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Employees’ rights to oppose workplace discrimination

Employment is an agreement between Michigan companies and workers that can be broken when either party is not satisfied. An employer has the option to fire an employee as much as a worker has a right to quit, with little reason or even without reason. Consequently, it isn't always easy for Oakland County workers to know the motives behind an employer's actions.

Employment laws prohibit companies from using discrimination as a basis to terminate or otherwise treat an employee unfairly. Ideally, workers should be aware of their employee rights, but laws are numerous and complicated. How can a worker know when he or she is a victim of discrimination?

Safeguards are provided for workers in wide-ranging protected classes. Employers cannot discriminate against workers due to age, religion, disability, national origin, color, gender or race. Laws also shield employees who oppose discriminatory practices and retaliatory actions.

Opposition to discrimination includes filing complaints, taking part in discrimination proceedings and asking for reasonable discrimination-related accommodations at work. Employees closely linked to discrimination complaints, litigation and investigations are protected. A company also may not discriminate against an employee who opposed discrimination at a past job.

What types of adverse actions do employers take to retaliate against workers? An applicant may be denied a job or a worker can suffer wrongful termination, unjustified reviews, demotion or a promotion denial. Some employers threaten or even assault employees who actively pursue discrimination cases.

Workers should understand that filing a discrimination grievance does not give employees free rein to underperform or violate workplace policies. Employers still have the right to discipline or fire workers for legal reasons.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state agencies investigate complaints of illegal workplace discrimination. Grievances for employment problems that fall outside this area, like allegations of unethical employer activities, are handled by other agencies. Employment attorneys help assess and direct complaints about employers.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Facts About Retaliation," accessed Sep. 11, 2015

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