Answers from a Louisville Employment Lawyer
Employment law encompasses all areas of the employment relationship between an employer and employee except the negotiation process covered under labor law and collective bargaining. A Louisville employment lawyer can assist
How Is An Employment Relationship Established?
An employment relationship forms when an employer hires an employee. Since Kentucky is an at-will employment state, contracts for employment are generally unnecessary to establish or define an employment relationship.
What is At-Will Employment?
At-will employment means that either the employer or employee can terminate the employment relationship for any or no reason at all with the exception that the termination cannot be for an illegal reason.
What Constitutes an Illegal Reason?
Even if the employment-relationship is at-will, you can still be wrongfully terminated or, if you are the employer, wrongfully terminate the employee:
- The discharge was contrary to a fundamental and well-defined public policy as evidenced by existing law;
- That policy must be evidenced by a constitutional or statutory provision;
- The decision of whether the public policy asserted meets these criteria is a question of law for the court, not a question of fact for the jury.
There are several reasons you could be wrongfully terminated or, if you are the employer, wrongfully terminate someone, exposing you to liability, such as:
- Discrimination. The termination was based on a protected class, such as race, national origin, sex or age (40 and over). Learn more.
- Retaliation. The termination was vengeance against an employee who exercised his or her legal rights, such as:
- Seeking, or testifying on behalf of someone who sought, workers compensation;
- Reporting the employer’s illegal conduct (whistleblowing) or testified in a whistleblowing case; or
- Complaining, or testifying on behalf of someone who complained, about discrimination, hostile work environment, etc. Learn more.
Can I Have An Employment Contract?
Contractual agreements may be used to define specific aspects of the employment relationships. Under some circumstances, the employee is not considered an at-will employee, but a contractual employee. The employment contract would dictate the promises both the employer and employee negotiated prior to the beginning of the new employment or promotion, e.g. guaranteed employment with benefits in exchange for the employee bringing in additional business.
In other instances, the employment relationship is at-will but the employer restricts or prohibits the employee’s post-employment conduct to:
- Compete with the employer (non-compete).
- Poach the employer’s employees and business relationships (non-solicitation).
- Divulge the employer’s confidential and proprietary information and/or trade secrets to third parties (non-disclosure).
In exchange for making the promises, the employee receives:
- New employment with the employer;
- A raise or promotion;
- Some other benefit of value more than simply retaining employment with the employer.
If the employment agreement is violated or breached (non-performance by one party), then the non-breaching party is entitled to monetary compensation or injunctive relief.
What About Unemployment Compensation?
All employers are required to pay into the unemployment compensation fund. As an employee, you may qualify for unemployment benefits if you:
- Worked long enough to meet Kentucky’s “base period” requirements;
- Lost your job through no fault of your own;
- Are willing and able to work; and,
- Are actively seeking employment.
You can still receive unemployment benefits even if you were fired or voluntarily quit. The unemployment commission conducts an initial inquiry and often a hearing to determine your right to receive benefits. For example, you may qualify for unemployment benefits if you voluntarily quit or were fired because of:
- Hostile work environment
- Environmental conditions that adversely affected your health but did not render you disabled.
What Happens If My Employer Disputes My Eligibility Or If I Want To Dispute The Eligibility Of My Former Employee?
If contested, either the employer or employee can appeal the initial determination as to the employee’s eligibility of unemployment benefits. Both the employee and employer will be able to make their arguments during an unemployment hearing. Learn more.
Whether you are an employee or small business employer, it is important that you understand the employer-employee relationship you are entering or maintaining. How the relationship is defined affects the future of your business or career.
Having seen legal issues and disputes from both the employer and employee’s view points, I can:
- Analyze each case from all sides and angles;
- Anticipate the adversary’s arguments and defenses;
- Strategize and develop your arguments and defenses; and,
- Comprehend the total picture to determine the most effective strategy.
I am an experienced Louisville employment lawyer. You may contact me at (502) 561-3455 or by completing the form on this website.