Fighting For
Employee And Union Rights
Fighting For
Employee And Union Rights

What is fair and unfair when it comes to penalizing workers?

On Behalf of | Apr 4, 2023 | Wrongful Termination

Any type of punishment at work can be embarrassing and upsetting. Depending on an employer’s actions, your paycheck, benefits and reputation can take a hit if you face employment penalties. Knowing whether their actions are lawful can help you protect all these things – and your rights as a worker in Michigan.

Allowable employment actions

Generally speaking, employers can take certain steps against employees as they see fit. They can be within their rights to:

  • Demote workers
  • Relocate workers
  • Give some workers less desirable projects
  • Put workers on a performance improvement plan
  • Reduce or eliminate bonuses 

They can take these actions if you:

  • Violate workplace policies
  • Fail to meet goals
  • Engage in misconduct
  • Take too much time off
  • Fail to show up for work
  • Lie or falsify records
  • Use drugs or alcohol on the job
  • Violate dress codes

An employer may do this after one infraction or multiple violations. Whatever it may be, employers can be within their rights to penalize workers for valid reasons.

It is also crucial to note that employers could demote or fire you for seemingly no reason if your employment is on an at-will basis.

Illegal employment actions

The same actions mentioned above can trigger lawsuits if an employer carries them out unlawfully.

For instance, an employer can violate your rights if they penalize you for retaliatory or discriminatory reasons. 

To determine if this is the case, you must examine and provide evidence that your employer’s actions were because of your membership in a protected class. In other words, does your employer have a history of handing down punishments more often or more severely for people of certain ages, races or sexual orientations?

A demotion, punishment or termination can also be illegal if it happens because you reported wrongdoing, requested leave or made a complaint about a manager or colleague.

Making your case to protect your rights

Employers are not always forthcoming or honest when explaining their reasoning behind employment decisions. Thus, employees often secure legal representation to help collect the necessary evidence to build their case.

It can be devastating to be fired, transferred or demoted. However, if these actions were unlawful, you have rights – and a professional life – worth protecting.