The Jay Zelenock Law Firm defends employment laws protecting employees from discriminatory treatment, unfair labor practices, unsafe work conditions and more. Our team fights for justice so that our client’s employment rights are protected and dutifully preserved.
Read more about our specific expertise within employment and unemployment law by clicking the links below:
Understanding Employment Law
What is Employment Law?
“Employment Law” is really a vast field that is not centrally organized or legislated by any one government agency or authority. State, federal and local authorities make laws and regulations that can apply to the workplace or affect a worker’s rights, both through legislation and “common law” decisions (judicial rulings in interpreting the law, that are generally considered binding precedent in other, similar cases in the future).
An American’s work and professional life can affect almost every area of his or her life. So can the law. Thus, law and work/workplace can meet in countless ways. Almost every area of life can intersect with the workplace and raise legal issues from quite varied “legal fields.” Employment law cases can raise many diverse and complicated issues dealing with the law relating to work, contracts, financial rights, health care, pensions, fringe benefits, workplace injuries (worker’s compensation and tort law), harassment, internet abuse, stalking, family law issues, short term disability (STD) insurance benefits, long term disability (LTD) insurance benefits, unemployment benefits, non-competes agreements, trade secrets, non-solicitation agreements, rights to accommodations for disabilities, the rights to be free of discrimination and retaliation on the basis of age, sex, race or disability status, and protection for reporting illegal conduct to a public body (e.g. a government agency) under the “whistleblower protection act.”
A great many state and federal common law rulings, statutes, administrative rules and legislation make up the practice and interpretation of employment law. Its governance falls under the umbrella of both federal and state statutes, as well as administrative regulation and judicial precedent.
When workers file claims for employment discrimination, unemployment compensation and workers’ compensation, these claims fall under employment law. Likewise, overseeing workplace safety and standards, fair wages, retirement and pensions, and much more, are part of this wide-ranging legal area. Employment law deals with both the employer and the employee’s actions, rights and responsibilities, as well as their relationship with one another.
It is a complicated and important area of law, and good legal advice can be critical to solving tough problems that arise out of the workplace setting or the employment relationship.Contact Us
Client Success Story:
Employment—Health Care Law—HIPAA—Technology
A nurse working as a reviewer for insurance companies was falsely accused of accessing a medical office’s computer “wireless” network. The medical office was (appropriately) concerned about the security of its wireless network, especially in light of new regulations from the federal government. However, the office had provided the nurse its wireless access code and given her permission to use its wireless network months before. When she returned for her next visit, her laptop computer automatically loaded the wireless password and accessed the wireless system. The medical office was very upset that the wireless system had been accessed (certainly somewhat appropriately), but the office’s employees unreasonably refused to acknowledge that this was an innocent mistake, at least partly of their own making. They had given the nurse the password on her prior visit; it is common knowledge that laptop computers often automatically “save” passwords/wireless accesses. There was no claim at any time that the nurse did anything wrong or inappropriate with the access - indeed, she was still allowed access to do her job. Unfortunately, the medical office’s employees created significant difficulties for the nurse with her employer, with baseless charges of wrongdoing, and also involved an attorney who at least momentarily claimed that the client was guilty of a “federal crime.” The actions of the employees at the medical office seemed to repeatedly “make mountains out of molehills” and pressing toward making an innocent mistake (that they shared responsibility for and which caused no harm to any patient – and no unauthorized access whatsoever) a “federal crime.” Mr. Zelenock and his firm were able to persuade the medical office and its attorneys to be much more reasonable and to accept their share of responsibility. They quickly admitted that there was no evidence of any crime, and the matter could be closed without further harm to the nurse. It was a good resolution for the client, after she had faced a difficult cascade of unreasonable behavior targeting her.
Government Employment – Employment Litigation
The firm assisted two public utility workers with reinstatement to their jobs in Traverse City. The City argued that they deserved to be terminated, but they were employed under “just cause” union contracts with the City that allowed the employees significant contractual rights to avoid termination, unless the government could establish a just and fair cause for their termination. After negotiations, the municipality agreed to reinstate the two employees to their full-time employment with full benefits.
Another Satisfied Client
“In the midst of a very difficult and uncertain situation, Jay's careful personal attention to our case helped us weather the storm and reach a successful conclusion. He always made time for our questions and concerns.”
What Our Clients Say...
“We only can state that working with the Zelenock Law Firm is confidence-inspiring. Jay is accessible, he listens, he is knowledgeable and he executes.”
"If you're in crisis or simply have a question, the team at the law firm of Jay Zelenock wants you to get what you need so that you can move forward. They are smart, respectful, caring and down to earth."
The workplace and employment relationship deal with legal issues from diverse areas of law:
- contract law
- wages and hours
- health/medical benefits and issues
- tax and gov’t benefits (income tax/social sec/medicare/unemployment)
- OSHA (inspection/injury reduction or prevention)
- worker’s compensation (compensation for injuries and illness)
- gender/race/disability and other status discrimination
- debtor/creditor/garnishments etc
- family law
- criminal law
- property law
- IP/patent law
- corporate law
- insurance law
- construction law
- healthcare, financial and other industry specific regs
Understanding Employment Law
There is no unified or centralized body of “employment law” in unified statutes or regs. In the modern 21st century economy, many employees (and employers) do business in many states or nations. So, in some instances, the laws of several states can be involved as well as the laws of the United States.
Sources of “employment law” therefore come from many different federal and state laws:
- constitutional law (state and federal; especially for government employees)
- regulations and tax laws
- case law
- the importance of work and the workplace, and its centrality to life and the economy (and intersection with every area of law – and life)
- and “the story”
- document management
- key evidentiary and legal rules
- Whistleblower Protection Act
- Federal Stored Communications Act
- “employer immunity” under worker’s compensation act - worker’s compensation benefits are the “exclusive remedy” against the employer for injuries in many instances
The employment relationship and the “at will presumption”
Generally, the common law understanding of the nature of the employment relationship is contractual – ie a “unilateral contract” – where the employee accepts the employer’s offer of pay for work, by performing the work. And that’s it; it’s not considered an ongoing relationship, or permanent or for a specified period generally under common law.
Basically, a limited view of the relationship that keeps it simple and limited. But a bit artificial too.
At will presumption is that either the employee or the employer can end the relationship at any time, for any reason or for no reason. (So, both can leave or “move on” whenever they want).
a. Some limits /exceptions to the “at will” presumption
i. Definite term
ii. Specific or special relationship (tech jobs; security jobs)
b. Tort limits
c. Good faith / promissory estoppel
i. Moves (in reliance on promises)
d. Privacy issues
i. Drug tests
iii. Internet usage and phones etc
iv. Facebook /twitter etc
Employee duties/contractual promises
- trade secrets
- employee inventions
- confidential and proprietary information
- customer lists
Prohibition on status discrimination (protected status v not protected)
- marital status
- same sex/gay rights
- WPA and other retaliation claims
- state law
- fed laws
- “hostile work environment”
- in general
- or related to status discrimination
Regulation of compensation
- minimum wage law (salary v hourly)
- wages and hour – some preferences in bankruptcy; quick payment on firing
- employee benefits
- health/retirement etc
- Unemployment benefits
Prevention and compensation of workplace injuries and diseases
- “exclusive remedy”
- health/retirement / fringes
- value of IP or inventions
- profits/ future revenue or business
- statutory damages?
- income tax
- social security
- unemployment taxes
- “after acquired evidence” rule
What can a client do to protect his or her rights in an employment case?
- how to help? How to take initiative?
- docs/records – the importance of keeping on top of everything
- investigative work
- spending time to understand your case
- for better and worse: “the client is the case”