Discrimination?  What is Violation of Public Policy?  Breach of Contract?
Are you confused about the protection laws surrounding your employees? 

Questions about employee protection laws?Violations of Public Policy:

Many states now recognize a violation of public policy as an exception to the employee at will doctrine. Courts look to the public policy of the states and federal government to determine if the termination of an employee violates the interests of the general public. For example, if employers were allowed to fire employees for filing a worker’s compensation claim, the employer’s actions would undermine the public policy behind the worker’s compensation laws. Retaliation against whistle-blowers is also often regarded as a violation of public policy.

Breach of Implied Contract:

In our current job climate this particular category has played a major role in judges deciding in favor of the employee.  It is important that an employer fully understands what this can mean if an employee chooses to sue based on wrongful termination. If there was some kind of agreement made between you and your employee and understood by the parties, it is called an implied (or “implied-in-fact”) contract. This has been known to include such agreements as verbal statements made by the employer regarding such things as promotions, or how employees are to be treated. The company policy reflected in a handbook, or the company’s behavior towards employees in the past may also support an implied contract or breach of promise claim. Since employers want to protect themselves from a potential breach of an implied contract they will often have their employees sign a form that specifically states that company documents (i.e. handbooks, manuals, etc) do not comprise a formal contract. If you signed one of these, then it may override the potential implied contract, except in the case of the company’s behavior towards employees in the past.  It is imperative that the employer is consistent in their treatment of all employees. 

Breach of Contract:

Business executives or professionals can have a breach of contract claim based on an explicit contract negotiated between the parties. Such a contract will routinely include a provision under what circumstances the individual can be separated, the penalties for doing so and a dispute resolution procedure.  It is important that any employee contract or even the employee handbook clearly state the company’s policy on terminations.  It is far more important that the employer know what their own policies state and adhere to them strictly to avoid potential problems.

Breach of Contract also often applies to an employee in a union, covered under a collective bargaining agreement.  In this case all procedures related to the collective bargaining agreements grievance and arbitration process must be followed for resolving disputes. The employee must at least attempt to exhaust his/her rights under the grievance procedure before pursuing other alternatives based on the breach of contract claim.

Federal Anti-Discrimination Law:

Discrimination laws vary at the state and federal level. However almost all employees are covered under state and/or federal law from discrimination based on age, race, sex, color, national origin, disability, religion, retaliation and pregnancy. Some states, including Oregon and municipalities also prohibit discrimination based on sexual preference.

State and federal law also prohibits certain types of harassment in the workplace for example sexual harassment or racial harassment. Harassment in the workplace is under most circumstances only unlawful when it is occurring because of the victim’s sex, race, age, disability and other protected categories.

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