Options For Hiring Our Firm
Hostile Work Environments
Actions and words that may create sexual hostile environment harassment are only limited by the sick imagination of the harasser, including:
- Staring in a sexually suggestive manner,
- Making offensive remarks about looks, clothing or the employee’s body,
- Inappropriate physical touching that make an employee feel uncomfortable, such as patting, pinching or intentional brushing against another’s body,
- Sexual or lewd jokes, inappropriate pictures, posters and gestures, and
- Sending, forwarding or soliciting sexually suggestive letters, notes, emails or images.
Other actions which may result in hostile environment harassment, not based on sex, include:
- Use of derogatory words, phrases, epithets,
- Use of emails, gestures, pictures or drawings which would offend a particular group,
- Comments about an individual’s skin color or other characteristics,
- Making disparaging remarks about an individual,
- Negative comments about an employee’s religious beliefs (or absence of religious beliefs),
- Negative, stereotyping comments regarding an employee’s protected basis, and
- Derogatory or intimidating references to an employee’s mental or physical impairment.
The unlawful harassing conduct must be unwelcome and based on the victim’s protected basis. The conduct must be:
- Subjectively abusive to the person affected, and
- Objectively severe and pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive.
Whether the harassing conduct is severe or pervasive is determined on a case-by-case basis in light of,
- How often it happens,
- The severity,
- Whether the conduct was physically threatening or humiliating, not just an offensive comment,
- Whether the conduct unreasonably interfered with work performance,
- The impact on the employee’s psychological well-being, and
- If the harasser was a superior within the organization.
No, the harassment protections include unwelcome verbal or physical conduct based on the employee’s protected basis, such as the person’s,
- Whether or not the harassment is of a sexual nature, and
- It can involve people of the same sex.
- National origin,
- Age (40 and over under federal law, any age under Virginia law),
- Disability, or
- If an employee complains about, opposes or cooperates in the investigation or litigation of an illegal practice, those actions result in the person being legally protected from negative consequences due to those actions.
Hostile work environment harassment refers to an unstable or dangerous workplace created when an employee suffers repeated workplace harassment. The harassing conduct unreasonably interferes with the victim’s work performance or creates what a reasonable person would find an objectively hostile or offensive work environment. If the conduct adversely affects the performance or well-being of the targeted employee, or any reasonable person in the workplace, the conduct may be illegal.
- The harassment may not directly result in discipline or lost opportunities but does make it difficult for the victim to work because of constant ridicule, belittling comments, teasing or sexual come-ons.
- The harassment becomes so debilitating that the victim fears going to work because of the oppressive, hostile or intimidating atmosphere created by the aggressors.
- It may reach the point where the victim is suffering psychologically and manifests stress related physical problems.
Consider having an attorney familiar with employment law review the document. Your employer almost certainly had its attorney draft this to be favorable to the company. Most severance agreements require you to waive almost any rights you have to bring an action against the company, even if you learn later of wrongdoing. Employment law is complicated. It is entirely possible for you to have been wronged without realizing it. It will cost you between $300 and $500 to have an attorney spend an hour with you to review the document and discuss options. This can be money well spent, and save you a costly mistake.
Most reputable employers won’t do that. In fact, they may recommend that you see an attorney. Regardless, do not let them pressure you into signing. Ask for at least a couple of days to review it.
A lawsuit is started once a formal legal document called a “complaint” is filed in court and then served, usually by hand, on the defendant. Writing letters to your employer or negotiating a severance agreement does not involve litigation and does not create a public record.
No. Although we are trained trial attorneys, many of our cases are resolved simply by contacting the employer.
Yes. Tom Spiggle is an experienced trial lawyer who is not afraid to take your case to trial if necessary. From day one junior attorneys at the firm are trained to litigate and take cases to trial.
Yes. You can talk to an intake specialist or submit information online to be reviewed by an attorney free of charge. After this review you will receive an email from the firm indicating whether yours is an issue we can potentially help with. If yours is an issue we can potentially help with, you will receive an invitation for an in-depth Strategy Conference for $195, which includes an hour with an attorney and review of key documents. The Spiggle Law Firm invites you to review the no-cost written material provided by the firm. The Employment Law Guide for Women, (much of it applies to men, too!) which you can obtain by visiting the Tools and Resources section of our website. Other resources available include:
That depends on the nature of your cases. It could take from $2,000 to $100,000, or more.
For cases that will involve significant legal work, such as, those going to trial, we will make every effort to work out a payment arrangement that works for you.
Again, it depends. Negotiating a severance can take as little as a few weeks. Cases that go all the way to trial can take a year or more.
Unless it is a criminal case, you will rarely have to go to court. In some instances, you will only have to go to court if there is a trial. Of course, you can choose to go to court for any matter involving your case.
A victim of wrongful discharge in Virginia can take legal action against:
- A company/employer that fires him in violation of public policy.
- An employee with managerial or supervisory responsibility if he was the one who violated the public policy and if he also participated in firing the worker.
The rules in Virginia say that an employee can sue for wrongful discharge if:
- The employee exercises a right to do something (or not do something) that a statute specifically entitled the employee to do, and because of that, the employee is fired.
- The employee acts pursuant to a public policy clearly announced by a statute, the employee is a member of the class of people the statute is designed to protect, and then, the employer terminates the employee for acting in accordance with that public policy.
- The employee refused to commit a crime and is fired for it.
Yes. Numerous laws and regulations guarantee protections for reporting wrongdoing and illegal activity on the job. These laws often also protect employees that refuse to commit illegal activity when asked by their employer.
- The False Claims Act
- Qui Tam
- Whistleblower Law
- The Whistleblower Section of this website
- Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) – reporting improper behavior by publicly traded companies.
You may be experiencing retaliation for:
- telling HR or my boss that I thought I was being discriminated against on the basis of
- National Origin
- telling HR or my boss that I thought someone else at work was being discriminated against
- asking for workplace changes because I have a disability
- having a disability
- for telling my boss or HR about page or wage violations
- taking FMLA leave
- telling my boss that I was discriminated against on the basis of age
The Retaliation Section of this website has more information on your rights regarding retaliation.
You may be protected under The Employment Income Retirement Security Act. (ERISA) This act is also useful when there are issues with COBRA which cause you to lose your health insurance.
You may be protected against defamation (spoken) or libel (written) claims against you. These are state law claims, so need to search the law in your state. These are also state level common or “judge made” law, so you may have to rely on court cases rather than a statute.
Depending on the context, employees may be protected by The National Labor Relations Act. Employees of the US Government are also guaranteed protection of Freedom of Speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
- You may be protected if you:
Can I be fired for taking time off or asking for leave to care for myself or a family member? Taking medical leave can be protected in many circumstances. See the following:
- are experiencing problems at work or have been fired because I am stressed out, sleep deprived and or am depressed.
- are experiencing problems at work because of a mental or physical disability, even if that disability is temporary
- are experiencing problems at work because I asked for workplace changes – like a modified workspace – due to a physical or mental disability, even if that disability is temporary
You may be protected under these laws:
- *Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
In cases of pregnancy discrimination, you can learn your rights from the following sources:
The left column lists common employment problems, and the right column lists the applicable federal laws. It also highlights common state law employment issues, as well as federal agencies that regulate that area of the law. *A star beside a law means that you must file an administrative action – like with the EEOC – before you file in court. Note that more than one may apply to your situation. Use these to conduct your own research or to help you find the right attorney to help you. I’ve been treated differently because of my:
You have been wrongfully terminated if you were fired because:
- you are pregnant
- of your color
- of your gender
- of your religion
- you opposed illegal practices in the workplace
- you have a disability
- because you complained about working conditions
There are a number of other reasons that are illegal under federal or state law which may give you a legal case against your company, but judges generally will not call this “wrongful termination.” Instead, a judge will talk about your termination in a more specific way. Taking the examples above, the judge will say you were fired in violation of:
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the basis of race
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the basis of sex
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the basis of religion
- The False Claims Act (or any of the over 100 other whistleblower statutes)
- The Americans With Disabilities Act
These examples do not include the many state and local laws that apply to the same conduct. For instance, an employer in the District of Columbia that fires a woman because she is pregnant may be in violation of both the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is one of the most important governing bodies when it comes to employment law. Learn about EEOC filing requirements, deadlines, and the role the agency could play in your case.
Three Things You Can Do Right Now
- Make sure to file before your time limit runs out. Depending on where you live, you either have 180 or 300 days. Government agencies have even shorter deadlines.
- The EEOC can help you file a charge. It is free and you need not have a lawyer. You should file a charge before your deadline passes, even if you are not sure that you want to sue.
- Don’t rely exclusively on the EEOC. The agency can be slow and often denies claims. That doesn’t mean that the agency never helps, sometimes it does. And you should cooperate fully with your investigator. Just don’t rely exclusively on it for help. Continue to look for a lawyer.
A lawyer can help you prepare for the hearing and achieve a positive outcome, or pursue appeal remedies should you lose.
Three Things You Can Do Right Now
- You should apply. Unemployment hearings are not difficult and many times your employer either won’t contest your right to benefits, or, if it does, it won’t bother to send someone to the hearing.
- If you lose, appeal. In many instances you’ll get a more experienced hearing officer at the appeal level. And appealing is often as easy as writing a short letter.
- You can hire an attorney to help you or even just to help you prepare for the hearing so that you can handle it yourself.
Performance Improvement Plan
A performance improvement plan (PIP) can be the first step to losing your job. It is completely your employer’s choice to put you on a plan, so you don’t have much choice about it. If this happens to you, I highly recommend that you consult someone with employment law experience. There are things that you can do that may prevent you from being fired, or, at the very least, maximize your chance to get a good severance agreement.