Memphis Tennessee Employment Lawyer

Memphis Employment Discrimination Lawyer

If you were the victim of job discrimination, harassment or you need representation in litigation of an employment agreement, James Becker offers proven advocacy.  I represent employees in the Memphis Metro area, Shelby County and West Tennessee.  I offer a confidential consultation at 901.881.6205.

Employment Law, Employee - An Overview

Memphis employment law attorney James Becker has helped hundreds of clients win damages for employment discrimination on the basis of age, race, disability, gender or other protected class, as well as workplace harassment, sexual harassment or illegal termination. Contact our Memphis office to discuss your case.

Employment law covers the relationships between an employer and its current, prospective and former employees. Both federal and state laws control various aspects of the employer-employee relationship, including each side's rights and obligations. Because of the complexity of the employment relationship, this area of law is constantly evolving and involves issues as diverse as discrimination, harassment, record keeping and workplace safety.

There are also different types of employment relationships. Employment relationships can be based on a contract, or they can be "at-will."  There are also employment relationships that are governed by a labor union's collective bargaining agreement or a memorandum of understanding.  If the employment relationship is based on a valid contract entered into by the employer and the employee, the terms of that contract will govern the relationship.  This usually includes such things as pay and when and how the relationship can be terminated.  By contrast, an at-will employment arrangement can be terminated at any time, with or without reason, by either the employer (as long as the reason does not constitute illegal discrimination) or the employee.  This also typically means that the employer is free to change an employee's wages going forward, but not for work that has already been done.

With all these factors to consider, it is clear why employment law is such a complex area.

If you have an employment law concern, contact James Becker in Memphis, TN, who can provide sound advice and skilled representation in a range of workplace-related matters.

Federal Regulations on Employment Relationships

Numerous federal laws apply to employment nationwide. Some laws affect only employers over a certain size, while others have different restrictions. The following is a quick summary of the major federal employment laws:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended:

  • Applies only to employers with 15 or more employees
  • Prohibits employers from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin in the "terms or conditions" of an individual's employment
  • Prohibits employers from harassing individuals based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.  This includes sexual harassment

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):

  • Applies only to employers with 15 or more employees
  • Defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
  • Is designed to prohibit discrimination against workers with disabilities
  • Provides that if an individual with a disability can perform the essential functions of the job, with reasonable accommodation, that person cannot be discriminated against on the basis of the disability

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA):

  • Applies only to employers with 20 or more employees
  • Applies only to employees who are 40 years old or older
  • Prevents employers from giving preferential treatment to younger workers to the exclusion of older workers when it comes to hiring, pay, benefits such as health insurance, job assignments and promotions
  • Does not prevent an employer from favoring older employees over younger employees

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA):

  • Applies to businesses that gross $500,000 or more per year and to other specific types of businesses
  • Provides that qualified employees who work more than 40 hours in a week should receive time-and-a-half pay for the overtime
  • Does not provide regulation as to the number and duration of breaks an employer must allow, but individual states may do so
  • Specifies minimum wage requirements

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA):

  • Applies only to employers with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the workplace
  • Applies only to employees who have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours in the year preceding the leave
  • Provides that employers must allow employees to take up to a 12-week unpaid leave of absence for qualified family and medical reasons
  • Preserves qualified employees' positions for the duration of the leave and provides employees with a right to be reinstated to their former position upon return from leave
  • Employees generally cannot be punished or demoted for taking valid FMLA leave

Employee Rights in the Workplace

All employees have basic rights in the workplace. Those rights include freedom from illegal discrimination. In addition to federal law, many states have enacted laws to protect the rights of workers. A job applicant also has certain rights even prior to being hired as an employee. Those rights include the right to be free from discrimination based on age, gender, race, national origin, disability or religion during the hiring process.  In most instances an employer cannot ask for an employee's health information during a job interview.

In some states, employees have a right to privacy in the workplace. This right to privacy can include one's personal possessions, including handbags or briefcases, and storage lockers accessible only by employees.  Employees also may have a right to privacy in their personal telephone conversations. Employees have very little privacy or right to privacy, however, in their messages on company e-mail and their Internet usage on the employer's computer system.  In each instance a baseline for determining an employee's privacy rights are the policies of the employer.

There are certain pieces of information that an employer may not seek out concerning a potential applicant or an employee. An employer may not conduct a credit or background check of an employee or a prospective employee unless the employer notifies the employee or applicant in writing that it intends to do so and receives authorization to do so.

In addition, most private employers may not require an employee or a prospective employee to submit to a polygraph (lie-detector test). There are very narrow exceptions to this rule if the employee is suspected of being involved in an incident that caused economic loss or injury to the employer or if the employee is being considered to drive an armored car, work for a security company, work with controlled substances or work in national security.


Employees have a variety of rights in the workplace, through both federal and state law. Employers, however, also have rights and protections under the law.  It is important for both employers and employees to be aware of their legal rights and the duties they owe to each other.

If you are an employee and you feel your rights have been violated by your employer, get in touch with an experienced employment law attorney at Becker Law Firm in Memphis, TN, to ensure that your rights are protected.

Copyright ©2011, James R. Becker, Jr.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

Attorney James Becker


Contact James Becker

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Becker Law Firm • 5100 Poplar Ave Ste 2606 • Memphis, TN 38137 • Phone: 901.881.6205
Becker Law Office of Memphis, Tennessee represents clients in the Metro Area and West Tennessee, including Cordova, Germantown, Collierville, Lakeland, Millington, Somerville, Covington, Paris, Nashville, Savannah, Jackson, Union City, Dyersburg, McKenzie and all communities of Shelby County, Fayette County and Tipton County.
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