss.
I make way less than what I’m worth. – Unfair, but not illegal. State and federal law only requires that employers pay at least the minimum wage and not discriminate based on a protected class.
My employer pays my less qualified male coworker with shorter tenure more than me because I am a woman. Illegal. Ohio Revised Code § 4111.17 prohibits employers from discriminating in the payment of wages on the basis of gender – and on race, color, religion, age, national origin, or ancestry for that matter.
Where can I get legal advice for taking legal action against my employer?
Need legal advice from an employment law attorney in Ohio? Contact Robert A. Klingler Co., L.P.A. today for a free consultation: (513) 665-9500. Let us help you get the justice and compensation you deserve.