As an employee, you are protected under state and federal labor laws. These laws establish the rights a worker has to be protected from discriminatory treatment, unfair labor practices, unsafe work conditions, and more.
Employment laws are in place for a reason. Historically, it was common for a surprisingly large percentage of major businesses and corporations to treat their employees unfairly or as though they were dispensable in order to maximize profit. Over time, employees fought back against unfair employers, oftentimes picketing and rioting to force a change in behavior and policy. Now federal laws, as well as local laws in Arkansas, exist to protect employee rights and serve to act as a barrier between a place of employment and its workers.
Even though laws are currently in place to defend employees, there’s no guarantee that a business will uphold them. Every day in the United States, employers try and bypass laws in order to better themselves, their company, or simply make a worker feel as though they are beneath them. Breaking or bypassing labor laws is grounds for legal action. If you’ve been a victim of illegal workplace treatment or activities, you have the right to file a lawsuit against your employer. With the help of an experienced Little Rock employment lawyer, you can hold those responsible accountable.
By filing a lawsuit, you may also be eligible for compensation that may make it easier to recover from the hardships you have endured. When an employer is forced to pay ramifications for the actions they’ve taken against their workers, that employer is more likely to follow Arkansas’ employment laws in the future and make their business a safe place to work.
The following information will provide you with the basics of Arkansas labor laws, federal labor laws, and the most common employment law allegations and claims:
The History of Employment Law in Arkansas
Arkansas has a long history of evolving employment laws – dating all the way back to the state’s admission to the Union in 1836. The trade unions of the nineteenth century reflected the strength of agriculture for the state’s economy. The labor movement in the twentieth century improved the lives of wage workers when a passage of legislation was secured.
The earliest attempt to organize workers rights came in 1856 when Little Rock’s journeymen printers formed a union. While the initial formation did not last long, the third attempt led to the Mechanics Association, which worked to improve the lives of members by increasing pay, improving working conditions, and creating an apprenticeship system.
There were a number of conflicts throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries regarding laws and how employers are supposed to treat their employees; however, a boost in the labor movement in the 1930’s and 40’s helped with a legislative agenda that worked to improve the lives of organized and unorganized employees with workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits.
The labor movement peaked in the 1960’s with many of the laws that are still in existence today. Having a basic understanding of the laws that are likely to apply to you can help you build a stronger claim if you feel you’ve been wronged by your employer.
Arkansas Labor Laws
The Arkansas General Assembly is the legislative branch of the state government that established the laws. These laws are in place to protect employees against illegal treatment. Here is an overview of their most important laws:
At-Will Employment Status. Arkansas is an at-will employment state. This means that an employer or employee can terminate the relationship at any time without advance notice or cause, as long as there is no agreement in place between the two parties. An employee working without an agreement entitling him or her to continued employment is known as an at-will employee. An at-will employee may be terminated by the employer without any legal liability as long as the termination does not violate a right to continued employment conferred by a federal or state statute or violate the public policy of the state of Arkansas.
Criminal Background Inquires. Arkansas allows employers to conduct criminal background checks and pre-employment inquiries about certain arrest or conviction records. Employers are not allowed to access sealed or expunged records.
Company Benefits. Arkansas’ company benefit laws establish how employers handle paydays, bereavement pay, payment upon separation of employment, recordkeeping, overtime, deductions, tips, wage garnishments, paid vacation, health insurance, workers’ compensation, jury duty, voting, sick pay, medical leave, and military leave.
Drug Testing. Arkansas requires employers that implement a drug-free workplace program to provide notice and education to their employees. The employer must pay for the cost of the drug tests.
Equal Opportunity Employer. Employers in Little Rock and Arkansas with nine or more employees must hire and retain employees without regard to race, religion, origin, gender, or disability.
Federal Labor Laws
The United States Department of Labor (DOL) enacted and enforces more than 180 federal employment laws. These regulations are in place for approximately 10 million employers and 125 million employees. Here is a list of the major areas these mandates cover:
- Wages and hours
- Workplace safety and health
- Workers’ compensation
- Employee benefits
- Unions and their members
- Employee protection
- Uninformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
- Employee Polygraph Protection Act
- Garnishment of wages
- Family and Medical Leave Act
- Veterans’ preference
- Mine safety and health
- Plant closing and layoffs
These are all the areas in which the federal and state government regulates and enforces how businesses operate and treat employees fairly. Breaking a mandate is an example of a wrongful action taken by an employer and may be grounds for legal action.
Employment Law Allegations and Claims
With as many areas as employment laws provides protection in, it should come as no surprise that there are a great number of allegations and claims that can be filed in accordance with federal and state laws. Some of the most common allegations in Arkansas include the following:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) exist to secure the rights of employees in regard to disability. If your employer denies you the right to file for disability benefits, treats you unfairly based on a disability, or fails to make proper accommodations for someone who is disabled, you may have grounds for a lawsuit.
According to the United States Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in 2017, 1,371 claims were filed regarding multiple types of discrimination in the workplace. The majority of those claims, 43.5 percent, were filed because of discriminatory practices.
Discrimination on the job can occur for a variety of reasons:
- Race and National Origin– Workers from all races and backgrounds deserve to be treated fairly and judged solely on their quality of work. When employers discriminate on the basis of race or origin, they may be subject to state and federal investigations.
- Religion– Employees have the right to worship as they wish, including securing time off for religious observances.
- Age– Federal and state laws prevent businesses with more than 20 employees from discriminating against older workers. If you’re 40 years or older and have been discriminated against, we can advise you of your rights.
- Gender– Workers of all genders and sexual orientations have a right to be treated fairly and judged solely on the quality of their work.
Sexual Harassment Claims
If the event you endure any form of sexual harassment in the workplace and your employer neglects or refuses to correct the situation, you have the right to hire a labor lawyer. Proving sexual harassment can be difficult, which is why it’s important to understand what sort of evidence to assemble.
Basic Steps of Employment Litigation
No matter the type of claim you’re planning on filing, it’s important to recognize that employment litigation can be complex and time-consuming. When an employer treats an employee unfairly, it can be difficult to know where to turn and how to seek justice. Understanding the general process can prepare you for what may be a lengthy battle.
Your lawyer will help you through every step of the litigation process. First, a report will need to be made with one or multiple regulatory agencies like the EEOC, DOL, or Employment Security Commission (ESC). While the claim is pending, your lawyer can investigate your situation and start building a strong legal case on your behalf. At this point, an employer will need to determine how to respond with a position statement.
If a lawsuit is deemed necessary, the first step to file a complaint. There is often a specific time to file one after an employee receives a right to sue letter. Your legal team will ensure this deadline is not missed. Once the complaint is received, the employer can file a motion asking for dismissal or they can file an answer. If the employer decides to answer the complaint, the case proceeds to discovery.
In discovery, both parties are allowed to present written questions to each other. The questions are typically designed to determine what the other side knows. The parties can also request all relevant documents for review. In addition to that, each side is allowed to question a certain number of individuals under oath regarding the case.
Once the discovery has been completed, a majority of courts require the parties to engage in mediation. With mediation, an impartial mediator will try to have the parties agree to voluntarily settle their disputes. Strengths and weaknesses are often exposed at this point. The mediator is likely to focus on the weaknesses in order to work towards a compromised settlement.
If mediation does not result in a settlement, a summary judgment will take place. Both sides will work to persuade a judge that aspects of the case do not warrant a trial. The employer will often try to convince the judge that laws were not violated. This could result in a case that is partially or entirely dismissed. If the case is dismissed, the employee can file an appeal with a higher court. If the summary judgment fails, the case will go to trial.
Trials typically begin with arguments regarding evidentiary issues. The judge will decide what kinds of evidence are allowed to be presented and how the parties can select jury members. Your lawyer will understand how crucial trial preparation is and will prepare the best case for you. Generally, employment litigation involves juries evaluating the facts and judges making legal decisions based on the facts found by the jury.
After the jury has rendered its verdict, the losing party has the option to request a new trial. Depending on the outcome, a new trial may be scheduled or an appeal could be filed.
The Benefits of Hiring the Right Legal Team
Fighting for your legal rights as an employee can be a complex and intimidating process. If you’re in a situation where you feel your workplace rights were or are being violated, you should know that you aren’t alone and that your rights are worth protecting. Business and corporations should not get away with wrongful behaviors for any reason. At McMath Woods P.A., we have a comprehensive understanding of federal and state laws and can navigate your claim with dignity, compassion, and trust.
In addition to helping workers file allegation claims against workplaces and businesses, our Little Rock employment attorneys are also experienced in all other areas of employment law and are able to assist with any situation or circumstance you may be facing. We can help in the situation of negotiating a severance package, for example, or if you feel you were wrongfully terminated.
Because Arkansas is an at-will state, you may only have the right to a severance package if you have an individual employment contract or are a union member. In some circumstances, you may be eligible for severance package benefits in the event of termination. Legal representation is often the best way to handle negotiations of any type once they become intertwined with U.S. and state laws.
Our workplace attorneys represent clients in all areas of the state to seek justice for illegal treatment on the job. Begin your case today with a consultation.