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Rice Law Office Blog

This blog reviews important legal issues including: personal injury, employee compensation, workers compensation, discrimination and wrongful termination.

Five Things Every Employee Should Know

Five Things Every Employee Should Know

1) Men and women must be paid equal wages if they perform substantially the same work under the Equal Pay Act.  

"Equal pay" refers to more than just your paycheck. Under this law, all employers must provide "equal pay" including: equal salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit-sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses and benefits.

2) Your employer cannot discriminate against you on the basis of your race, color, religion, sex or national origin in any terms or conditions of your employment, including compensation hours and benefits. 

 Under title VII of the civil rights act of 1964, any employer with at least 15 workers is required to provide equal employment opportunity. This means employers are prohibited from offering different pay for individuals doing the same or similar job or from employing other practices which would result in discrimination on the basis of a protected class such as denying promotions or taking other actions which would unfairly impacted employees' pay, work conditions or job security.

Under New Hampshire's discrimination law, RSA 354 – A the list of employees covered under the law is expanded to include a prohibition of discrimination on the basis of marital status, sexual orientation and pregnancy.

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Pregnancy and Employment: What Are Your Rights?

Pregnancy and Employment: What Are Your Rights?

Pregnancy and childbirth demand huge amounts of time and energy from both parents, and the law provides for special benefits and protections for employees having a child. Many companies don’t have a clear understanding of their obligations towards employees expecting a child, and as protections expand in the wake of a new Supreme Court ruling employees should seek to understand the protections they are offered under the law. 

Employees should actively educate themselves on their rights, and be sure they receive the benefits they are owed before and after the birth of their child. Employers are obligated to provide accommodated work duties for pregnant employees with physical limitations and allow leave time for employees expecting a child. 

Companies cannot discipline or discharge an employee based upon pregnancy.  New Hampshire law has long been at the leading edge of protecting rights of pregnant employees and provides protections for the entire period of disability related to pregnancy which could include time out of work for conditions such as pre-term labor or postpartum depression.

Employees who have not been provided with the appropriate benefits and protections may be owed compensation—AutoZone recently lost a case and was forced to pay $185 million in damages after firing an employee following childbirth.  Companies have an obligation to their employees, and there are legal consequences to not meeting them.

As an employee, if you’re expecting a child and want to understand more about your rights and protections at work you should contact a lawyer.  You have a right to time off and protection of your job status.

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US Supreme Court Makes Important Ruling in Religious Discrimination Case

US Supreme Court Makes Important Ruling in Religious Discrimination Case

In the case, EEOC vs. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., the Supreme Court found that an applicant for a job at the retail store, who wore her hijab to an interview with Abercrombie & Fitch had engaged in a religious act that afforded her protection from religious discrimination.

The young woman in question, Samantha Elauf, interviewed for a position at Abercrombie & Fitch but was not ultimately hired. During her interview she was wearing a hijab, which would have violated Abercrombie & Fitch’s dress code prohibiting head coverings.

While her interviewer did not specifically ask if the hijab was worn for religious purpose, or whether this would necessitate a workplace accommodation, the company suspected that Elauf’s faith would necessitate wearing the hijab in the workplace. After the interview Ms. Elauf was determined to be a sufficiently qualified candidate, however was turned down for employment, as her hijab would have violated Abercrombie & Fitch’s dress policy.

Ms. Elauf filed suit claiming that the decision not to hire her was a violation of law.  In the initial trial the court sided with Ms. Elauf, and found that Abercrombie & Fitch’s decision constituted religious discrimination. That ruling was overturned in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, leading the Supreme Court to take up the case. Abercrombie & Fitch argued that its policy applied to all hats, and thus was not a decision made on the basis of religion. The Supreme Court, however, found that her wearing of the hijab was a religious act and therefore protected.

Employees in the United States have long enjoyed protection against religious discrimination, but this new Supreme Court ruling extends this protection even further. Under the old standard employers could not make hiring decisions based upon a prospective employee’s religious practice, but the new ruling will provide this protection even in cases where applicants have not indicated that they will require religious accommodation.

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