Monthly Archives: April 2015

How to Identify a Good Wrongful Termination Mediator?

No one wants to be engaged in a legal dispute over wrongful termination, and this is why parties on both sides may see the benefit to mediation. Mediation takes the conflict outside of court and empowers the parties to work together under the guidance of a neutral third party. Most of the time, this results in favorable agreements between the two parties at a reduced expense and time commitment. The resolution is often confidential.

A good mediator knows the benefits of mediation and works hard to ensure that the parties get the maximum benefit of alternative dispute resolution. Rather than promoting arguments between the two parties, a mediator actually has no stake in the final agreement but helps both parties cooperate in order to reach an agreement. A good mediator will be one who understands the issues behind wrongful termination but is also committed to seeing the dispute resolved sooner rather than later.

Be sure that the mediator you identify is comfortable adjusting the scope of the mediation to the needs of you and the other dispute party. This might mean caucusing with each party in separate rooms and shuttling back and forth with suggestions. An experienced wrongful termination mediator in Texas can have a significant impact on the outcome of the case if he or she knows how to structure the conversations effectively.

Ending an employment relationship between an employee and the employer is similar to a divorce. Employees and employers have a relationship like family. When the employee is separated from employment, it is similar to separation from the family. Emotions are involved. A good mediator knows how to handle these emotions, and help the parties deal with the separation as smoothly as possible.

Houston mediator, John W. Kelly, Jr., has been mediating employment discrimination cases since 1992, either as an advocate or neutral mediator. As an experienced employment mediator, he can assist the parties in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of their positions. Contact him today at 713-775-3003 or send him an email at johnkelly@experiencedhoustonmediator.com for a complimentary initial consultation.

The Basics of Employment Discrimination

There are protections in place for employees regarding discrimination in the workplace. Since the civil rights movement, state and federal governments have created and enacted a variety of laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of membership in a protected class. Over time, the categories included in the protected class explanation have broadened.

Currently, employers are forbidden from discriminating against an employee because of the employee’s race, religion, gender, or national origin under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employers cannot fire, discipline, deny training opportunities, refuse to hire, demote, pay less than other employees, harass, or refuse to promote employees simply because of their membership in one of these protected classes.

An employee who feels that he or she was not treated fairly because of his or her membership in a protected class may have grounds for an employment discrimination lawsuit. Since these lawsuits are notoriously complex and difficult to prove, it is essential to hire an attorney early on to be well informed about options. Not every case will meet the grounds required for an employment discrimination case, but for those were evidence exists, legal recourse may be an option.

Even though employers are prohibited from taking the above actions, employee complaints continue across the country. Employees who believe they have been victims of discrimination should contact legal counsel as soon as possible to discuss next steps. Employers should also contact legal counsel as soon as possible to defend their position that discipline or termination was justified for cause and for reasons other than discrimination.

Why Does Employment at Will Matter for Wrongful Termination Cases?

Many employees may be familiar with wrongful termination in Texas, but they may not realize the specific behaviors that have to happen in order for a case to meet the grounds for wrongful termination. Since the majority of employment relationships across the country are at will, it is important to understand what this concept means and whether a case truly meets the qualifications for wrongful termination.

“At will” means that the employer is well within its rights to terminate the employment contract at any time and for any reason. The only exceptions to this rule relate to several unlawful reasons for terminating an employee, such as violation of the federal or state’s discrimination laws. If an employer decides to end the employee’s employment, there are limited reasons that the employee can pursue a wrongful termination case. In an at will employment contract, the employer does not even have to have reasonable cause to terminate the employee’s working relationship.

Even if the employee is terminated from an at-will employment contract, the employer is still forbidden from terminating the employee from employment for unlawful reasons. This is the only exception to the general freedom provided to employers under at-will employment contracts. Employees cannot be terminated because of the employees’ membership in a protected class, such as gender, religion, or race. An employee cannot be fired because the employee has complained or reported illegal activity, harassment, health and safety violations, or discrimination.

Wrongful Termination and Sexual Harassment Complaints

An employer who may have reasonable cause to fire an employee should be especially careful taking any action when the employee has alleged sexual harassment or has already filed a sexual harassment complaint. While the majority of employers are well within their rights to fire an employee who is employed on an at-will basis, a firing that appears to be connected to a sexual harassment complaint can put employers at higher risk.

Laws on the state and federal level exist that protect employees who raise concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace. Firing an employee who has raised allegations of sexual harassment in the office could violate discrimination statutes. An employer is prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against an employee because that employee has made a claim regarding sexual harassment.

Even in instances where the employee needs to be terminated from his or her position, the employer should seek legal counsel regarding the appropriate steps to take if an incident of sexual harassment has been mentioned in a claim. Employers would do well to proceed cautiously in these situations so as to avoid further disputes or legal entanglements with that employee. An employer should have established a protocol for handling sexual harassment claims and document what they have done in response to these claims. This documentation can be essential in the event that the employee alleges wrongful termination in Texas as a result of filing a sexual harassment complaint.