BLOG: STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS!
I receive multiple calls a day asking whether a boss can get away with certain conduct. I usually make an inquiry as to whether the caller is represented by a labor union or has a written agreement promising a definite period of employment; the caller’s answer is almost always ‘no’.
Most protections for ‘at will’ employees are contained in statutes. Some examples would be the Workers’ Disability Compensation Act, The Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act, The Bullard Plawecki Right To Know Act, The Whistle Blowers Act, federal/state wage and overtime laws, federal/state occupational safety and health regulations just to name a few.
The Michigan Supreme Court stated:
Courts have recognized the following three ways by which a worker can prove such contractual terms: (1) proof of “a contractual provision for a definite term of employment or a provision forbidding discharge absent just cause;” (2) an express agreement, either written or oral, regarding job security that is clear and unequivocal; OR (3) A CONTRACTUAL PROVISION, IMPLIED AT LAW, WHERE AN EMPLOYER’S POLICIES AND PROCEDURES INSTILL A “LEGITIMATE EXPECTATION” OF JOB SECURITY IN THE EMPLOYEE.
Lytle v Malady (On Rehearing), 458 Mich 153, 164, 579 NW2d 906 (1998).
A claim based on legitimate expectations rests on the employer’s promises to the work force in general, i.e., promises contained in a company handbook or company policies rather than on promises made to an individual employee. Novak v Nationwide Mut Ins Co, 235 Mich App 675, 682–683, 599 NW2d 546 (1999). Under the legitimate expectations leg of Toussaint v Blue Cross & Blue Shield, 408 Mich 579, 292 NW2d 880 (1980), an employer may create a situation “instinct with an obligation” if that employer’s personnel policies or practices lead employees to expect that they may be discharged only for just cause.
You should insist that your employer include provisions in the company policy manual that expressly and affirmatively condemns harassment.
A sample provision could include the following:
Individuals who believe they are being harassed are encouraged to firmly and promptly notify the offender that his/her behavior is unwelcome. In the event that such informal, direct communication between individuals is either impracticable or ineffective, the employee must report any perceived discrimination, harassment or retaliation to their Supervisor or the Office Manager. The Firm will carefully investigate any employee
complaint of discrimination, harassment or retaliation. We will respect the privacy of the complaining employee and other individuals involved to the extent possible in the investigation.
Prompt corrective action will be taken to remedy a confirmed incident of discrimination, harassment or retaliation. The Firm will discipline, up to and including discharge, an employee who has engaged in prohibited behavior.
Individuals who witness or otherwise become aware of what they believe to be discrimination, harassment or retaliation have an affirmative obligation to report the alleged conduct to the Firm. Individuals found to have known of discrimination, harassment or retaliation but have failed to report it will be subject to discipline.
AT THE LAW OFFICES OF JOUMANA KAYROUZ PLLC, WE UNDERSTAND THAT NOT EVERY WRONG HAS A REMEDY. BUT SOMETIMES MAKING YOUR PRESENCE KNOWN AS WITNESS TO INJUSTICE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP.