Monday, July 2, 2007

Legal Advice for Workers

At least once a week I get asked a question that has a "legal" implication. Someone writes me wanting to know if they can get fired for something, or what rights they have regarding their job.

I'm not a lawyer, and even though I tell these people they need to get legal advice, I know that's not possible for everyone. For one reason, lawyers cost money -- money that everyone may not have. For another reason, people don't have any idea where to find a lawyer that specializes in their area of concern.

That's why I'd like to pass on some information I just received.

Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, is offering what is calls "Ask a Lawyer," a free online service to "help workers understand their rights and determine whether the boss can do that -- or not."

Even if you decide not to join the 1.6 million member organization, check out their site and find out the answers to some common employment questions. It's at


Anonymous said...

Hi Anita, - Working America , not American. Just wanted to clarify, thanks!

ElleJillian said...

I had to comment on your piece called "False notions smear minority hiring."
What confuses me and many other people at this point is the level of reverse discrimination going on as well which does not seem to be
addressed at all here. I don't believe there is any more
discrimination out there towards one group of people anymore since we have become a diverse society.
> many applicants for those jobs. So what do you think a company
should base their hiring standards on the color or gender of the person applying or the person that is the best fit for the job?
Are minorities really being shut out of senior level positions? How many are actually applying for and being turned down for a position and a white male being hired instead? Let us stop this affirmative action tactic and crying discrimination every time a white person is chosen
over a minority for any reason, not just in employment. It has
become annoying and ridiculous that while everyone keeps saying the color of a person's skin does not matter or enter into any mix, then why is that whenever a white person is chosen over a minority it is always the reason and the issue that comes up?
How about just plain qualifications, education maybe, previous experience and the tools used by all of us when we apply for a position? I was on a job search since December 2006 and I was turned down a number of times because there was obviously someone more qualified to fill
the position. Did I cry discrimination? Absolutely not. That is the way it is in real life. Stop with everything being about race and minority
issues and focus on the fact that the qualified people are the ones
that get the jobs.
I am so tired of all this and so are a lot of people. And let's
face it if we want to really live in real time and the real world here, discrimination in some form will always exist no matter what laws and rules and ethics you impose on people. It is a human element that we all are not only exposed to but in some form we all practice. While we try to impose guidelines so that discrimination factor does not get out of hand, nonetheless it will always exist both in the white race,minorities, immigrants, etc and I don't even know anymore who is actually considered a minority so it sounds like it is everyone in society against white males only. That is the I interpretation I am getting here so where do white women fit in since you make a reference
to people of color? I think I am a minority according to the
standard because I am a woman right? I don't feel or act or expect any special treatment because of this nor do I feel discriminated upon when
something does not go my way. It is a fact of life and that is the
way it is. The word "discrimination" has lost its power, its impact and
> people are fed up with hearing the word since it has now become an excuse for everything and everyone to claim themselves as a victim of one thing or another.
I see more diversity now everywhere in never segment of my life now.
What is up with all this? It is tiring? Why can't you as the media stop imposing this word so that the general population can just behave in a normal fashion? We hear it in every single facet of our lives and we are no longer listening, we no longer even believe it, and we no longer respond to it.And in your article you say that recruiters themselves find it hard to recruit minorities and they ask for a 4% premium from an employer to recruit a minority. So what is that really saying? It sounds like
an ultimate contradiction here. It You are saying that employers do ask for minorities specifically (which in doing that does not sound
right to me either) and are then told they must pay a higher premium because it is so hard to find qualified minorities. Well DUH - does that not pretty much sum it up here. If a minority is not qualified or even interested in these so called discriminatory positions then there you have your answer. We apply to jobs that we are qualified and trained to do no? Lastly I want to address the very sensitive and highly charged
issues of myth 1, myth 2, and myth 3. Myth 1 - Either the people "of color" (bad expression because
minorities are not only people of color) are out there and qualified and applying or they aren't. You can't have it both ways. If they are not applying for these position then I guess they themselves do not want the jobs or feel they are not qualified to do the jobs it seems they
are not even the ones complaining. Are women, both white and of color not also considered to be minorities, so let's define a minority right up
front here in your article before addressing what the issues are.
There are just as many high level white collar white males out of work right now as anyone else and I am not going to get into numbers or statistics here because you have the means of doing that yourself. Myth 2 - So do you think special attention also has to be given to minorities so they are easily mobile to relocate? Relocation for anyone is an extremely expensive and serious consideration in any job for
anyone and especially in today's volatile job market when you don't
even know if your job will last for two years. So should minorities also have special treatment there too? We all need the same motivation for relocating whether we are a minority or not. I don't think only of good schools and scenery when I think of relocating. I think more of the
> expense, can I afford to do it, my family and who I will be leaving behind, my present situation both personal and economic, and how grounded is this job I am relocating to as far as security. Do not we all think of these same issue whatever our
ethnic heritage is? Why cannot white males expect the same incentives and motivations? Is that not discriminatory also?
Myth 3 - This is my favorite one of all. I won't say minorities are any harder to manage than other people so I don't agree with
that. Are they harder to terminate because employers are afraid of the discrimination card coming up as retaliation if they address the
issue or terminate the employee. Come on now, a day does not go by when that word is not mentioned in the media in one form or another. Yes it is a fact, it happens all the timer and way more than it ever should happen. It has become the buzz word for every time a minority is fired, terminated, reprimanded, given a traffic summons, etc. and it is never because of something they did or did not do themselves to cause it. I see and hear it all the time, management, people in charge,
supervisors are literally afraid to say anything without some backup from higher ups when it comes to disciplining a minority. And you know what is so
ironic here, the only people who are not afraid of disciplining
minorities are other minorities and this is something I am seeing in real time at my workplace and it is something that has become very noticeable but in a good way. Yes it is true, myth 3 is a false and very short sighted statement and probably if there is the
discrimination going on that you claim in your article, then myth 3 is probably the biggest factor in why. Think about it, that is what employers are most afraid of and most susceptible to - being sued for wrongful termination and it happens way to much now when a minority is terminated. Yes I
would say if it were me, that would be a very strong factor in
running my business and not having a lawsuit because I have to be careful of the color of a person's skin before I hire or fire them.
In summing up this e-mail I will say and agree that discrimination
does occur every day in every walk of life and in every company that is considering hiring or firing anyone. But take it a step further, we are all discriminated upon, no matter what color your skin or what your ethnic background is because it is part of the human psyche to behave this way and while kept to an ultimate minimum that is the way the world operates and always has. Job applications, background checks, questions asked during an interview, why someone is considered for a job or not, choosing a candidate from their resume, judging the person from
previous employment history, using a credit check for a job consideration, driving records, debt owed, arrest records, etc, the list can go on and on but all are discriminatory in their own way and no more or no less
than the person's color and ethnicity So to the media, stop hyping everyone up making this the ultimate cause of every time someone does not get their way in this society. Stop encouraging a society of childish spoiled brats that have no ability anymore to accept blame, responsibility, or cause for anything that does not go right in their lives or for every time someone says no to them. Stop putting the blame
on someone else and encourage all of us take responsibility and
>ownership for our lives and it's outcome. So all you qualified white, black, pink, blue and green people - just get out there and present yourselves, put your best foot forward and stop feeling that the color of your skin or your gender is going to get you hired or not. It's your skills and confidence that will do it
and without both of those qualities you probably will not get the job. Stop using the race card as a convenience, we have all had enough of it.

Anita said...

I think these are some interesting points, but I want to point out a couple of things.

One, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)reports in the latest survey of American workers than white women comprise about 53 percent of the professional ranks.

The second is that as a journalist, I have a problem with people blaming the messenger. While I find it's easy for people to attack "the media" or "lawyers", I'm reminded that it's often lawyers people scream for the loudest when they're in trouble, and it's often the media they holler for when they experience an injustice or other problem. And, just for the record, there are people lumped in the "the media" group that are not part of the trained, dedicated, professional journalists who make this a viable democracy.