Legal Matters on NBC25

At-Will Employment

Most employees in Michigan, who are not a member of a union, are at-will. What does at-will employment mean? What that means is that you can be discharged at any time, with or without cause, and without notice. In other words, an employer doesn’t have to have a reason to terminate an employee. It also means that an employee who is unhappy with his or her employment can leave the employment, with or without a reason and do not have to provide notice. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, employees are not required to give 2 weeks, if he or she is an at-will employee. An employee may have incentive to give notice because an employer policy may provide for pay out of vacation time not used if notice is provided.

At-will employment doesn’t mean that an employer can terminate an employee for illegal reasons. At-will employees cannot be discharged for protected reasons like, race, age, gender, disability, religion, or national origin. At-will employees also have the right not to be subject to retaliation for making legitimate complaints regarding discrimination or other illegal activities. So, even though at-will employees can discharged for any reason, employees can still not be discharged for the wrong reasons.

Family and Medical Leave Act

Today I’m going to talk about medical leave. If you work for an employer with 50 or more employees, you may be eligible for medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Also referred to as FMLA. FMLA is a federal law that was signed into law by President Clinton in 1993. It allows employees to take up to 12 weeks off without pay. An employee can take FMLA for the birth of a child, for the placement of a child for adoption, to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, and due to an employee’s own serious health condition. In order to be eligible to take FMLA leave as an employee, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months.

If you take leave under the FMLA, your job is protected. Also, during the time that you are on FMLA leave, your employer is required to maintain your health benefits. When your leave is over, the employer is required to restore you to your position.

As an employee, you are responsible to provide notice to your employer of at least 30 days if your leave is foreseeable and as soon as possible if it’s not. Your employer may require you to get medical certification for your condition or that of an immediate family member. If you need medical leave and you are eligible to take FMLA, it’s important to work with your employer to ensure that your rights are protected.

Michigan No-Fault Law

Today we’re going to talk about Michigan no-fault law. Michigan law requires no-fault insurance. Every registered car must be insured. Every car owner must buy basic coverage in order to get license plates. It is a misdemeanor to drive or let your car be driven without basic no-fault coverage.

No-fault insurance means that regardless of who is at-fault in an automobile accident, there is a certain amount of insurance coverage that you will have. No-fault coverage pays all necessary medical costs if you are hurt in an auto accident. It also pays, up to a maximum amount, wages you would have earned if you had not been hurt, for up to three years. If you are killed in an accident, your policy will pay your family up to the monthly amount for three years, based on your earnings and fringe benefits. You may also be entitled to up to $20 per day in replacement services. This is to pay for services you are no longer able to provide for yourself or your family because you are injured, such as housekeeping and yard work. Finally, you can get nursing services paid for at home if necessary for your care.

If you’re involved in an automobile accident, it’s important that you notify your insurance carrier as soon as possible to get the benefits that you are entitled to under the no-fault law.

Non-Competition Agreements in Michigan

Today we’re going to talk about non-compete agreements in Michigan. Non-competing agreements are enforceable in Michigan as long as the terms of the non-compete are reasonable. Disputes surrounding non-competition agreements typically involve reasonableness in restrictions relating to the amount of time it applies, the geographic scope of the agreement, and the type of business that a former employee can compete. Even where a non-competition agreement is found to be unreasonable, courts are able to modify the agreement to be “reasonable” and still enforce the agreement. An employer seeking to enforce a non-compete must demonstrate a business interest greater than mere competition. The non-compete should protect the former employer from unfair advantage gained by a competitor who hires a former employee. Employers typically require non-competition agreements for employees who have access to confidential and proprietary information, such as research and development employees, senior management, and corporate executives.

Before an employee can be bound by the terms of a non-competition agreement, an employee must sign an agreement in writing agreeing to the terms. Even where an employee signs such an agreement, it doesn’t mean that it is automatically enforceable. The terms need to be reasonable and necessary to protect the competitive business interests of the employer.

Privacy in the Workplace

Today we are going to talk about privacy in the workplace. In Michigan, does an employer have the right to read your emails, listen to your phone calls, or video you in the workplace? The surprising answer is “most likely.” The issue is whether it is an invasion of privacy. In order for an individual to bring a claim for invasion of privacy in Michigan, there has to be proof that the individual has a legitimate expectation of privacy. In the workplace, an individual may have an expectation of privacy, but Courts have held that expectation is not legitimate. Indeed, Courts have found that employers have legitimate business reasons to monitor employees including their e-mail communication, phone calls, and in the workplace. Employers have an interest in monitoring productivity, preventing workplace harassment, and may be required to review emails for business reasons. Because of these legitimate reasons, employees generally have no reasonable expectation of privacy in the workplace.

Even though employers may have a legal right to monitor employees, employers should advise employees when and how they are being monitored. This way employees will not feel as if their privacy has been invaded as much, if they have knowledge of the monitoring.