Most businesses have rules and policies that they expect their employees to follow.
Generally speaking, Oregon businesses have the right to make and enforce their rules as they see fit, even by firing employees who break them. This is so even if the employee broke what seems to be a minor rule and did so by an honest mistake.
However, if an employee is facing termination or other discipline because of a workplace rule violation, they should still ask themselves several important questions:
- Does the rule violate some other law? Businesses cannot make rules that require an employee to break the law. Likewise, workplace rules may not deprive an employee of certain legal rights.
- Does an employee have a right under an employment contract or other arrangement? Many employees are entitled under an agreement to certain rights before their employers can enforce a workplace rule against them.
- Does the rule violate anti-discrimination provisions in federal or state law? Employers may not make rules that disfavor a protected class. In other cases, employers may have to make accommodations to their rules in order to avoid discrimination claims.
- Has the employer enforced the rule consistently? If an employer suddenly seems to care about a rule that it rarely enforces, it can be a sign of veiled discrimination. Likewise, employers must take care to impose similar punishments for similar employees who commit the same violation.
Employees who are facing serious discipline may have legal options
Simply put, it is not true that employers can act as an unquestionable judge, jury and executioner of their workplace rules. Several laws limit what employers can do when enforcing company policies.
Employers must take care to make sure that their rules, and their enforcement procedures, follow both federal and Minnesota law. If they do not do so, employees may be entitled to compensation even if there is no question they broke a company policy.