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West Des Moines Employment Law Blog

Stiffer penalties for those with whistleblower complaints

As a previous post discussed, blowing the whistle on an employer is not an easy situation for employees in Iowa and elsewhere to be in. However, whistleblowers should note that they serve a vital role in society. Without them, there would be waste, fraud and abuse by private and government employees. Because of that, rules and regulations have been passed to protect these individuals from retaliation and harassment, helping them overcome the fear of blowing the whistle.

According to current research, whistleblowers have helped bring stiffer penalties against those guilty of the crimes reported in their complaints. Upon noticing that some firms were recently hit hard with higher financial penalties and longer prison sentences, researchers looked into this situation further.

Understanding whistleblower protections

Employees in Iowa and elsewhere do not expect to observe or experience uncomfortable or illegal situations. Unfortunately, some employees are asked to carry out activities that are in violation of rules, regulations and laws, and in other situations, employees observe or uncover these illegal acts. This can be the cause of an unwanted and overwhelming situation because an employee is torn on what he or she should do. The ultimate fear is that if an employee speaks out, reporting the information he or she has uncovered, the employee will be fired.

It is important to note that when employees report an employer for an illegal act or violation, he or she is protected for blowing the whistle on his or her employer. Whistleblower protections were established so employees would feel comfortable reporting violations in the workplace. This also reduced the fear of termination and retaliation by an employer.

Confronting sexual harassment at work

It would be wonderful to believe that sexual harassment in the workplace would by now be a thing of the past. While the ideas that justify sexual harassment remain stuck in another era, this behavior is still unfortunately very present in many offices and work environments around the country.

Despite changing attitudes about workplace behavior, many individuals still choose to act inappropriately, and must be dealt with. If you ever experience this kind of behavior in the workplace, you have a number of options.

Understanding the four forms of pregnancy discrimination

Having a child is a joyous experience; often one a woman likes to share with those around them. Because pregnancy lasts roughly 9 months, most women maintain their jobs throughout their pregnancy. While this is commonplace and many employers in Iowa and elsewhere are used to employing pregnant workers, some pregnant women discover that they are mistreated, harassed or discriminated against based on the fact that they are currently pregnant.

No matter how shocking and unexpected the situation, females pregnant in the workplace are not always treated well. While this does not always reach the point of harassment or discrimination, it is important to note that when the lines are crossed and what rights one has in these matters. This is why it is important to understand the four forms of pregnancy discrimination a woman could experience in the workplace.

Protecting the rights of pregnant employees

Starting a family is a joyous time for those in Iowa and elsewhere; however, women could face some troubles because she has decided to have a child or expand her family. One would not think that being pregnant in the work environment would generate much if any changes, but the reality is that adjustment will be required as a women progresses with her pregnancy. However, if an employer fails to make necessary accommodations or fails to provide for family and medical leave, this could present issues regarding FMLA and the disability act.

While some places of employment can be relatively demanding, these demands tend to increase for a pregnant employee. Thus, pregnant employees will seek adjustments to their work assignments, helping them remain in the workplace until they near their due date. Unfortunately these adjustments are not always made. Even more so, some pregnant women or new fathers are not provided the maternity or paternity leave afforded by FMLA. Additionally, if health problems occur, pregnant employees are able to seek temporary disability. If an employer fails to provide leave or light duties, this could be viewed as a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Finally, if a pregnant employee experiences mistreatment, this could be a situation of harassment or discrimination.

Transgender employee files action for discrimination in Iowa

The workplace is supposed to be a comfortable and safe environment. However, some employees do not believe that they are receiving the treatment he or she deserves. Because certain rights are afforded to employees, it is important to note when these rights have not been upheld. If an employee is being mistreated or discriminated against based on certain characteristics, this could give rise to a workplace discrimination matter.

This is the current situation for a former nurse at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women. According to recent reports, a transgender nurse claims that he was discriminated against based on his gender identity. Lawsuits were recently filed against several state departments as well as the former warden of the facility and a health insurance company.

FMLA violations are common and often devastating for employees

Compared to other industrialized nations, the United States does a poor job of accommodating parental and medical leave and protecting the jobs of workers who must take time off for these reasons. The U.S. has only the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides up to 12 weeks per year of unpaid, job-protected leave to qualifying employees who take leave for qualifying reasons.

The FMLA is far from perfect, but it at least allows many parents to take time off for the birth or adoption of their children or to attend to a personal or family member's medical condition. Unfortunately, too many employers continue to violate employees' FMLA rights and find ways to avoid complying with the law.

What constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace?

While employees in Iowa and elsewhere may not always be pleased with their place of employment, this does not mean that they are being mistreated. However, some employees experience much pain and hardship because of their treatment and unpleasant conduct experienced in the workplace. Although unexpected by most employees, sexual harassment is unfortunately experienced by employees across the nation. In some cases, it can be difficult to discern what sexual harassment is, even when you are a victim

What constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace? First, it should be noted that sexual harassment could come from a wide variety of people in the workplace. Whether it is a manager, co-worker or even a non-worker, such as a client, an employee could claim a conduct is sexual harassment if the conduct generates a hostile work environment or causes an interruption to the success of an employee.

Fighting for your rights after workplace sexual harassment

Nothing is worse than feeling like you don't matter or are unsafe in the workplace you spend countless hours at each week. While many employees feel comfortable in their work environments, experiencing the employee rights afforded to workers in Iowa and other states across the nation, this is unfortunately not always the case. This is especially true when employees believe that they are victim of sexual harassment and nothing has been done the correct the situation.

Sexual harassment in the workplace can take on many forms; however, no matter how it occurs, it is a very uncomfortable and often emotionally debilitating experience. At Higgins Law Firm, PLLC, our experienced legal team takes on this sensitive matter aggressively. Our law firm is dedicated to serving employees in the Des Moines area navigate their matter and hold an employer or colleague for their misconduct.

6 points to consider when evaluating wrongful termination

If you lost your job in a way that wasn't fair, you probably have a sense that something didn't happen the right way. You may know exactly what was wrong about your termination, but you might not know how to describe the situation from a legal perspective.

Perhaps you had to take time off for sick leave and got fired while you were recovering. Maybe you got pregnant, and suddenly lost your job. Perhaps you feel that your termination was racially motivated.