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The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received a total of 3,289 employment discrimination charges in Arizona in 2021, 804 (24.4%) of which stemmed from retaliation. On the other hand, 525 (15.96%) of these cases involved violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Other notable charges that were recorded in the Arizona workplace include discrimination against sex, disability, and age. 

These figures show how significant it is for employers to comply with the laws about appropriate behaviors in the workplace according to guidelines enforced by the EEOC. It is also essential for companies to take proactive measures to protect themselves from financially draining legal proceedings arising from employee disputes. 

Given the information above, the state of Arizona has enhanced its legal framework regarding employment relations by addressing various issues in the workplace, such as safety, harassment, and discrimination. Therefore, for those who feel that their rights have been violated, it is imperative to carefully examine the current employment and labor laws imposed by the state. 

There can be times wherein disputes in the workplace arise from simple misunderstandings, while others stem from or result in outright legal violations. The ability to differentiate between these situations is critical to protecting the rights and reputations of both workers and employers. 

Additionally, workers in Arizona must understand the difference between labor and employment laws. Employment law pertains to conflicts regarding employers and their employees, such as working conditions, hiring practices, pay issues, discrimination, and retaliation. Labor law, on the other hand, covers issues between the company and its worker’s organizations, like union affiliations or collective bargaining agreements.  

Arizona’s legal system has a distinct framework involving employee-employer relationships, ranging from salary guidelines to workplace safety, to which both worker and employer need to comply to avoid legal consequences. In this article, some of the common labor and employment laws will be discussed. 

Employment and Labor Laws in Arizona

Arizona employment and labor laws provide additional security on a state-wide level beyond federal regulations on various aspects, including minimum wages or sick leave accumulation. Employers are mandated to follow state and federal laws, as these guidelines influence and mold a good working relationship. Below are some of the state laws that may affect employee-employer relationships:

Diversity, Employee Relations, and Equal Employment Opportunity Law

The state of Arizona is governed by the Civil Rights Act, which protects employees from work discrimination based on color, race, religion, age, disability, and other factors stated in the act. The CRA applies to companies with more than 15 employees in discrimination cases. Meanwhile, regarding sexual harassment matters, the CRA is applicable to employers with more than one worker.

The state also follows the Equal Pay Law, which prohibits differences regarding the salary of male and female employees in the same organization, with the exception of having different levels of skill, tenure, and other factors not related to the worker’s gender. 

When it comes to whistleblowers who inform legal authorities about illegal acts in their workplace, they can be assisted and protected by the Employment Protection Act of the state.

In cases where a credit check is required during the hiring process, employers are required to ask for written consent from the applicant before running a report. Depending on the business need, the state may also allow pre-employment alcohol and drug testing, provided that the potential employee has been briefed about the requirement.

Additionally, under the Legal Arizona Workers Act, employers are not allowed to hire illegal or undocumented aliens, regardless of whether they will serve as subcontractors or independent contributors. If in doubt about any situation, it is best to side with what is stated by the law.

Wage and Hour Law

Employers in Arizona are required to follow state and federal laws for wages and work hours as stipulated under the Fair Labor Standards Act. An employee should be given the current minimum wage of $13.85 per hour (as of 2023), per state requirement. Meanwhile, there are applicable exemptions and varying rates depending on their employee types, such as those who gain tips. Companies should also provide overtime pay to nonexempt workers who have rendered more than 40 hours of work in a week. 

Also, child labor laws in Arizona outline what kinds of jobs children under 16 can perform and the hours they can render. These regulations are in place to prevent adolescents from finding employment in workplaces that can potentially bring them harm or are dangerous to their well-being. There are careers appropriate for people under 16, while some jobs are strictly prohibited, such as food processing, commercial laundering, product manufacturing, and construction activities. 

Benefits and Pay

Employees in Arizona are entitled to benefits, depending on the company they work for. One of the most popular regulations regarding this is the healthcare continuation law, or the Mini-COBRA law. This applies to companies with 1 to 19 employees and is very similar to the federal COBRA regulations when it comes to eligibility and coverage. Under the Mini-COBRA, employees from a small company still have a chance to get healthcare coverage for up to 18 months. On the other hand, the federal COBRA may only apply to workers coming from a company with 20 or more employees. 

When distributing salaries to workers in Arizona, companies are allowed to use cash, drafts, money orders, checks, or a combination, so long as the payment is in U.S. dollars. Employers can send salaries electronically via direct deposit or electronic paycards. Wage payments should also be given to employees on specific days, on a biweekly basis, not longer than 16 days apart. 

As always, there are exceptions to the rule that employers can give out salaries monthly, but these only apply to workers employed outside of Arizona. The law also authorizes companies to make salary deductions only if there are pay disputes, if written authorization to deduct has been provided, or to comply with legal standards. 

Time Off

Paid leaves (aside from paid sick leaves) are not mandated in the state of Arizona. Still, a lot of companies opt to offer leave options to their employees, which usually include paid time off or even vacation days. Employees are also eligible for paid sick leave if they meet the qualifications under the Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act. These may include personal or family health conditions, exposure to transmissible diseases, or events of sexual or domestic violence. 

As per regulations, companies with more than 15 employees are obligated to give up to 40 hours of paid sick leave on an annual basis, while smaller companies can offer at least 24 hours. Employers are also mandated by FWFHA to provide leaves for workers who were subjected to criminal activities, will serve on jury duty, or are in the military. This is to ensure that employees will not have to worry about job security while attending to their health issues or fulfilling their civic duties.

Health and Safety

Employers in Arizona have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for their employees. Companies should keep workers away from any potential risks that may harm their health or compromise their performance at work. Health and safety training should be given to employees, and protective gear appropriate to their line of work must also be provided. 

To serve as additional protection, all company buildings must abide by the Smoke-Free Arizona Act, where designated smoking areas should be assigned appropriately.

If an employee suffers an injury or has contracted an illness while on the job, they must first check if the incident is covered under workers’ compensation.

Is Arizona an At-Will Employment State?

In general, the principles of “right-to-work” and “employment-at-will” differ in the context of labor regulations. The state of Arizona recognizes both and enforces specific regulations about working relationships. In Arizona, the state empowers the employer and the worker to end their contract at any point according to the employment-at-will concept. 

However, this flexibility is not unrestricted. Internal company guidelines or binding employee agreements might differ from the at-will employment concept through provisions of termination conditions. Also, workers are protected from retaliation and other discriminatory termination if they join or do legal activities, like serving jury duties or filing for workers’ compensation. 

On the other hand, Arizona’s right-to-work law indicates that employees in a unionized workplace can decline union membership and contributions without the fear of losing their jobs. Additionally, under the same law, an employer can’t force an employee to join a union.

What Qualifies as Wrongful Termination in Arizona?

Business owners in Arizona should be mindful of the rules surrounding wrongful termination. This happens when an employee gets dismissed from work without any reason related to their job performance. Such an action can cost the employer hefty fines, as it is against the law to terminate an individual due to discriminatory or retaliatory reasons.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is punishable by law to fire an employee based on age, gender, nationality, religion, pregnancy, and physical limitations, as this is deemed discriminatory. 

Retaliatory termination, on the other hand, occurs when a worker gets fired for reporting discriminatory claims or unlawful activities, such as when employees report or participate in an investigation about their employer’s illegal behaviors. In order for companies to avoid retaliatory acts, they must fully cooperate with their employees during the investigation process and try to resolve the complaints they raise. Additionally, it is illegal for companies to retaliate against their employees who report health and safety issues in the workplace, per OSHA regulations.

In instances of sexual harassment, companies can still be held accountable, with or without formal complaints, if they do not take any measures to address the concern. However, it can be challenging to prove sexual harassment claims, especially if a boss or a colleague agrees to a sexual relationship.

There are also legal consequences when an employer violates the Fair Labor Standards Act. Violations of this act include erroneously classifying workers, underpaying employees, and failing to make overtime payments. 

Companies may decrease their chances of having wrongful termination cases by maintaining transparent and truthful regulations in the workplace, providing fair treatment and compensation, and keeping accurate and complete records of employee misconduct and disciplinary actions. Documentation is also essential in justifying employee terminations as protection from potential legal issues. 

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

Before filing a report of wrongful termination against your employer in Arizona, it is highly recommended that you keep copies of all communication, may it be on paper or email. It is also suggested that anything discussed between you and your employer have a copy in writing. This can serve as supporting documentation for any violation of your civil rights.

If a worker believes they have been a victim of wrongful termination, there are various actions to take to file a report, depending on their claim. If they were fired from work due to discrimination, they can file a complaint online with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

For workers who were dismissed as a result of retaliation for reporting dangerous or illegal activities, they can file an online report through OSHA, where they can also receive the necessary protection per the whistleblower law. 

In cases where an employee was terminated because they fought for their rights under the labor law, complaints can be submitted to Arizona’s Labor Department. Additionally, complaints regarding leaves, wages, and overtime can be filed through the same department. For cases requiring immediate assistance, employees can reach out to the Wage and Hour Division office.

It is important to know that individuals must file a complaint with the EEOC before initiating a lawsuit for wrongful termination. It is a critical step in the formal process when a worker decides to pursue a claim against their employer; likewise, it is one step forward in obtaining justice. If there are no state or federal regulations governing the employee’s termination, it is advisable for them to seek legal assistance to discuss the right course of action. 

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

A wrongfully terminated employee in Arizona has 180 days from the dismissal date to file a case with the Attorney General’s Office at the Arizona Civil Rights Division. When it comes to national anti-discrimination laws, workers are given 180 days from the date of termination to file their claims with the EEOC. Additionally, the duration can be extended for up to 300 days, provided that the municipal or state entities keep applicable anti-discrimination laws. 

There are exact grounds for action to determine the statute of limitations for wrongful termination. With that said, getting legal advice right away from an Arizona employment lawyer is important to meet critical deadlines. Lawyers with expertise in the area of wrongful termination can provide support to employees who believe they were unfairly removed from work. To avoid the loss of one’s entitlement to justice, employees should seek lawyers who are experts in wrongful dismissal to dig into the case specifics and assist in prompt filing. 

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

Workers in Arizona have various categories to consider when pursuing legal compensation against their employers for unlawful termination. These also correspond to different damages, depending on the type of claim. Typical settlements for wrongful termination in Arizona range from $6,000 to $80,000, with lawyers often fighting for higher figures. On the other hand, if a jury or the court is involved, awards for damages fall on average between $110,000 and $450,000

One type of claim that an employee can file is discrimination. Under this claim, employees can obtain different kinds of compensation for emotional distress or punitive damages with a limit based on the size of the company. It is also reasonable to include other damages, such as lost income, potential earnings, and legal fees. In some cases, workers can reclaim their jobs following a court order. Meanwhile, in whistleblower cases, the same compensation measures apply, but without caps.

Employees with claims for unpaid commissions or wages can recover up to three times the amount due, with additional compensation for legal fees. When it comes to cases of unpaid overtime, workers may get twice their earnings plus legal expenses. 

The Department of Labor may conduct an audit for violations of wage and hour laws, which could result in further investigations beyond the initial claim. In this case, employers are encouraged to seek legal advice for such allegations.

Resources for Employees in Arizona

Workers in Arizona are valued and appreciated. This is why they are given access to various government and private organizations in case they have been illegally dismissed by their employers. Below are some online references for workers across the state.

Arizona Legal Center

The Arizona Legal Center is an organization that provides free legal consultations and assistance exclusively to the residents of Arizona. They also handle cases on a low-cost or fee-for-service basis, depending on the situation and the need. 

Arizona Attorney General

The Attorney General of Arizona is the chief law enforcement officer of the state and is elected to fight for the rights of Arizonans. The Civil Rights Division of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office oversees the implementation of anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. It acts to help parties arrive at a resolution, provides educational training, and handles complaints of discrimination.

Department of Labor

The Department of Labor works to enhance the quality of life for all Americans by helping them find jobs, improving working conditions, and securing retirement benefits. It also aims to raise standards in the workplace by pushing companies to open promotions internally and helping employees fight for their rights and benefits in the workplace.

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