Category Archives: Employee Rights

New Law For Michigan Teachers


LANSING, Mich. — Changes to the state’s teacher tenure system that supporters say will make it easier to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom has been signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Supporters say the legislation signed Tuesday makes teacher performance rather than seniority the key factor in awarding tenure and deciding layoffs within a district.

Democrats say the proposals are part of a continued legislative attack on teachers and union rights and won’t improve the state’s schools.

Snyder Says Teacher Tenure Must Be Tougher To Achieve

New standards for evaluating teachers and administrators are to be drawn up by a still-to-be-appointed commission and put in place by September 2012.

Republican lawmakers are working on additional legislation that would require many teachers and other public employees to pay a larger share of their own health insurance costs.

 If you have questions about your employment rights contact Bill Godfrey at (248) 624-5500

Ambrose Law Group

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The Bong-Fog Surrounding Medical Marijuana and Employment

Many federal, state and local laws concerning the legal use of marijuana are in direct opposition to one another.  Caughtmedical marijuana in the middle are people needing relief from pain and well-meaning employers who want to do the right thing.  A central issue has been whether workers’ comp should cover the cost of medically prescribed marijuana in the 14 states that have legalized it, plus the District of Columbia.  Another issue is whether employees can have any traces of marijuana in their system when at work.

Some of the questions both Human Resource Directors and employees who legally use marijuana have are:
  • Are medical marijuana users exempt from my anti-drug policies?
  • Can I fire or refuse to hire an employee for using medical marijuana?
  • Would I be breaching federal contracts if I don’t enforce a no-drug policy?
  • How will medical marijuana use impact an employer’s mandatory drug testing?
  • Should an employee even inform an employer of their legal marijuana use?

In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employers can refuse to accept medical marijuana as a reasonable explanation of a positive drug test. In 2005, the Court ruled that the federal government may enforce the Controlled Substances Act’s prohibition on marijuana use for medical purposes, even on those who use the drug under state laws.

Because Federal Law still categorizes marijuana illegal for any purpose, the American’s With Disabilities Act – which is a federal statute – provides no protection.  Alternatively, the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act says a person “shall not be subject to disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board of bureau” for using marijuana in accordance with the act. But, it also says the law doesn’t require an employer to accommodate the ingestion of the drugs in the workplace or an employee working while under the influence.

Many argue the real question is:  does an employer in the state of Michigan have a requirement to permit an employee to use medical marijuana outside the workplace and then come into the workplace with some levels of marijuana in their system?  Utilizing the bright-lined rule for the Michigan Marijuana Act the answer is YES, employers must permit this scenario not only because they are not allowed to take a disciplinary action against a person legally medicating; but, also because the affect of not permitting it would only allow Patients who are unemployed to use regularly to alleviate their medical condition or symptom.

This is NOT the intent of the law.  The intent is that Patients are able to use marijuana to treat their medical condition without fear of any sanction.

That being said, the law doesn’t require an employer to accommodate the ingestion of the drug in the workplace or an employee working while under the influence.  So, what is under the influence?  There is no legal standard for measuring marijuana impairment and the issue can become murky, said Melanie Brim, director of the Bureau of Health Professions within the Michigan Department of Community Health.

For more answers to frequently asked medical marijuana questions click here

Do you think employers should be able to fire employees for havIing any traces of marijuana in their system?

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Jury To Decide Damages for Firing Woman Who Refused to Wear the “Marks of the Beast”…

This one is pretty out there… but apparently a NY federal court has found in favor of a female employee of the city, in a religious descrimination suit.  The woman claims she was fired from her job at a a public school because she objected to wearing an ID badge because it contained the “marks of the beast”.  The woman sued for $7.7 million… a jury will determine a damage award in the case soon.  Read a full version here

But really, if you or anyone you know is facing harassment or discrimination at work, it is probably worth your time to discuss the issue with an attorney.  Initial consultations are free of charge.

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Battle of the Sexes… Money!: Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA)

Over the years the equal treatment of men and women in the workplace has been a huge topic of debate. Women have fought for equal pay for equal work but in many cases, they have just come up short. However, now that midterm elections are creeping up on us, this debate is becoming a larger issue.

After it passed the house last year, the U.S. senate has been booming with talk about the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA). This bill will allow, along with many other things, it to be easier for women who allege discrimination to file class actions against their employers. Also, it would remove any caps that were on punitive damages under the Equal Pay Act. Right now, the debate is very much political with the Democrats being for the Act and republicans against it.

There are many statistics that prove that women, in most professions and careers do, on average, make less than men do. If this act is put into place, this would no longer be such a large issue and women would finally get the protection that they have been fighting for, for so many years. However, on the negative side, many lawyers and businesses are against the act stating that it would open the door to many law suits and demands for women in their field.

If you have a question about your employment please call Bill Godfrey at (248) 624-5500 or email him at

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Almost 10% of Women Feel Harassment At Work, Less Than Half Feel Safe to Report It

A new study done in the UK by Reabur, an HR consultant group, finds that nearly 1 out of every 10 female employees reported feeling sexually harassed while at work.  Of these, only 44%, less than half of those reporting harassment, responded that they did anything about the situation. 

Of the women who responded that they had not reported the harassment to the proper department or manager, 1/3 said they feared that they would face future problems and it would affect their career development with the company.  Another 21% did not believe that any report they made would be taken seriously.

Of the 1,496 women responding to the pole, 21% reported male colleagues had made sexist remarks in their workplace, and 39% reported that they wanted to file a formal complaint in response.  2% of respondents reported being the victim of inappropriate touching, but only 14% of these reported telling anyone about the incident.  The biggest fear for not reporting was being perceived as overreacting to the situation.

Pretty disappointing results, really… but it makes one point very clear, female employees still don’t feel comfortable dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace.  If you have been or are now facing harassment or discrimination in the workplace, you should know what your rights are, and what recourse you have to correct the problems.  While a lawsuit is not always appropriate or necessary, speaking with an attorney is one way to find out what you can or should do. A first consultation with an attorney who specializes in harassment and workplace law is totally free, and even better, no one at work will ever find out…

If you have concerns about your treatment at work, please call Ambrose Law Group at

248-624-5500 for your free consulation.

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Felony Conviction? But Still Need a Job?

Detroit may remove questions about felonies from city job applications.  A plan aimed at giving felons a second chance by making it easier for them to get jobs with the City of Detroit passed a key committee yesterday and is headed for a public hearing before a final vote.

Read the full story here

What are your thoughts on this?

Ambrose Law Group

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Fired For No Good Reason?

A little while back I wrote about a waitress getting fired because Hooters decided she was too heavy to work there… part of that discussion involved a mention of “at-will” as opposed to “just cause”  employment. Here is a VERY short primer as to what these terms mean, and how the laws apply to your everyday work environment.

To start with, and in the bluntest of terms, Michigan recognizes “at-will”employment, which means that you can be fired at any time, for any reason, and even for no reason at all.  Wow. Talk about no job security, right? It’s a pretty scary situation, but it is the reality for more types of employment than many people realize.  But the simple rule is just that… employment at the will (or even whim) of the employer…

Of course, this doesn’t make it alright to violate an employee’s civil rights… so no termination or harassment due to age, weight, gender, marital status or other discrimination.  Yes, in Michigan, weight is included as a protected class.

There is, of course, another status level for employees, called “just cause” employee. Essentially, this means that you can only be terminated for a good reason, like not doing your job well, violating company policies, and so forth.

However, if an employee, who would normally be considered “at-will”, can show that she reasonably believed that the company or employer had a “just cause” termination policy, then the employee may be able to argue for “just cause” employment status with a court, and potentially win a wrongful termination lawsuit.   This is true whether the employee’s belief is based on an express agreement, oral or written, or is the result of an employee’s legitimate expectations grounded in an employer’s policy statements. An employee’s legitimate expectations may be based on an employer’s written policy statements or statements contained in an employee manual. Sounds like a good reason to actually read that employee manual now, doesn’t it?

If you have any questions about this or other employment or discrimination based legal questions, do not hesitate to contact

Ambrose Law Group

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Our Voice: Firing The Hot Chick

In a truly unexpected counterpoint to my previous post on the discrimination suit against Hooters for firing an employee for being overweight, I recently found a story of a NYC based investment banker who claims she was discriminated against because she is too attractive. Seems like maybe women just can’t win in this misogynistic working culture.

The New York Post picked up on the story in June, and the woman told the paper that she had been reprimanded and informed that “she must refrain from wearing certain items of clothing, in particular, turtleneck tops, pencil skirts, fitted business suits, or other properly tailored clothing”. The fired woman’s lawsuit claimed that “in blatantly discriminatory fashion, plaintiff was advised that as a result of the shape of her figure, such clothes were purportedly ‘too distracting’ for her male colleagues and supervisors to bear.” When the fired woman responded that other women wore the same types of clothing, and some even dressed more revealingly, she was told by her supervisors that the other women weren’t at issue “as their general unattractiveness rendered moot their sartorial choices, unlike plaintiff”.

Truly odd, no? So, are you dying to see this poor discriminated against hottie?  What are your thoughts or initial reactions? If Hooters can fire a woman for being too fat, can a bank fire someone for being too attractive? Is this the same concept?  If you read the previous post  you will recall that Hooters was basing its defense of the firing on a section of the civil rights law which states that a company can fire an employee for being too overweight if being in shape is a “bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business or enterprise”.  So, can the bank claim that not being very attractive is a bona fide occupational qualification?  I’m not sure that logic flies at all. I will be interested to follow this case and see what develops.  Or, maybe the banker should go work at Hooter’s, and the now hooter-less former waitress can go into banking… and the world will be right again…

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Firing The Fat Chick: The Hooters Waitress Case Study

This past May, I recall hearing about a controversial firing or suspension of a waitress at a Hooters here in Michigan because she was overweight.  I didn’t think too much about it at the time, to tell you the truth, but this past weekend I found myself in a discussion with some friends and the subject came up randomly.

I was shocked to hear from my so called educated friends that they felt like it was perfectly ok for Hooters, or any establishment which leverages the “looks”  of its employees in its business model, to summarily fire any employee who took the job knowing the rules of the job.  I did some more research, and found that in an informal online survey by CBS News that nearly equal numbers of respondents felt that firing the woman in question was ok, or that the firing was a clear case of discrimination.

With a little more thought, the controversy does make some sense. The Michigan Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act formalizes the idea that in Michigan at least, the opportunity to work free from discrimination based on weight is a civil right.  So, on the one side, the issue seems pretty cut and dry, no matter the employee’s status as at will or not (and that is a whole different subject that won’t be addressed here, suffice to say that “at will” means you can be fired on the spot for any legal reason…) an employer cannot legally fire someone for being overweight.

However, there is more to the story.  The law also says that if an employer can show “a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business or enterprise” that the employer can fire an employee for being too overweight to perform the necessary job function.  In the Hooter’s case, the restaurant will have to show that having their waitstaff in very good, one might say attractive or sexually appealing, physical condition is a reasonably necessary requirement for their business.  Interesting question, right?  Why do people go to Hooter’s in particular?  Are the wings that good? Or is it for the, well… hooters…


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Joseph Casias of Battle Creek, who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes, is suing Wal- Mart for firing him after he injured himself at work, received treatment and tested positive for marijuana during a drug test. Read our previous post on this story here

At the recommendation of his oncologist, Casias applied with the state so he could legally use marijuana. In June 2009, he received his card from the Michigan Department of Community Health.

A lawsuit was filed in Calhoun County Circuit Court this week by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in partnership with a law firm, on behalf of Casias, 30, who has an inoperable brain tumor and is in remission for sinus cancer, and uses marijuana to alleviate his pain.

According to the lawsuit, the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, “protects employees from being disciplined for their use of medical marihuana” in accordance with the law. Dan Korobkin, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Michigan, said that Casias only uses the drug at night and never used it at work or came to work under the influence.

Though Casias showed a store manager his card indicating he could legally use marijuana under state law, he was ultimately fired for testing positive for the drug, the lawsuit says. Wal- Mart released a statement Tuesday calling the situation “unfortunate” and stating that they are “sympathetic” to Mr. Casias’ condition”.

There is nothing about Wal-Mart that is sympathetic. But, the company is right, this is an unfortunate situation. Joseph Casis had to fight sinus cancer and now is currently fighting for his life due to an inoperable brain tumor. Now he has to add Wal-Mart to that list, and fight for his legal right to use medical marijuana. Wal-Mart should be ashamed.

If you have been charged with a marijuana offense or need information on becoming medical marijuana patient or caregiver contact: or call (248) 624-5500

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