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According to an article published by the Alabama Political Reporter, the state’s Department of Labor announced that there are more than 2.2 million individuals employed locally as of August 2023. This shows a 32,631 increase from the previous year’s numbers.

In the same vein, the civilian labor force set a new record of 2,307,630 after the addition of over 21,000 people to the labor force. Several major cities in the state have also posted very low unemployment rates — Hoover at 1.8%, Madison and Homewood at 1.7%, and Vestavia Hills at 1.6%.

However, given the high employment rate in Alabama, it is more likely for workplace issues like discrimination or harassment to occur. In one instance, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a race discrimination lawsuit against a Birmingham-based business. This was after it continuously promoted its white workers over its more qualified African American employees. It even extended the same practice during the hiring process. 

As a result, the company paid an $825,000 settlement to compensate the victims. Aside from the monetary settlement, the company also agreed to review and revise its hiring and promotion policies and procedures to provide equal employment opportunities among its workers.

To ensure that employees’ rights are upheld and violators face repercussions, the state of Alabama implements various employment and labor laws. Its employment laws cover areas such as workplace discrimination, retaliation, overtime pay, hours and wages, and recruitment. Meanwhile, its labor laws tackle union memberships and collective bargaining agreements.

This article aims to help employees know their rights in line with these laws and inform them of how to file a claim if their rights as workers have been infringed.

Alabama Wage and Hour Laws

The Alabama Department of Labor has made it known that the state does not have particular regulations for wages and work hours. Therefore, employers are enjoined to follow the rules set by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hours Division.

Minimum Wage

Despite not having a minimum wage law, Alabama still abides by the Fair Labor Standards Act, which states that an employee should receive work pay not going below the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour. However, there are different rules for tipped employees and workers under the age of 20:

  • Tipped employees should receive at least $2.13 per hour. If the total of their per-hour wage and their tips is less than the federal minimum wage, their employer is required to offset the difference.

  • Workers under 20 years old have a minimum wage amounting to $4.25 for the first 90 days of their employment. When they turn 20 or after the 90-day period — whichever comes first — they are eligible to receive the federal minimum wage.

Overtime Pay

The FLSA also mandates employers to provide overtime pay for employees who work for over 40 hours a week. The overtime pay rate must be 1.5 times their regular rate and is computed on a workweek basis. Companies must also give overtime pay on the regular payday.

Meanwhile, employers do not need to provide overtime pay for work done during holidays, weekends, night shifts, or other rest days. But if there is an agreement that an employee will be paid during these days, their employer is required to provide overtime pay.

Note that there are exemptions involving the following workers:

  • Outside sales employees.

  • Administrative workers and executives who earn at least $684 a week.

  • Employees who earn more than $107,432 a year.

Alabama Meal and Break Laws

In Alabama, employers are not required to provide meal and lunch breaks for their employees. However, employees should be paid if they are given a 20-minute break. Meanwhile, work breaks that exceed 30 minutes are not paid. 

Alabama Workplace Leave Laws

Mandatory Leaves

  • Family and Medical Leave

According to the Family Medical Leave Act, an employee can have 12 unpaid weeks of medical leave within 12 months. To become eligible, they must meet the following criteria:

  • Has worked for the company for one year.

  • Has worked at a location with over 50 staff members within 75 miles.

  • Has worked for at least 1,250 hours the previous year.

An employee looking after an ill or injured military family member can take a 26-week leave per 12 months. They should also have a health insurance plan while on leave. 

  • Jury Duty Leave

Employers in Alabama are required to provide paid leave to employees participating in jury duty. Workers must provide their employers with the jury summons when they return to work.

  • Voting Leave

Employees in Alabama are eligible to receive up to one hour of unpaid voting leave. A worker must be a registered voter and provide a reasonable request to their employer.

  • Military Leave

Military service members in the state can receive up to five years of unpaid leave. Upon returning to work, they must be reinstated in the same position. Moreover, they are eligible to have group healthcare benefits for 24 months of their leave.

Non-mandatory Leaves

Alabama laws do not require employers to provide the following leaves to their employees:

  • Vacation leave.

  • Sick leave.

  • Holiday leave.

  • Bereavement leave.

  • Parental leave.

Alabama Discrimination and Harassment Laws

Employees in Alabama are protected by the National Labor Relations Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. As such, companies or businesses operating in the state are prohibited from harassing or discriminating against their employees based on the following:

  • Age.

  • Sexual orientation.

  • National origin.

  • Race.

  • Religion.

  • Disability.

  • Citizenship status.

Harassment occurs in the workplace when an employee experiences unwelcome behavior from their bosses or colleagues. Harassment may be in the form of insults, offensive jokes, verbal threats, racial or sexual slurs, or any actions that affect an employee’s well-being and performance at work.

In Alabama, employers are responsible not only for the harassment or discrimination they commit but also for the inappropriate behaviors of their employees. Harassment and discrimination in the state, if proven, may lead to heavy penalties. 

Alabama Child Labor Laws

Individuals who are under 14 years old cannot be employed in Alabama. If a business employs a minor who is at least 14 years old, it must display a child labor certificate on its premises. It must also have an employee information form with its minor employees’ proof of age and time records that show their work hours. 

Alabama Union Laws

In Alabama, employers cannot retaliate against workers just because they are members of any labor union or organization. Conversely, employees are not required to join a labor union or pay union fees to keep their employment.

The National Labor Relations Act also allows employees to do the following:

  • Seek assistance from the union they are a member of to improve working conditions, as well as file a complaint with their employers or the government.

  • Organize or join a union to represent them in negotiations with their employers.

  • Discuss their employment contracts, conditions, and terms with their co-workers.

  • Select an employee representative to discuss a working agreement.

  • Abstain from becoming a member of a union. 

Is Alabama an At-Will Employment State?

Yes, Alabama is an at-will employment state, just like any other U.S. state. This means every employer-employee relationship is based on each party’s free will, and either of them may end the said relationship at any time and for any reason.

However, there are three general exceptions to at-will employment in the state that involve the following:

  • Discrimination: An employer cannot terminate a worker for being 40 years of age or older.

  • Whistleblowing: A supervisor cannot terminate an employee just because they reported a work violation. Note that this only applies to government employees in the state.

  • Retaliation: An employee cannot be discharged from work just because they filed a report regarding safety rule violations in the workplace. 

What Qualifies as Wrongful Termination in Alabama?

Even if Alabama is an at-will employment state, it still protects its workers from wrongful termination. This is when an employee gets fired for an unlawful reason, like any of the following:

  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim: An employee cannot be terminated just because they filed a workers’ compensation claim after incurring a work-related illness or injury.

  • Breach of contract: An employee cannot be terminated if their written work contract indicates the start and end dates of their employment with the company.

  • Time off work: An employee cannot be terminated for properly using the leaves they are entitled to, such as their jury duty, family, medical, and military leaves.

  • Retaliation: A company cannot fire an employee for filing a complaint regarding harassment in the workplace or poor and discriminatory working conditions.

  • Violation of public policy: A company cannot fire an employee after refusing to commit a crime at its command.

How Do You Report an Employer in Alabama for Wrongful Termination?

An employee who was wrongfully terminated due to discrimination or retaliation can report their employer to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Public Portal.

Submitting a report in person to the following address is also an option:

Birmingham District Office
Ridge Park Place
1130 22nd Street South
Suite 2000
Birmingham, AL 35205

Note that walk-ins are accepted, but scheduled appointments are prioritized.

A wrongfully terminated worker can also reach out to their company’s human resources representative to address the issue. The representative must then provide possible solutions after being informed of the incident. To help with their claim, it is important for an employee to have documented the improper behavior of their supervisors or co-workers. 

In whistleblowing cases, witnesses may also be asked to provide written statements on how the employee was retaliated against. The statements must include the specific dates, times, and retaliatory actions taken toward them.

It is in an employee’s best interest to work with an Alabama attorney if they are planning to pursue compensation for damages and file a lawsuit against their employer. Depending on the situation, their case may conclude through a settlement or court judgment. 

What is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Termination Cases in Alabama?

Alabama has a different statute of limitations for different types of wrongful termination cases. The details of the deadlines are as follows:

  • Discrimination claims: The deadline for filing race discrimination cases is four years. Meanwhile, for gender or sexual orientation discrimination, an employee is given 180 days to file with the EEOC or 300 days if Alabama law also prohibits the form of discrimination.

  • Tort claims: An employee is given a two-year deadline to file a lawsuit against their employer for defamation, termination in violation of public policy, or intentional infliction of emotional distress.

  • Contractual claims: A worker has six years to file a claim if their wrongful termination involved a contract breach.

Because of the different rules for filing a wrongful termination case in Alabama, an employee is advised to seek legal guidance in navigating the process. If they fail to take legal action within the given timeframe, their case might be dismissed. 

How Much Can Someone Sue an Employer in Alabama for Wrongful Termination?

In Alabama, the average compensation awarded in most wrongful termination suits is between $6,000 and $100,000. Meanwhile, cases that conclude in the courtroom tend to see higher amounts, usually from $100,000 to $500,000, which is why most employers prefer to settle them out of court instead.

Employees in the state need to keep in mind that the value of a wrongful termination case depends on several factors, such as medical expenses, lost income and benefits, the cost of finding a new job, and the reason for termination.

The amount of damages they may claim may also be affected by the emotional distress they suffered. They may seek damages after acquiring depression, stress, anxiety, or other mental health issues due to their wrongful termination. 

Resources for Employees in Alabama

Legal Services Alabama

Legal Services Alabama caters to low-income individuals and families in the state. It offers free, client-centered legal assistance to people seeking solutions for various public benefit issues, such as Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, unemployment compensation, food stamps, and family assistance. These services can be helpful for wrongfully terminated individuals who are currently without a job.

The organization also serves domestic violence survivors and takes on housing issues, including foreclosures, evictions, and utility problems. It aims to promote social and economic stability within the state.

South Alabama Volunteer Lawyers Program, Inc.

The South Alabama Volunteer Lawyers Program, Inc. is a charitable organization that offers pro-bono legal services to low-income individuals in Mobile, Clarke, Baldwin, and Washington counties. Its roster of 700 local volunteer lawyers provides counsel in certain civil cases. Since its founding by the Mobile Bar Association, the organization has been providing free services to the community for more than 150 years.

Alabama State Bar

The Alabama State Bar is the licensing and regulatory organization for lawyers in the state. It aims to help the public improve the justice system through several programs and activities. The organization takes on cases related to labor and employment, workers’ compensation, family, criminal, and administrative law. Moreover, it helps the public address issues involving elder and disability, business, construction, and international law.

Alabama Association for Justice

The Alabama Association for Justice aims to preserve and protect the rights of individuals or businesses harmed by the negligence or misconduct of others. It conducts litigation to hold responsible parties accountable. The organization also helps strengthen the civil justice system, supports adequate court funding, and eliminates civil justice restrictions.

Alabama Access to Justice Commission

The Alabama Access to Justice Commission has been serving the community for more than 15 years. It was created by the Supreme Court to work with social service providers in the private and public sectors. The organization aims to promote effective and economical services for low-income and vulnerable individuals in Alabama.

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