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RobertJDFL
RobertJDFL, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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I recently quit my job and when speaking about it, finally

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I recently quit my job and when speaking about it, finally since I couldn't without crying, with my sister and close friend, they said I might want to consider asking about legal help. I've never been in this position before and don't want to waste someone's time. I've been in Retail for over 20 years and never been considered a poor performer or been on any type of performance improvement plan until my former company. I left Best Buy, where I was a top performing manager in my field, to go to Staples for the work life balance I was told about. I've always been a hard worker, working extra hours to get the job done or whatever was needed but I felt myself thinking crazy thoughts because I was so tired of being yelled at and screamed at and feeling like I was in a free fall to my doom and recently worked 5 weeks straight with no day off. I know people probably go through this type of stuff all the time and they just get through it, or they don't and need more guidance? How do you know if you have something to warrant a lawyer or a counselor instead?
Thank you for your question.

In order to involve an employment lawyer, there would have to (obviously) be some type of legal issue involved - some type of legal wrong, in other words, that occured to you in the workplace. There aren't a lot of facts stated in your question, so please feel free to reply and add more, but what I am understanding is you quit because you were working constantly and were being yelled and screamed at.

Unfortunately, as the Supreme Court once said, the law is "not a civility code." So, there's no law violated by an employer who is verbally abusive towards their employees. It may be unprofessional to yell and scream and belittle employees, but it's not illegal. That said, workplace harassment based on a discriminatory factor - a person's age, sex, religion, disability or national origin - could be considered workplace harassment/a hostile work environment, and may potentially be grounds for both a complaint with the EEOC and a lawsuit. So, for example, a minority worker who is treated differently from other co-workers due to race, subjected to nasty comments and remarks because of their race, etc., may have a claim. I don't know if the yelling and screaming you wen through were the former or the latter.

As to working without a day off for 5 weeks, there are no laws, state or federal, that say an employer has to give you time off. So, it becomes a matter of contract law. Did you have an employment agreement or collective bargaining agreement that said you were entitled to regular time off? Absent a contract, you were an "at will" employee, and an employer is free to set the hours and days you work. Theoretically, an employer could ask such an employee to work 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, as ridiculous as that would be.

If you have additional questions or need more information after reading my answer, I welcome your follow-up questions.
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

*My employer has accused me of theft, I have repeatedly told her i would answer any questions she had but not without a lawyer present. She is refusing to give me my final pay. I had an officer accompany me to the building today, he informed me that an investigation has begun against me. I went to the station and answered a few questions but was told i basically have to wait for a detective to contact me. He also informed me that the entire staff is aware of the situation. There is no real evidence against me and I believe at this point she is grasping at straws, however this is a small town and I am worried that my name will be affected. I will clear up things through the detective, however wondering my rights as far as Defamation of character and/or slander. I worked there for months, was only recently added to payroll. She has given me cash payments (not totaling more than $800). When hired (January 4th), I was given the position of Bar Manager and told I would be paid salary, which never happened. I have never received ANY type of pay check! The employee files are not complete and more than half do not contain any tax information. She is giving employees checks without attaching them to a social security number or any verification. She has given several employees (former and present) cash as payment for hours worked, instead of a paper check. I contacted Labor and Wage to learn my rights on final pay, by law she had 7 days from the 19th (my final day) to give me my final pay. My phone service has been turned off due to non-payment, my car has been repossessed (which occurred while still employed) and I do not have the money to pay my rent. She told me several times that my pay would be sorted out, that i would receive all my back pay. A few weeks before the accusations I told her I was seeking a part time job to cover my bills. She assured me i would be paid correctly and I believed her. I have had to take out loans from friends to feed my family and have gas money to search for employment. I left a job and have turned down several offers for other employment for this one because I honestly believed what she was telling me was truth, she kept assuring me that after the restaurant was solid, everything would be settled up and paid in full.


Please let me know what questions you may have for me and thank you for your time,


Erika Sackett


 

Thank you for your reply.

With regard to the theft accusation, you are under no obligation to speak to any officer at any tim -regardless of what they may tell you. If they contact you and ask you to come in for questioning, you have every right to tell them you wish to have a lawyer present and will have one get in touch with them. It is not in your best interest to speak to the police or answer anything (or put anything in writing) without speaking to a lawyer first, as what you say or write could potentially be used against you later on.

As it relates to defamation of character - this occurs when a person makes a false statement about another to a third person(s) either in writing (libel) or spoken (slander), resulting in damages. For example, if you were to be denied employment somewhere, and were told it was because they think you are a thief who stole from your last job, potentially, you been defamed and incured damages (the loss of income of a job). If I am being honest with you, however, many lawyers avoid taking defamation cases because unless the defamed person is a celebrity or public figure, and damages sustained arew often minimal and not worth pursuing.

As to the unpaid wages, I don't know how much they are, but you have potentially two options.

Option #1: (From the Arizona Industrial Commission -Labor Department) - When wages owed to an employee are no more than $5,000.00 and the accrual of those unpaid wages does not exceed one year, the employee may file a wage claim with the Department (A.R.S. § 23-350 et seq.).

Upon receipt of a claim, the Department will notify the employer of the claim and investigate the case. After investigation of the claim, the Department will provide a written determination which can only be appealed to Superior Court.

An employer who does not comply with a Final Order within ten days after the Order becomes final is liable for triple the amount of the unpaid wages found to be owed.

This is an option if the employer doesn't owe you more than $5,000 because it won't cost you anything to file a claim. You could still file if the employer owed you more than $5,000, but the most you could hope to recover through this method would be the $5,000 (assuming they comply with the final order if found in your favor).


Option #2: Employees also may file a lawsuit in the civil courts; however, they cannot file with both the State Labor Department and the civil courts. If the employer owes you a lot of money, this is really a better alternative. Of course, it means filing a suit, paying a filing fee, having the employer served, and going through the court process. And of course, there's no guarantee that this will be successful. Even if you are successful and get a judgment against the employer, you still have to collect it, which if they don't pay, can mean additional costs and expenses.

I'm sure this isn't what you wanted to hear, and I wish there was something more positive that I could tell you. But I would rather you know your options, and the reality of what you are up against.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you! 1 more quick question,


in regards to option #1- I can still file a claim even though she is accusing me of theft? Thank you again for your time! Erika

You can. I can't say what effect that would have on the process - it may be that they will await resolution of any potential criminal case before making a determination, but there is nothing that says you cannot file now. Additionally, you have merely been accused of theft -and that's far different from having been convicted of theft.