Employment law in Arizona is governed by a complex system of federal statutes, Arizona statutes, and common law principles that have over the years been limited by the Arizona legislature. Unless there is a written agreement between an employer and employee specifying the terms of employment, the general rule in Arizona is that the parties share an at-will employment relationship. This means that an employer enjoys a great deal of freedom with regard to its right to hire and fire employees and how employees are treated.
In Arizona, contracts relating to employment must gernerally be written to be enforceable. Other employment rights arise from State and federal statutes granting certain rights to protected classes and other certain individuals in specific cases. These laws set limitations on an employer's actions to the extent they are motivated by an expressly illegal purpose or violate an applicable law. Some employment claims arise based on a contract between the parties, such as a confidentiality or non-compete agreement. Others are based on an employer's failure to properly pay earned wages or provide overtime or other benefits required by law. Many claims we see arise from harassment and/or retaliation based on an employee's age, race, religion, sex, disability, or other protected status. Employee's also may be protected as whistleblowers if they have faced retaliation after lodging complaints against an employer, even if those complaints are invalid.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act similarly protects pregnant, women, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects workers who are 40 or over from discrimination based on age. These laws also make it illegal to retaliate against an employee because he or she complained about discrimination and in many cases require that employers reasonably accommodate their applicants' and employees' situations, unless it would be an undue hardship for the employer to do so.
If, for example, a termination is based on an individual's membership in a protected class (such as age or race) or comes close in time after an employee has asserted his or her protected rights, the employee may have a claim against the employer.
Wage and Overtime Claims
Employees all also share rights related to the timely payment of wages and minumum levels of compensation and overtime pay. When an employer fails to pay an employee what they are lawfully owed, employees may be able to pursue claims for the unpaid wage plus penalties and fees provided for in the applicable statutes. One of the most common problems with the payment of wages arises after an employee's employment is terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and the employer fails to pay wages in a timely manner. An employment lawyer can help recover those wages and any other amounts that may be due.
Employees should not have to fear for their jobs or face other retaliation when they lawfully report illegal activity or safety hazards in the workplace. To protect such employees, there are a litany of state and federal laws, known as "whistle-blower" laws, that provide employees protection from such retaliation.
One of the most common situations involves employees who report safety violations by an employer, and then face retaliation at work. Whistle-blowe protections can be found in the Arizona statutes as well as in various regulations governing specific industries. These laws provide protection against termination or other retaliation, such as threats, demotions, salary cuts, or reassignments. An employment attorney can help sort out which whistle-blower laws might apply to your situation.
Filing a Potential Labor Law Claim
Because of the complexity of the employment laws that may apply to any individual's case consultation with an attorney is highly recommended. We find that many people who see us have claims they didn't even think about before coming to see us. But most claims must be brought quickly and often must be initially filed with the appropriate government agency, so you should not delay the decision to contact an Arizona employment law attorney if you believe you might have a claim.
TALK TO A LAWYER
Although employers do have wide latitude when it comes to the treatment of employees there are important rights guaranteed by the laws governing the employer-employee relationship in Arizona. An experienced employment lawyer can help you determine whether the facts and circumstances of your case merit further action.
If you're ready to schedule an appointment with an Arizona employment attorney, give us a call at 602-256-6400, or submit your inquiry online and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.