You Have the Right to a Fair, Non-Discriminatory Workplace

Workplace law in Des Moines, Iowa

When you accepted employment, you trusted your employer to provide a safe, fair and non-discriminatory work environment. If you have been wronged in your place of work and that negatively affected your career, you may be entitled to compensation.

Duff Law Firm, P.L.C. has over 25 years of experience representing clients who have been wronged, and we fight to get them the compensation they deserve. We help our clients understand the amount they could be owed and work diligently to help them get it.

You don't have to accept the unfair treatment you received at your current or former place of employment. Duff Law Firm can help. Call today to speak with an employment law attorney in Des Moines, Iowa. Your initial consultation is free.

Employment Law Overview

There is a large body of federal and state law that regulates the relationships between employers and their employees, including potential and former employees. Employment law covers a number of complicated issues, including taxation, record-keeping, discrimination and safety concerns.

Employment relationships take different forms. Most employment relationships can be categorized as at-will or contract employment. An at-will agreement allows either the employer or employee to terminate the employment at any time. If the employer and employee enter a valid employment contract, the contract will govern the relationship, including the terms of termination.

Considering the complexity and variation of employment relationships, the best way to protect your legal rights in the event of a disagreement is to consult an attorney with experience in employment law. Your lawyer can explain the legal background of your case and help you to protect your rights and identify ways to address a legal conflict.

DISCLAIMER: The information you obtain at our firm web site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. It is recommended that you should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

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There are many federal laws governing employment relationships, and their restrictions and applications differ. Please refer to this quick reference guide for an overview of federal employment law:

Age Discrimination in Employment Act

•Prevents discrimination against older workers (40+ years old), or the exclusion of older workers from benefits such as health insurance.
•Does not prohibit the preferential treatment of older employees.
•Only applies to employers with 20 or more employees.

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

•Prohibits workplace discrimination against disabled persons, if those persons can perform their jobs without unreasonable accommodations.
•Defines disability as an impairment (either physical or mental) that limits or prevents major activities such as work.

Fair Labor Standards Act

•Determines the breaks and work hours an employer is required to provide.
•Governs overtime and other federal salary requirements.

Family and Medical Leave Act

•Requires employers to allow employees a leave of absence (up to twelve weeks) for qualified medical purposes.
•Protects the employee's position during the leave.
•Requires employees to work for the last twelve months, for at least 1,250 hours, prior to the leave in order to qualify.

Title VII

•Prohibits hiring discrimination based on race, religion, skin color, sex, or national origin.
•Only applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

DISCLAIMER: The information you obtain at our firm web site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. It is recommended that you should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

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Injuries Due to Slips/Falls


Injuries incurred on another's property may be the legal responsibility of the owners or occupiers of the property. Depending on the rules and principles in the jurisdiction where the injury occurred, liability for damages including lost wages and medical bills, as well as pain and suffering may be recovered. A competent Personal Injury lawyer knows the Premises Liability Laws and will able to determine if damages due to an injury caused by a slip or fall may be sought. Common causes of slips and falls include ice and snow, spilled liquid, uneven stairs and broken steps. Slips and falls are usually complex. There are several legal issues and complications that need to be addressed. Personal Injury attorneys with premises liability experience are best qualified to advise you on your rights and the possibility to obtain positive outcomes in slip and fall cases.

Liability Principles

No matter how a person ended up on your property, you may be liable for an injury. It doesn't matter if you invited someone onto your property (an invitee), someone comes onto your property with your permission for their own purposes (a licensee) or someone comes on without any permission (a trespasser). Owners are required to warn others of possible dangers, even trespassers, if it may be proven that you knew someone is likely to trespass on your property.

Premises Liability Laws in some states focus on the visitor's status on the property.
Licensees need to be warned of hidden dangerous areas, and the owner may not necessarily need to have these areas fixed. Trespassers may recover damages if they may prove the owner knew others would enter his or her property without permission. Even though proper warning signs need not to be placed in the case of trespassers, it is still wise to do so in case children wander onto your property. Children that are injured on your property are more likely to recover damages, even if they are trespassers. This fact increases the property owners duty to warn in the case of children.

The condition of the property and activities of the owners, visitors and licensees are given consideration in some states. Reasonable care must be given to any visitor or licensees, but not to trespassers. Owners must continually inspect property and repair or place warnings on any dangerous conditions. The injured party must show neglect to the standard of reasonable upkeep by the owner to prove a premises liability case and prove the owner had knowledge of the danger. The injured party must also show that they took reasonable care for their own safety. It is very difficult to prove owners knew of dangers and that injured parties took reasonable care to avoid the danger.

Personal Injury Cases

When someone slips on a foreign substance or due to a dangerous condition, and injures themselves when falling, they have a slip and fall Personal Injury case. Common causes of these are icy sidewalks, often in front of a business, or grocery store slips on various food items that have fallen on the floor. Owners of the property may or may not be liable for the damages due to these injuries. Even though they have a duty to maintain the property and exercise reasonable care to protect their consumers and other visitors, conditions of the property should be easily perceptible, as the injured parties have a responsibility to protect themselves against injuries.

The owners or possessors of the property may also avoid liability by showing that the danger had occurred without reasonable opportunity for the owner or possessor to clean up or fix the condition before the injuries occurred. This time frame may vary in each individual case, and it is the injured party that has to establish that the owner or possessor of the property had a reasonable period of time in which to find out about the danger and to place a warning about it or fix the problem.

DISCLAIMER: The information you obtain at our firm web site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. It is recommended that you should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

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The introduction of new technologies has complicated the state of workplace privacy law. Technology is vital to modern business, and it makes it easier than ever for employers to monitor workplace communications and behavior. A number of employers utilize technology to monitor the use of e-mail and the Internet by their employees. The Supreme Court has decided that this monitoring is legal, despite established law that protects other forms of communication like private conversation and mail. Certain physical spaces, such as locked desk drawers or storage lockers, are also protected. Activities such as drug use allow the employer to legally test their employees. If you are uncertain if your privacy has been violated, or whether a procedure is legal, you should contact an attorney with experience in employment law. Your lawyer can determine the validity of your employer's privacy policies.

There are several aspects of employee privacy that should be explored in more detail.

Monitoring of computer usage. Employees have little privacy protection when using an employer's computer or network. Any e-mails sent or received using an employer's network are considered the property of the employer. Employers have the right to view and monitor employee e-mail usage, and many employers archive all e-mails for review. These archived e-mails are often introduced as evidence of employee misconduct during legal proceedings. Employers are also allowed to track their employees' use of the Web, to place time limits on Web usage, and to block websites.

Monitoring of phone calls and voicemails. Employers are allowed to monitor business-related calls, but they are not allowed to monitor personal telephone conversations. The Electronics Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) only allows the monitoring of personal calls if the employee is informed and consents. Employers are also barred by the ECPA from deleting or reviewing voicemail messages.

Drug testing. Employers are allowed to require employee drug testing under some circumstances; state law varies widely on the issue. Generally, employers are allowed to test workers if:

•The employee's job is dangerous or can present danger to others.
•The employee is or has previously enrolled in drug rehabilitation.
•The has been involved in an accident and drug use was suspected.
•Management has reason to believe the employee is using drugs, based on behavior or physical evidence.

These employee rights must be weighed against the employer's right to monitor and conduct their business. If you have a concern about workplace privacy, either as an employee or employer, you should contact an attorney with experience in employment law.

Independent Contractors

Independent contractors are not employees. Instead, they negotiate an oral or written agreement with a business. The contract establishes the rate of pay, expectations, and specific standards or requirements. Businesses do not withhold taxes for independent contractors, and they are not covered by unemployment or workers' compensation regulations. Independent contractors, while they have significantly more freedom than at-will employees, therefore do not receive many of the legal protections extended to employees. If you are considering becoming or hiring an independent contractor, you should contact an attorney with experience in employment law in order to learn and protect your legal rights.

Independent contractors have a large degree of control over how and when their project should be completed. The businesses they work for are their clients, not their employers. While the clients are able to specify the desired work outcome, the independent contractor is generally given free rein to determine how best to meet that outcome, as long as they meet the terms of the contract and complete their work on time. Independent contractors must also submit their own tax payments.

Federal law defines independent contractual relationships as measured by the independent contractor's independence. There is no single legal test which determines whether a person is an independent contractor or an employee. The Supreme Court has measured several factors in past decisions, including:

•The relationship's permanency.
•The importance of the services performed to the business.
•The worker's opportunity for profit.
•The degree of independence, in organization and performance of duties.
•The ability of the worker to succeed in a free labor market.
•Whether the worker has invested in materials or equipment.
•The amount of control each party has over the relationship.

Other factors, such as payment, licensing, or even the presence of a formal contract, have been held less important.

Therefore, a number of factors must be weighed before determining whether an individual is an employee or independent contractor. These factors make it vital that an individual or an employer with a question about independent contractor status consult with an attorney who has experience in employment law.

DISCLAIMER: The information you obtain at our firm web site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. It is recommended that you should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

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Unions represent workers in collective bargaining negotiations and agreements. Collective bargaining is the process by which employers and their employees determine the conditions of employment, including work conditions, benefits, and wages. The resultant collective bargaining agreement serves to resolve or prevent disputes between the employer and union employees. This process and union organization is controlled by the federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). If you are beginning the collective bargaining process, organizing a union, or if your employees are organizing a union, it is vital to contact a lawyer with experience in labor law.

The NLRA gives employees the right to decide if they want a union to represent them. The National Labor Relations Board, set up by the NLRA, governs union organization and conducts secret ballot elections in workplaces. Workers must petition the NLRB to organize an election. If the majority of workers vote to organize, then they are entitled to form a union or to join an existing union. The NLRA forbids employers from interfering with this election. If the vote passes, the employer will be required to submit to the collective bargaining process with union representatives.

The NLRA specifically excludes some workers from these rights, including:

•Agricultural workers.
•Workers employed by a parent or spouse.
•Workers employed as domestic help.
•Government employees (federal, state, and local).
•Workers in businesses governed by the Railway Labor Act.

If the workers organize a union, the individual employees will become union members and pay dues to cover the cost of union services. In collective bargaining, the union will negotiate with the employer on issues ranging from wages and benefits to work conditions and health and safety standards. Unions can bring expertise and legal familiarity to these negotiations, and this knowledge can be helpful to employees. Since the union represents a large number of workers, they are generally able to win better concessions than workers in individual negotiation. Companies may have union and non-union workers.

If you have a question about the organizing or collective bargaining process, you should contact an attorney with experience in employment law or labor law.

DISCLAIMER: The information you obtain at our firm web site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. It is recommended that you should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

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Potential employees have rights during the hiring process, before they are extended an offer of employment. Federal law prohibits hiring discrimination based on race, gender, nationality, pregnancy, age, religion, and disability. Some jurisdictions also extend protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Employers are required to follow these laws strictly. There are some exceptions, based on a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). For example, employers may consider a disability if it would prevent an employee from adequately performing the tasks necessary to a position. If you have a question about hiring discrimination, you should contact an attorney with experience in employment law.

Employers should largely avoid questions which relate to these protected classes. Questions should be avoided when the answer would indicate the applicant's:

•Marital status.
•Sexual preference.
•Age (except when inquiring if the applicant is a legal adult).
•Citizenship status.
•Intention to have children.
•Disability status.
•History of drug or alcohol usage.

Employers may discuss these topics if the applicant raises questions related to these areas, to the extent necessary to answer the applicant's questions.

Employers must complete a series of tasks when hiring a new employee before that employee can begin work. These include:

•Contacting the IRS to obtain a federal employment identification number for each new employee.
•Registering for payment of unemployment compensation taxes with the state employment department.
•Setting up tax withholding for the new employee.

In addition, employers must:

•Report federal unemployment tax to the IRS.
•Set up workers' compensation insurance.
•Work with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to prepare an Illness and Prevention Plan.
•Post all notices in the workplace required by OSHA and the federal and state Departments of Labor.

Employers should be extremely careful to avoid false promises or promises they cannot keep when hiring a new employee. Examples of this dilemma include misleading or exaggerated statements about job security, business prospects, or compensation. If these promises are not kept, the employer will be liable for damages based on breach of implied contract.

The need for employers to avoid discrimination and false promises during the hiring process makes this an important legal issue. If you have legal questions about the hiring process, you should consult an employment lawyer. An experienced employment attorney can explain the legal issues involved and protect your legal rights.

DISCLAIMER: The information you obtain at our firm web site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. It is recommended that you should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

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