When an employee is suspended at work, it is typically because of a disciplinary measure taken by an employer that involves temporarily barring an employee from performing his or her job duties. While there may be a number of reasons for a job suspension, it is often due to an investigation into some type of misconduct.
When an employee has been suspended, sometimes, the question arises as to whether or not an employer can let other employees know about it. In this article, we will look into what a suspension is, whether it is legal for an employer to tell other employees about a suspension and in what circumstances an employee may be able to file a lawsuit against their employer.
Can Your Boss Tell Other Workers About Your Suspension?
The quick answer to this question is: Yes. Your employer can inform other employees about your suspension. However, it is also important that you know this is not cut and dry. Employers have a responsibility to maintain a duty of trust and confidence with their employees - whether or not an employee is facing disciplinary action. So, employers should exercise care and caution when they are communicating details of an employee's suspension or any other personnel matter to others.
Because an employer has this duty of trust and confidence to their employees, employers must handle an employee's suspension with caution to avoid any automatic suggestion of guilt. An employer may announce and employee's suspension. However, if they circulate false or negative information that could harm an employee's name and/or reputation, that could constitute defamation. Even if an employer's intention is to maintain transparency in the workplace, they must take great care to ensure that such a move does not cause emotional distress or harm to their reputation.
Common Reasons for Suspensions
Here are some of the common reasons why employers may suspend an employee from their job:
- The employee may be under investigation for some type of misconduct or for violating a company policy.
- When employers determine that an employee is a safety threat to others and to themselves.
- When an employee is not meeting professional standards set forth by the employer.
- If an employee is arrested or is facing criminal charges, he or she may be suspended from work until the legal issues are resolved
The length or type of suspension of disciplinary action an employer takes against an employee may depend on the type and severity of the violation or issue. You can read examples of wrongful termination here.
What is Considered Unlawful?
It is against the law for employers to discuss or divulge an employee's medical information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 or HIPAA specifically prohibits such disclosures. Employee records relating to health insurance coverage, workers' compensation matters and documents relating to workplace accommodations and Family and Medical Leave Act absences must be safeguarded.
HIPAA law mandates the designation of a privacy officer in the company who has sole access to employee health records. When an employer shares information relating to the employee's medical records, disability, or history - whether that is in the context of a suspension or not - it could result in possible penalties and fines for the employer under HIPAA and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
When is a Suspension Wrongful?
While employers have the right to suspend employees for misconduct and violation of company policy, it is unlawful to suspend employees as a form of discrimination or retaliation. Under federal or California laws, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against employees based on protected characteristics such as race, religion, gender, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, etc. For example, if an employer suspends an employee for wearing an item of religious significance such as a headscarf or a turban or for wearing a beard, that could be considered unlawful.
It is also illegal for employers to use suspension as a tool to retaliate against an employee who files a complaint against the employer to a state or federal regulatory body. For example, if an employee files a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) saying the employer discriminated against them based on their age, it is illegal for an employer to suspend an employee in retaliation. Similarly, it is unlawful for employers to suspend employees for filing a workers' compensation claim after a workplace accident.
Contacting an Experienced California Employment Lawyer
If your employer has illegally divulged details about your suspension to other employees or other parties, or if you believe you have been wrongfully suspended, it is important that you seek the counsel of an experienced California employment lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney can help evaluate your case and help protect your rights. Call Kingsley & Kingsley Lawyers for a free consultation and case evaluation.