April 27, 2017
Career decisions such as with whom to commit your time, experience and resources are important. In many professions, you may have to choose among alternative options. When you make the right decision and commitment you may be asked to sign an employment agreement and accept all the rights, duties and privileges stated in your agreement. In addition, there may be employee handbooks and policies controlling the actions of employees and employers.
In the event of conflict, discipline or termination, the employee policy and handbook may be reviewed along with an employment agreement where it may apply to the situation. A central question is whether the policy was followed and did the employee receive all their rights of due process of law where it may apply. In many instances, disputes can be resolved out of court. Other times, employment litigation is necessary.
Writing and maintaining employee handbooks and policies
Employers create their handbooks and policies based on the nature of the work involved, local, state and federal laws that may apply, and other relevant customs and practices. Every industry is unique and has its own set of customary policies, however it is not uncommon for employers to produce handbooks and policies that appear similar to others used by like-kind employers.
Where an employer does not have a stated policy direction on an issue, local contract, employment and procedural laws may apply. The purpose of a well-written policy is to avoid ambiguity and provide answers and direction internally and without looking outside the employer organization.
As laws and employer conditions change, policies may also be amended as appropriate to the circumstance. The challenge is making changes to some sections and not others, in a way that does not create any policy contradictions. If the new policy contradicts previously accepted policies, the result is ambiguity and need for policy interpretation, which could be the role of a court.
Policy review and adherence in employee terminations
The employment contract should include direction as to employee discipline, termination, and any adverse finding or action against an employer. Note, if there is not an employment agreement, nor any applicable law or right to due process of law, the employer may be allowed to discipline or terminate an employee at will, for no formally stated reason. Where there is an applicable employment policy, an identified group of individuals direct the process of an action affecting the employee.
In a private company, a human resources employee or group may conduct meetings regarding employment. Public entities such as municipalities, educational institutions and operations funded by government monies, may be subject to additional legal requirements regarding employees. For example, a Town Secretary discipline and termination may involve legal due process where the employee has a right to notice and a public hearing.
Employee discipline and termination can damage a career and reputation. When facing an employment problem, you may hire an experienced employment and litigation attorney to review your file, any applicable policies, handbooks and laws, to represent you and your interests before the decision-making body. If there is an adverse decision, you may have rights to seek reconsideration or appeal the matter within the organization or file an action in a proper court of law.
Reviewing the employer action and application of policy may lead to an opportunity to compromise.
In the example of the Town Secretary, the decision-making body may be a council of appointed and elected volunteers, who may have a variety of education and experience relevant to policy review and application. Where an error may have been made in following an employee handbook, applicable policy or Texas law, there can be an opportunity to settle a dispute and reach a compromise to which everyone involved can agree. In other cases, there may be a cause of action to file with the appropriate court.
Litigating employment disputes may require a significant commitment of time and resources, where the outcome is never certain. For some, settling conflicts out of court may lead to satisfaction. In other cases where careers and reputations are on the line, a lawsuit may be the only desired path.
About us: The Michael Kim Law Firm, PLLC, in Dallas, Texas, is a full-service business transaction and litigation law firm of experienced attorneys serving the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
The Michael Kim Law Firm, PLLC, represents individual clients and organizations with business and commercial law needs. The firm also represents both plaintiffs and defendants in general civil litigation, injury, property, employment and consumer matters.
To speak to an attorney please dial (214) 357-7533. Additional information about our attorneys and practice areas is available on our website.