Employment Law FAQs
What laws help protect employees from harassment & discrimination at the workplace?
Although this is not an exhaustive list, the following are statutes we frequently use to help our clients:
- Title VII: Prohibits discrimination and harassment based on race, gender, religion, national origin, or pregnancy in employment settings
- Equal Pay Act: Requires that employees performing generally the same job receive equal pay no matter what their gender
- Americans with Disabilities Act: Prohibits discrimination against those employees with physical or mental impairments serious enough to substantially affect one or more of their major life activities
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act: Prohibits discrimination at the workplace based on age
- Family Medical Leave Act: Allows employees to take time off work up to 12 weeks per year for personal or family illnesses or to care for new children
- Fair Labor Standards Act: Provides nonexempt employees with minimum wage and time-and-one-half pay for overtime
- Title IX: Prohibits sex discrimination by educational institutions against students, student-athletes, and employees
- USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act): Prohibits discrimination at the workplace against those who serve in the military
- Iowa Civil Rights Act: Prohibits discrimination and harassment based on race, gender, religion, national origin, pregnancy, disability, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity
- Iowa Wage Payment Collection Law: Guarantees that employees get paid for their work and reimbursed for expenses they incur on behalf of their employers
- Nebraska Fair Employment Act: The FEPA prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy), disability, marital status, and retaliation
- Nebraska Age Discrimination in Employment Act: The Age Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of age
What is harassment?
Harassment is a type of discrimination at the workplace that occurs when an employee is treated so poorly that the law recognizes that her terms and conditions of employment have changed. Poor treatment alone, however, is not illegal. Harassment becomes illegal when the harasser is motivated by an illegal bias related to your sex, race, disability, age, national origin, or other protected characteristic. Sexual harassment often includes unwanted propositions for sex or dates, sexual jokes or innuendo, unwanted touching, derogatory comments about one’s gender, or similar incidents. Harassment does not result simply because your boss lacks “people skills.”
How do I decide if I need an attorney?
At the initial consultation, we will help you determine what, if any, legal or administrative remedies are available to you, and whether the Fiedler Law Firm is qualified and able to help you with your case. If we cannot provide assistance to you, we will gladly refer you to other attorneys in the area or to a governmental agency that may be able to help.
How much will it cost to hire the Fiedler Law Firm to represent me?
Most of the time we take employment cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that our fee is a percentage of the recovery we obtain. If no recovery is made, no fee is owed. You are responsible for the expenses of the lawsuit, including filing fees, photocopying, long distance phone calls, investigative costs, deposition costs, and other administrative costs that arise in the proceedings, although we are generally willing to advance some of those expenses for you. We understand that many of our clients have just been fired and will work with you to make financial arrangements that are fair.
How long will it take from the beginning to the end of my legal proceedings?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. Each case is unique, and its length will depend on a variety of issues including whether the case can be settled without a trial, how many parties are involved, and how involved the legal issues are. Once a lawsuit is filed, it takes approximately 12 to 24 months to get to trial, depending on the court.
Are there time limits on filing a suit, and if so, what are they?
In cases involving harassment or discrimination at the workplace, a civil rights complaint (sometimes called a “charge of discrimination”) must be filed against the employer within 300 days of the last discriminatory act. This deadline can actually be as short as 45 days in certain cases involving the federal government. There is a two-year statute of limitation in Iowa for cases involving some other types of retaliation or wrongful termination of employment. You may have as long as four years in some race discrimination cases. It is beyond the scope of a website to tell you exactly what your deadlines may be.
It is very difficult to recover if the applicable time limits have run out. It is important to get good legal advice regarding the time limit that applies to your case and take appropriate action in time to preserve your legal rights.
How much is my case worth?
Without sounding too much “like a lawyer,” there is no foolproof way to predict what a case is worth because of the numerous issues that affect the final outcome. It is impossible to predict precisely what a jury will find on any given day. Damages that our clients commonly recover are medical and counseling expenses, past and future lost wages and employment benefits, as well as damages for emotional distress and physical injuries. Punitive damages are also sometimes awarded. Punitive damages exist not to compensate you for anything, but to punish those who violate the law and to deter others from doing so.
What should I do if I believe my rights have been violated?
If you think you are being harassed or discriminated against, you should tell everyone you can think of that you want it to stop. This is easier said than done, because you will naturally be worried about retaliation. But employees who simply tolerate harassment may find that the law does not give them a remedy. Reports in writing are best, particularly via email because that will make a record of the dates and times you complained. Complain to your supervisor, your supervisor’s boss, Human Resources, and any corporate hot-line. Keep complaining, even if it doesn’t seem to be doing any good. Documenting your complaints will help protect you from retaliation.
Ask for an up-to-date copy of your personnel file. You are entitled to it under Iowa law. Your employer can charge you copying costs similar to what a copying store would charge.
Save evidence, including copies of:
- Offensive or otherwise relevant emails
- Gifts, letters, or cards given to you by the harasser
- Any physical evidence, such as a noose, written “jokes,” panties, offensive pictures, or calendars
- Photographs of offensive graffiti or other harassment that can be seen visually
- Notes or diary entries you’ve made about the harassment or discrimination at your workplace
- Complaints you’ve made and your employer’s response
- Documents showing how good you are at your job, such as compliments from a customer or boss
Contact a lawyer as soon as possible to make sure you don’t miss any legal deadlines. Deadlines for filing employment law cases vary by the type of case. You must file a civil rights complaint within 300 days for most cases of harassment, retaliation, and discrimination at the workplace. Federal employees only have 45 days to contact their EEO officer with a complaint. Some claims have a two-year statute of limitation. Race discrimination or harassment claims may have a four-year deadline.
The best course of action is to ask for legal advice as soon as you feel your rights may have been violated. All communication with our office is confidential, and you can seek help without the knowledge of your employer.
How do I retain the Fiedler law firm?
Contact our offices in Iowa or Nebraska if you need representation or advice. We will ask you for some basic information related to your situation. After the information is reviewed by our attorneys, we will contact you to discuss how we may be able to help you. We promise to explain clearly any fees due before you ever owe us a dime.