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Employee Rights: What You Need to Know

Many employees underestimate their legal rights in the workplace. Though it’s true that employers enjoy tremendous leverage over employees in terms of career advancement, pay, and job security, state and federal law recognize that employees must enjoy certain rights. These rights arise from statutes as well as contracts. For more information on employee rights in Illinois, contact Anthony J. Madonia & Associates, Chicago Illinois employment attorneys.

The At-Will Doctrine

As most employment agreements state, employment is normally extended on an at-will basis. The at-will doctrine has been recognized by American courts since the 1800s. This legal concept states that either the employee or the employer may terminate the employment relationship for any reason at any time. Even if the reason for the termination is unusual or wrongful, it is not illegal.

Exceptions to the At-Will Doctrine

There are two primary types of exceptions to the at-will doctrine. The first exception arises from the contract that changes the at-will employment status. The second arises from an employer’s decision to take adverse action against an employee in violation of public policy.

Contract exceptions to the at-will doctrine are rare. This is why most employment agreements state that employment is at will; however, if you have a contract that states you are entitled to certain conditions of employment, such as a certain employment duration or compensation, then that contract creates an exception to the at-will doctrine. Employment handbooks create a binding contract between employers and employees. As long as the policies in the handbook remain in force, the employer is legally obligated to follow them.

Public policy violations can arise from a number of adverse actions related to termination, hiring, promotion, pay, benefits, and treatment of employees. Adverse actions become illegal when they are motivated by an illegal reason. Employment discrimination claims raise an exception to the at-will doctrine because they violate certain federal or state antidiscrimination laws. Adverse actions may also occur in violation of labor laws, such as those regarding overtime, minimum wage, and commissions. Employers may also take actions that violate ERISA.

There are many specific public policy and contractual protections available to employees. Each case is governed by specific laws and circumstances. For an evaluation of your legal rights, contact Anthony J. Madonia & Associates, Chicago Illinois employment attorneys.

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