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Marsha411JD, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 19680
Experience:  Licensed Attorney with 29 yrs. exp in Employment Law
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Can an employer suspend an employee without pay until they

Customer Question

Can an employer suspend an employee without pay until they complete an investigation into "hostile work environment"
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Marsha411JD replied 6 years ago.

Yes, unless you have an employment contract that prohibits suspensions, your employer can suspend without pay. As long as you aren't working, you aren't entitled to pay.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Do they have to let me use vacation pay? They suspended me Thursday afternoon before the Easter holiday and said they would call me when they finished their investigation. I don't know when they will call me, and they humiliated me. If I don't go back to work when they call me, can I receive unemployment compensation?
Expert:  Marsha411JD replied 6 years ago.
Hello again,

Whether or not you can use your vacation time/pay depends on the policies of the company regarding the use of vacation. If they have a liberal vacation policy that essentially allows you to use your time as you wish, then you may be able to use it. My guess though is that there is probably a requirement that you have prior approval by management and that they won't allow you to substitute your vacation pay for this unpaid suspension. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't ask. You never know what they will do unless you ask. If they call you back to work and you refuse, you will not be eligible for unemployment compensation unless the UI Commission finds that you quit for "good cause." Unless you can prove that this was a witch hunt and that you tried to resolve in with your company, the UI Commission won't find "good cause." Good cause is usually found when employees quit because the company is doing something or asking them to do something that is unsafe or illegal, or when the terms and conditions of employment has changed drastically. For example, pay or hours cut by 50%.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for your help. I was also wondering if, in your experience, a suspension means that they are planning on firing the employee when they go back. I am a pharmacist and I fell as though they were just waiting to get me on something. I have a great deal of anxiety about going back and have no idea when or if they will call me. Do I have any recourse?
Expert:  Marsha411JD replied 6 years ago.
Hello again,

The suspension may or may not lead to termination. If they wanted to and were going to terminate you despite what they discovered, they could have done that without the suspension unless your company requires one. They probably suspended you out of caution with the other employee/employees involved. If they took no action on their complaints, they would be exposed to suits from those employees who filed the complaints. If you are ultimately terminated, then your only recourse would be if you feel that your employer has violated an employment contract, company policy or antidiscrimination law in terminating you. That is because NC is an "employment at will" state and you can be terminated for any, or no, reason except the ones I just mentioned.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Does "employment at will" apply even though the company is headquartered in Illinois?
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Also, I am over 60 years old, have been with this company 3.5 years, and always had a good performance review. Does any of this make any difference?
Expert:  Marsha411JD replied 6 years ago.
Hello again,

Employment at will laws apply in the state where the worker is working and not where the company is headquartered. Having said that, Illinois is also an employment at will state. You as an employee should have been notified though by some manner or the other of your employment at will status. Usually it will be in an employee handbook or on the employment application. As for your age, it will only count if the motivation for this action is based on your age and not on a complaint or standard practice by the company. If you believe that the action against you was motivated by your age you can file a complaint with the EEOC or you might first want to consult a local employment law attorney with whom you can discuss all the specifics of your case and who can give you an objective opinion of your options.