All the Ways Your Work Can Harm You, And What You Should Do

We’re living in a moment where people are finally starting to question whether their jobs are wholly good for them. Individuals have been speaking up about bad treatment from their work, and it’s likely these stories are only become more common and expand into new areas. The truth is, many of us have stories about a toxic environment of some sort, in which we or someone we knew were taken advantage of.

Before getting into just how our work can harm us, I want to say upfront that not every workplace is toxic. Many jobs come with caring managers who try hard to avoid any of the following issues. Many businesses do their utmost to keep their employees safe and make sure they are treated fairly and justly. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t do these things, and many managers aren’t interested in their employees except as tools they can take advantage of. The more we become aware of these bad businesses and bad managers, and how they are taking advantage of us, the better.

So, without further preface, here are some of the ways businesses have been harming individuals, according to one of Austin’s major employment lawyers, the Melton Law Firm.

  • Wrongful termination: This involves someone getting fired not because of performance but for illegal reasons.
  • Discrimination: No business has the right to discriminate against you because of your gender, race, religion, or other characteristics.
  • Sexual harassment: The big issue in the news lately, and surely one of the most widespread employment issues around the country.
  • Overtime and wage issues: If you aren’t getting paid for your work, you aren’t being treated fairly, and you are entitled to recovering those wages.
  • Hostile work environment: A bit of a catchall that covers a lot of ways a business can make you and other employees uncomfortable.
  • Civil rights: Sometimes related to discrimination, this is when your business isn’t treating you as an equal because of a personal characteristic.
  • Retaliation: Are you being mistreated as revenge for something you said or did? That’s illegal.
  • Whistleblowers: Often the reason you’re experiencing retaliation is related to whistleblowing. Whistleblowers are protected by the law.
  • Equal pay: Not getting paid the same as others of the same skill level and experience? That’s not right either.
  • Personal injury: If you’ve been hurt at work, you have the right to workers’ compensation. Anyone keeping you from getting that compensation is denying you your rights.

The good news about all of the above categories laid out by Melton Law is that they’re all illegal. That means we all have a way to end the unfair and toxic practices we are experiencing.

The best way to make these issues go away in our society in general is to speak up, press our cases, and pursue legal means when necessary. The more businesses realize they can’t get away with their bad behavior anymore, the better we will all be, no matter where we work.

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Thoughts on sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is in the news right now because of the allegations (and the consequences of those allegations) concerning Harvey Weinstein.

According to numerous women, including some as famous as Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, Weinstein has been harassing women in the movie business for decades with impunity.

With that story in mind, I think it’s important now to take a moment to remember how prevalent sexual harassment is, even in industries that purport to be progressive in such matters and to highlight just how crucial it is that people take sexual harassment in the workplace seriously.

What I mean by “seriously” is that when people come forward (and it isn’t always women, Terry Crews has also come forward alleging assault from another Hollywood producer), they are believed and serious, public investigations take place.

In the case of Weinstein, allegations had been made for decades against the man, but because of his power in the industry, and in wider circles of power beyond that (including sway with the news media and in politics), those allegations were hushed up. The number of victims surely multiplied exponentially due to the choices of many along the way to refuse to hear the cries of victims and to refuse to seriously investigate the claims.

A second, larger issue that doesn’t focus just on individuals within those situations but on all of us, is the fact we as a society continue to shrug at sexual harassment until it reaches grotesque levels. While we don’t live in the Mad Men era in which executives harass every woman in the office, we as a society simply expect women to deal with sexual pressure in the workplace and to get over it. One of the reasons women don’t come forward more often is because they worry not just that they won’t be believed but that they have nothing to complain about.

“You should feel flattered,” is a common response.

This, by the way, in some ways, goes double for men, who are meant to always be pleased by any sexual attention, no matter how inappropriate.

We all, individually and as a culture, need to learn to take sexual harassment seriously and to accept that it is a problem. No one is entitled to put any kind of sexual pressure upon you, and when it happens, there need to be consequences, no matter how important the person doing the harassing is.

The fact Weinstein has finally been exposed is a promising sign, but there is much work yet to do. Educate yourself on what your options are if you’ve been harassed. If you do not find a sympathetic voice within your company, consider legal help. Lawyers know the law, and they know how to strengthen your case so it sticks, even if the company doesn’t want to hear it.

Otherwise, we can all try to be more vigilant, to watch out for each other. And, of course, when stories come forward, we have to be strong enough to believe and stand by those who are risking much to expose those who are harming them and others.

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Disputing Unpaid Overtime

Every company may fall victim to employee complaints regarding unpaid overtime and overtime disputes. These issues might seem small to some, but it can greatly affect the image and management of the company when they are not settled accordingly. Everyone knows how important it is for a company to have good rapport between the management and the workers, therefore resolving overtime disputes (or any type of company disputes) play a vital role in securing the growth of the company and its employees.

Unpaid overtime refers to the number of hours worked by an employee over the necessary 40-hour work week. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), it is mandatory for employers to pay their employees overtime pay when they are working more than 40 hours in a given workweek. FLSA defines a regular “workweek” as seven consecutive 24-hour periods. Anyone eligible for overtime pay should be given increased payment when they exceed their 40-hour per week job.

Until recently, the only way to settle any unpaid overtime or any overtime disputes would be by filing a lawsuit and going to court. Even when the employers and employee choose to settle, they are still required by the court for an approval from the Department of Labor (DOL) courts. This is mainly to ensure that the settlement does not violate the rights of the employee in accordance with the FLSA. In a recent update, however, settling overtime disputes and providing employees with compensation for unpaid overtime may be done without the need to go to court. Moreover, employers are also required to make the settlement a public record, therefore making themselves vulnerable to lawsuits when other employee becomes aware of the settlement.

Several court decisions have determined that neither the FLSA or its rules and regulations prevent employers and employees from settling their unpaid overtime disputes privately at full value. When these settlements are deemed by the court has reached a good faith resolution, then despite no court or DOL approval the private agreement can be enforceable. Employees who believe they can settle their unpaid overtime with their employers should consult with an unpaid overtime lawyer in order to talk about possible solutions for resolving the overtime disputes.

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