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I was told by my former employer that I may not contact

I was told by...

I was told by my former employer that I may not contact staff members. There is no legal case pending. Can he order a no-contact rule?

Lawyer's Assistant: Because employment law varies from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?

Florida

Lawyer's Assistant: Has anything been filed or reported?

No there will be no filing or reports. He is simply restricting me and current staff members from contacting each other and told them that they will be fired if they contact me.

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

Not at this time. I am trying to figure out if I want to pursue with a lawsuit based on discrimination and harassment. I need to do more research. I am sending a letter to the board member regarding this restriction and cannot find anything online about it. There is fear at the workplace.

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Answered in 5 minutes by:
3/13/2018
Legal Eagle
Legal Eagle, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 10,429
Experience: Licensed to practice before state and federal court
Verified

Hello! I am a licensed attorney, admitted to practice in state and federal court. I have a nearly 100% satisfaction rating (click here for more info) so all that means is that you can count on me to help today. Because I want to provide you with the most accurate answer possible, do you mind if I take a moment to review your question?

Please keep in mind that our conversation does not include an attorney-client relationship and this is for general information purposes only.

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Customer reply replied 1 month ago
I understand. Thank you.

Thanks so much. The answer to your question is no, the former employer cannot issue a no-contact rule against you. Unless a court orders otherwise, you're allowed to contact whoever you want for whatever reason you want. You just can't threaten to physically harm them at all, but just because they were a former employer, it doesn't mean that you can't contact the employees. There's no law that gives them the authority to do so.

What other questions did you have for me today that I can help you out with:-)?

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Customer reply replied 1 month ago
Is there something that I can show to prove this to the board member? I worked at a small charter school where the principal is the HR department. The board members are volunteers and both parties are not up to date with HR policies. I use to work in private sector and follow best practices.
Customer reply replied 1 month ago
Also, what constitutes harassment in the workplace? The EEOC is kind of vague. And does one show proof of it?

Sadly, there isn't anything that you can show because there's no law that allows a former employer to do this. There's basically no legal authority, statute, rule, or case law that gives them the authority to do this so there isn't anything that I could provide. I hate saying, "Take my word for it," but believe me when I say that the law doesn't prohibit a former employee from contacting current employees for any reason unless otherwise ordered by a judge or by contract.

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Harassment/retaliation/discrimination is against the law; however, employment law only makes it against the law if the basis of these actions by the employer are based on your race, gender, age, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, or disability. So, if someone is being harassed/retaliated/discriminated against on one of those basis, it's against the law under 42 USC 2000e-2.

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Customer reply replied 1 month ago
I was harassed and discriminated against but I believe that it has to occur more than once for it to be harassment. As far as the discrimination, there is an employee there that has had more infractions but has never been written up. I am Asian and he does not offer me training or room for improvement prior to any write ups or the like.

I understand.

This to me sounds like you would have a case of employment discrimination which is prohibited under state and federal law at 42 USC 2000e-2. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission field office in your area will serve as the agency that would oversee the complaint, should you decide to file one. There are some basic processes that the EEOC files that I think you should be aware of, and I have listed them below:

The initial pre-complaint process can be found at 29 C.F.R. §1614.105. This is the process whereby you may bring this action to an Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor within usually 300 days. The Counselors must advise individuals in writing of their rights and responsibilities, including the right to request a hearing after an investigation by the agency. The process may go through informal mediation wherein the employer and the employee try to come to a reasonable agreement. It’s voluntary and I highly recommend it in most cases.

Regardless, the EEO Counselor will issue a report based on their initial findings. Once the employee receives notice of the findings, they have 15 days to file a formal complaint.

The formal complaint process can be found at 29 C.F.R. §1614.106-108. Basically, the EEO will conduct a full investigation and come up with a Report of Investigation. The employee has the right to request an administrative hearing with an administrative judge after receiving the ROI or they may sue in a federal district court. Mediation is always still on the table. If the parties cannot mediate, then the parties will go through the administrative process or a federal civil proceedings and then the judge will issue a “Final Agency Decision” (for administrative hearings) or a ruling (for civil actions) If the employee doesn’t like the decision, then they can always appeal. A quick Google search will reveal your local EEO office so check that out.

Did you have any other questions for me about this today?

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Customer reply replied 1 month ago
Okay that explains it better. Thank you. May I ask you one more question?

Sure thing.

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Customer reply replied 1 month ago
On the topic of hostile work environment. How does one approach this topic and what can be done? He retaliates and bullies.

There are some other things that I could recommend to you to help you deal with this problem now and not just in the courtroom based on my experience in working with thousands of people who have had the same issue. Generally, I recommend that you keep documentation of everything that happened. The frequency, duration, and intensity are going to be important and it’ll make it difficult for them to deny this if you confront them. In addition, you should strongly consider what your employer says about this behavior. With the right documentation and some back up in the employee handbook or policy, it could help you solve this right away. You may want to consider having the people who are willing sign an affidavit (a sworn statement) describing what they saw and heard. There’s a site that I’ve used in the past where you can find a good templates (click here). I also recommend building a support network and getting people involved in the situation who may be advocates for you. They may have practical tips or ideas specific to your industry, your organization, or even your team that could be much more helpful than anything the law could provide.

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Customer reply replied 1 month ago
But who do I report that to?
Customer reply replied 1 month ago
I have kept documentation and there is a network of co-workers, which is why I think he is restricting a no-contact rule.

If he is the HR department, you can report it to him. If you feel like it's based on discrimination and you don't feel like you can take it to him, then you'd have to go to the EEOC, unfortunately.

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Customer reply replied 1 month ago
Oaky thank you. This was very helpful. May I copy paste the discussion thread to put it in the email to the board president so he may see that having a no-contact rule does not hold water if there is no legal case?

Absolutely. Did you have any other questions for me today?

Legal Eagle
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Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 10,429
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Customer reply replied 1 month ago
No thank you. You have been very helpful as I carefully draft up my letter. Have a good evening.
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