Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Ho Freaking Ho: Surviving The Office Holiday Party (Without Getting Fired)

It's time for your office holiday party. Joy to the world. Too many folks come to me after the holidays and tell me their holiday bonus was a firing due to something they did at the party. Here's how to survive without getting fired.

1. DrinkingThe number one way to get fired is to drink too much. Most of the office party firings I see are alcohol-related in some way. First of all, if you are an alcoholic and can't be sure you won't drink if you attend, then don't go. If your boss insists, ask for a reasonable accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act to be excused from attendance. If you can and do drink, limit yourself to two drinks tops, then switch to soda. I'm serious here. 

2. Dancing: Some folks get fired or disciplined for "inappropriate" dancing. What's inappropriate? It's in the eye of the beholder, and the boss, customers, vendors and your coworkers are the beholders. When in doubt, sit it out. Any moves that imitate sexual conduct (grinding, gyrating, rubbing) are dangerous if colleagues are present. If you're dancing with a colleague, then be very careful. You don't need a sexual harassment complaint in the new year. If the colleague gets too wild, walk away. If it crosses the line into sexual harassment, report it.

3. Driving: A DUI can get you fired. Plus, you'll have a conviction and will never pass another background check, so you'll have trouble getting a new job. If you don't believe me, check out my article 9 Ways A DUI Can Destroy Your Career. If a colleague or friend tells you to hand over your keys because you've had too much, do it and don't question them. There's always Uber or a taxi. It's way cheaper than defending against a DUI/DWI charge and losing your job.

4. Mistletoe: Kiss your spouse or date under the mistletoe, but not a coworker, customer, vendor or, god forbid, your boss. Seriously. And any company that still has mistletoe up at holiday parties is too stupid to work for. Think about polishing your resume if you see some hanging.

5. Romance: After a few drinks, colleagues start to look pretty attractive. Office romances are dangerous. If you have a one-night-stand or party makeout session with a coworker, vendor, customer (or worse, the boss), expect repercussions at work. Sure, many couples meet at work. My parents did. But tread carefully. No means no. If you break up, stay away and don't retaliate. Persistence does not pay in an office relationship. You can get fired for sexual harassment if you pester a coworker for a date. Don't accept the invitation to the colleague's room. If there's a real romance, take it slow and be sure before you take it between the sheets. If you do pursue an office romance, check the company's policies. You might have to fill out a disclosure form, and you'll likely be separated so you no longer work together.

6. Pressure: Don't pressure anyone to attend an office party. They may have religious objections to attending. Maybe their disability prevents them from coming, or they have a spouse with a disability. You don't want to get charged with religious or disability harassment. And don't start the Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays debate. December is for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Winter Solstice, Hogmanay, and National Ding-A-Ling Day, to name a few. All holidays matter, especially in a workplace subject to religious discrimination laws. Don't end up accused of religious harassment for the holidays.

7. Games: Some offices have party games. You may be tempted to be lewd or bawdy. Sure, many folks will laugh and call you the life of the party. But you may ruin the party for someone you offend, like the boss. Avoid making sexual innuendos, telling off-color jokes, or making other comments that may be deemed inappropriate or offensive.

8. Singing: If the office loves karaoke, have fun. Go ahead and let your inner rock star shine. Just avoid songs with curse words, inappropriate lyrics, or offensive undertones. If you're singing with a colleague, avoid anything overtly sexual. Also avoid any sexual gestures while singing.

If you think I was being a party pooper, it wasn't me. It's your boss and HR that are Grinches. I'm just trying to keep you employed so you can have a happy holiday. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Companies Fold As Employees Push Back On Forced Arbitration

First Google had a bunch of employees walk out to protest sexual harassment arbitration, and it rescinded its arbitration policy. Now other companies are following as employees push back. Facebook, Microsoft, Uber, Square, Airbnb and eBay have all rescinded or said they will rescind their forced arbitration agreements for sexual harassment claims.

It isn't just tech firms that are getting pressure from employees. When Harvard law students threatened to boycott law firm Kirkland and Ellis because of mandatory arbitration agreements, the firm quickly did a 180.

Now students at other law schools are joining the fight, and have vowed not to work for law firms that require arbitration of employment law claims. The student statement includes these strong statements against employee arbitration agreements:

Mandatory arbitration agreements prevent employees from seeking justice in court and limit the enforcement of substantive employment rights. Mandatory arbitration forces employees to submit any dispute with their employer to binding, private, and often confidential arbitration—a process which advantages sophisticated, repeat players at the expense of individual claimants.
. . .

Finally, we recognize that mandatory arbitration is a policy that negatively impacts all workers, legal and non-legal, and not merely associates and summer associates. We are committed to including questions about employment practices for all employees in future surveys.
I think it's about time employees push back. Still, I have to wonder how many of these law students will end up going into management-side law practice and forcing employees of their clients to arbitrate, despite their clear knowledge that such agreements are about oppressing workers. 

Now that employees have demonstrated that resistance to arbitration agreements is not futile, I hope unions and other employee groups will take up this fight. And I hope (but seriously doubt) that this new generation of lawyers might actually push their clients to drop forced arbitration of employees.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Dear Newly-Elected Officials: Here Are Some Things You Can Do For Workers In Your State

Congratulations to all you newly elected officials! Guess what? Most of your voters are also workers. And it's the workers who have felt left out by politicians lately, so it's time to do something to help workers in your state. Here are a few suggestions of pro-employee legislation you might want to take up in your state to help working people:
  • State-run retirement plans for private sector: Some states have successfully established state-run retirement plans for private sector workers and required certain employers to auto-enroll their employees in these plans and/or allow their employees to opt in. The funds are then paid like any other 401k from payroll. Where Mitch McConnell is talking about rolling back Social Security, this may be the only way to help your state's future retirees.
  •  Right to see your personnel file: While some states require employers to allow employees to review their personnel files, many states like my home state of Florida do not. It’s a basic right. You should be able to see any disciplines and reviews, and any contracts you signed.
  •  Right to get a reason for termination: Some states require employers to give a reason for termination in writing. This would prevent employers from changing stories later to defame or damage a former employee.
  •  Breaks: While most employees think the law mandates certain breaks, especially for hourly employees, some states have little protection for break time. Florida, for instance, only mandates breaks for minors. That includes bathroom breaks.
  •  Real right to work: Many employees think right to work means noncompete agreements are unenforceable. That is untrue. Many states have limited noncompete agreements, Massachusetts being the most recent. Banning noncompetes against hourly employees, making them void if the employee is fired with no cause, making employers pay half or all salary while on a noncompete, barring employers from surprise sign-or-be-fired noncompetes after the employees starts working, are all measures other states have taken to protect employees.
  • Sexual harassment of interns: Neither state nor federal law protects unpaid interns against sexual harassment because they aren’t employees. This is unconscionable, especially in a state like Florida where many high school students need internships to get the community service that is required to graduate.
  •  Verification of employment: Many states, again like my home state of Florida, do not require employers to verify employment for benefits, unemployment, references or otherwise. This keeps people from applying for government benefits and from getting jobs. Employers should be mandated by law to verify employment in writing within 48 hours from request.

So celebrate your win. Then please do something to help working people in your state.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Majority of States Protect Employees of Small Employers, But Not Florida

We've reached a tipping point where a majority of states now have laws that protect employees of smaller employers. Most federal discrimination laws protect employees only if their employers have 15 employees or more (20 for age discrimination, all employers for Equal Pay Act, 4 - 14 for national origin/citizenship under the The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986). But a majority of states have stepped in and decided to protect their working people even if they work for a smaller employer.

Not Florida, of course (except our age discriminaiton law also requires only 15 employees). Florida remains, and will continue to remain after the election, one of the most anti-employee states in the nation.

Still, it's something to give us hope when even many very red states have protected more employees. A total of 37 states, plus the District of Columbia, now protect employees of small businesses. Here's a breakdown of states and how many employees a business has to have to be covered under anti-discrimination laws:

  • Alaska - all employers
  • Arkansas - 9
  • California - 5
  • Connecticut - 3
  • Delaware - 4
  • D.C. - all employers
  • Georgia - 10 for equal pay, all for age
  • Hawaii - all employers
  • Idaho - 5
  • Indiana - 6, all for age
  • Iowa - 4
  • Kansas - 4
  • Kentucky - 8
  • Maine - all employers
  • Massachusetts - 6
  • Michigan - all employers
  • Minnesota - all employers
  • Mississippi - all employers
  • Montana - all employers
  • New Hampshire - 6
  • New Jersey - all employers
  • New Mexico - 4
  • New York - 4
  • North Dakota - all employers
  • Ohio - 4
  • Oklahoma - all employers
  • Oregon - all employers
  • Pennsylvania - 4
  • Rhode Island - 4
  • South Dakota - all employers
  • Tennessee - 8, for gender wage discrimination all employers
  • Vermont - all employers
  • Virginia - all employers
  • Washington - 8
  • West Virginia - 12, for gender wage discrimination all employers
  • Wisconsin - all employers
  • Wyoming - 2

Even in anti-employee Florida, some counties and municipalities have stepped up to cover smaller employers. In Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Orange, Lee and Pinellas Counties, employers with 5 or more employees are covered by discrimination ordinances.

If 16 states, including even ultra-red Oklahoma, can cover all employees, why won't Florida step up to help its working people? Ask your elected officials.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Pro-Employee States Implement Private Employee Retirement Plans

With Republicans threatening to cut Social Security benefits, retirement savings has become a national issue. Some states (not anti-employee Florida, of course) have tackled this issue by implementing retirement plans for private-sector employees.

The latest state to implement a private-sector retirement plan is Connecticut. They join California, Illinois, Maryland and Oregon in implementing automatic-enrollment IRAs. These are state-facilitated programs that private financial firms administer. Participants are automatically enrolled and pick the percentage of their pay they want to put into the plan from each check. Absent an election, there is a set amount put away.

New Jersey and Washington State have created online marketplaces listing plans administered by private firms that meet minimum standards. 

Massachusetts and Vermont have implemented multiple-employer group 401(k) plans available to eligible employers. In Massachusetts, that means only small nonprofits.

These plans will be lifesavers for the many employees who don't have an employer pension plan. As an example, OregonSaves, the first of these plans, has collected more than $7.6 million in contributions in over 19,000 accounts, a number that increases about $200,000 per week, according to estimates by Oregon’s state treasurer.
Half of private-sector employees have no retirement plan, and many have little or no retirement savings. A third of Americans have less than $5000 saved, 20% have no savings, and a third of baby boomers who are retired or about to retire have zero to $25,000 in retirement savings. We as taxpayers will bear the burden of caring for these retirees, so it makes financial sense for states to step in. 

It's time for states to step in where the federal government is about to fumble badly. Let's make sure working people who retire can live comfortably. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

10 Workplace Rights You Think you Have – But Still Don’t

So I received this email:
Ms. Ballman; 
I happened to come across your article from 2011 regarding 10 Workplace Rights You Think you Have – But Don’t. As both an attorney and a HR/Payroll consultant, your article is either outdated, specific to Florida, or just completely inaccurate. I would urge you to do your research and correct the artcle. If you would be open to discuss the areas of your article that inaccurate, I’d love to provide your details, however, I’m not going to waste my time (or yours) if you don’t care. As it stands, your article provides incorrect information and extreme disservice to employees in general. 
Best Regards,
(name omitted)
First of all, wow, how rude! Is that any way to approach someone you've never met? Yikes! It was so bizarre I thought I was being attacked by a Russian bot or something. Still, I decided to take it seriously. My initial reaction was that a 7-year-old article might well be out of date. So I reviewed it and, sure enough, it's still both accurate and timely. When I asked my emailer for specifics on what they found to be incorrect, their response was, "I’ll just let you look like you don’t know what you are talking  about, since it’s obvious you don’t care." Well, I do care, even though I'm still not sure whether I'm dealing with a Russian bot.

Anyhow, bot or not, I'm posting an updated version.

As an employment lawyer who has represented employees for 32 years, I find that everyone thinks they already know their rights. After years of watching legal dramas and courtroom reality TV, Americans have absorbed lots of legal information. Unfortunately, most of it is wrong. Before you mouth off to your boss about your rights, I thought I'd share with you the top 10 laws most employees think exist- that don't.

1. Wrongful Termination

Most American workers think employers must have a reason to fire you. Surely your employer can’t just be arbitrary and unfair. Surely they can’t just wake up in a bad mood and fire you because they didn’t like your shirt. And there’s the rub. Because, in every state but Montana, your employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at all unless you have a contract saying otherwise. In most states, they don’t even have to give a reason.

But that’s not right, you say. There’s a law against wrongful termination. There must be. Well, there should be, but there isn’t. What we have instead, in 49 states, is at-will employment. At-will employment is that nasty doctrine that says employers can fire at-will, for any reason or for no reason.

Oh, sure, most states recognize some exceptions to the at-will doctrine (my home state of Florida recognizes zero exceptions). Most states find that a termination that is against public policy, such as being fired for refusing to violate a law, reporting a legal violation, doing something in the public interest like jury duty, or exercising a legal right like making a worker’s compensation claim, is unlawful. Another exception a majority of states recognize is an implied contract, which sometimes allows a court to find that a handbook or employer policy is a legal contract. A few states hold that employers owe employees an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, but most let employers be as arbitrary as they want to be.

Other protections employees have in the 49 at-will states are: contracts, whether individual or union, saying they can only be fired for cause; discrimination laws; whistleblower laws; the Family and Medical Leave Act; and state and federal employment laws.

But my point is this: if a majority of Americans think employers must have good cause to fire you, why isn’t there a law? Why haven’t legislators who are supposed to represent workers’ interests passed the number one legal protection employees think they have? Legislatures could pass a law like Montana’s Wrongful Discharge From Employment Act of 1987, which lets employees terminated without good cause sue for up to 4 years of lost wages.

We, as taxpayers, are footing the bill for employers who make arbitrary employment decisions. Why not make employers who fire employees without just cause pay for their arbitrariness? Why not at least penalize arbitrary employers through the unemployment compensation system. Why not lift the maximum rate employers can be charged to these arbitrary employers? Why skew the system to punish employees but not employers?

By continuing to allow arbitrary firings without consequences to employers, we end up forcing the unemployed onto food stamps, welfare, and other taxpayer-supported benefits. And small business owners like me end up paying for these arbitrary employers by having higher unemployment compensation tax rates.

2. Right To See Your File

You probably don't have this right, so don't go stomping into HR and making demands. No federal law requires private employers to allow employees to inspect or copy their own personnel files. Only some states require employers to allow you to look at your file and even fewer require your employer to allow you to copy items in your file. Many times, the only way you'll find out what's in your file is if you sue and you get it with a Request for Production, or if you subpoena it in unemployment or other proceedings.

3. Breaks

No federal law requires employers to offer any work breaks for anything, even meals. Some state laws do require work breaks, but it's not a majority. No federal law even requires bathroom breaks, but it's probably a health issue, so OSHA might protect you if your employer denies bathroom breaks. If you're a nursing mother, you're entitled to an unpaid break to express breast milk. Some states also offer protection for nursing moms taking breaks. Lots of people get fired for insisting on breaks they're not entitled to. Don't do it.

4. Hostile Environment

A hostile environment is not illegal. Workplace harassment is not illegal. Bullying is not illegal in any state except, oddly enough, Tennessee, and that's only for government employees. If you write a long email to HR or your boss complaining that you are being "harassed," or, you're "in a hostile work environment," you aren't protected against retaliation. While harassment due to race, age, sex, national origin, religion, disability, or another legally-protected category is illegal, just plain "harassment" is not. So reporting it that way doesn't protect you against retaliation. When I ask why people didn't report that they were being treated differently than coworkers of a different race, sex, etc. they usually say something like, "I didn't want to go there." Well, if you'd gone there, firing you for your complaint would have been illegal. But firing you for saying you were harassed or bullied: not illegal.

Appropriate remedies may be to discipline or warn the harasser, to move the harasser, under some circumstances to move the victim, to do training, or in extreme cases, to terminate the harasser. But they don’t have to take any action at all. They only have a duty to maintain a safe workplace. You might still have to work with the harasser. Don't say you refuse to work with the harasser. You might be fired for refusing to work. If you return and are retaliated against or continue to be harassed, report it again.  If the employer allows retaliation or continued harassment, that is the time to get an attorney involved.

5. First Amendment In Private Workplaces

Only government employees have free speech protections, and those are very limited. Otherwise, you can be fired in most states for your speech (including political speech) in the workplace or outside the workplace. You can't be fired for speaking on behalf of coworkers in order to improve work conditions or for objecting to something illegal, but be very careful to make sure you're protected before you speak out.

If you're complaining about working conditions, reporting discrimination, objecting to not being paid overtime, or reporting illegal activity, you are likely legally protected in every state. 

In some states, employee speech about politics is protected. In Florida, it's a felony to "discharge or threaten to discharge any employee in his or her service for voting or not voting in any election, state, county, or municipal, for any candidate or measure submitted to a vote of the people." California, Colorado, New York, North Dakota and Louisiana say it's illegal to retaliate against an employee for their off-duty participation in politics or political campaigns. Here in Broward County, it's illegal to fire employees based upon political affiliation. If you work for government, there's the good old First Amendment to protect you. Plus, the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 prohibits political affiliation/activity discrimination against federal employees. 

Speech about religion, women’s (or men’s) rights, and unionization is almost always protected.

Otherwise, you don't have free speech rights at work. Be very sure you have legal protection before speaking out.

6. Privacy At Work

Your boss can read your work e-mails and monitor your Internet usage at work. If your employer is going to listen into or record phone calls, there are some legal restrictions. You also have privacy rights in your medical information. There is no federal law protecting your social security number, but California, Texas and New York do offer limited protection against employers displaying your number.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 specifically says your company can't intercept your emails. The problem is, it has exceptions for consent. That means if your company has a policy on email interception or had you sign an agreement, a handbook, or anything else they managed to slip in front of you agreeing that email at work belongs to them, they skate. The law also says it's legal to monitor your email if the company is the email provider or if they monitor your email in the ordinary course of business, such as for customer service.

In other words, there are so many loopholes that your company probably fits into one. Until the courts say otherwise or Congress tightens this law, it likely doesn't help you.

Some states have a tort called "intrusion on seclusion" or "invasion of privacy." There are some protections against highly offensive conduct that's intrusive. The problem is, you probably won't be able to prove you had any expectation of privacy in your emails or other activities at work.

7. Right To Work

I hear all the time, "But this is a right to work state!" Usually while I'm reviewing a non-compete agreement. Right to work doesn't mean your employer can't restrict your ability to work for competitors after you leave. What it means is they can't make you join a union in order to work there. Some states, but not all, are right to work states. If your supervisor tells you that signing a non-compete agreement is meaningless or that it won't be enforced, they are lying to you.

8. Retaliation

There is no law prohibiting an employer from retaliating against you for reporting or objecting to policy violations, ethical violations, bullying, or the fact that your boss is a jerk. If you do something that puts you in a legally protected category, you may be protected from retaliation. Examples would be objecting to discrimination, making a worker's comp claim, or taking Family and Medical Leave. If you're reporting something illegal the company is doing, you may be a protected whistleblower, but you'd better research the specific whistleblower laws that apply, because there are many hoops to jump through on some whistleblower cases.

If you complained about working conditions on behalf of yourself and coworkers, you may be protected against retaliation under the The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects employees who engage in concerted activity to improve working conditions.

For more about when retaliation may be illegal, check out my post on that topic.

9. Discrimination Because Your Boss Doesn't Like You

If your boss is discriminating against you for being you, that isn't illegal. Favoritism, nepotism, and being obnoxious are generally not illegal. Discrimination based on age, pregnancy, race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, color and genetic information are illegal. In some states, other categories such as sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, and being a domestic violence victim are protected.

10. Suing the Boss

As much as it may be satisfying to sue your ex-boss personally, you probably can't. Federal and many state discrimination laws, Family and Medical Leave Act (in some states the courts disagree on this), and most other employment laws simply don't allow it. One major exception is wage and hour violations. Some state discrimination laws do hold supervisors liable for violations. But what's the point? Unless they're rich, you probably won't be able to collect anyhow.
Well that's wrong. What can I do about it?

Since most people think these laws exist, maybe it's probably high time for them to actually be passed. E-mail your congressperson and state representative now and complain if you don't like the fact that you're not protected. Here's how to find out how to contact your representative in Congress:

Here's a website with contact information for elected officials at the state and federal level:

You do have rights. Among them is the right to vote. If you don't like the law, exercise it and tell your representatives you demand some legal protections. In the meantime, don't get yourself fired by getting your legal advice from television. When in doubt, contact an employment lawyer in your state about your legal rights at work.

Friday, October 12, 2018

No, Your Employer Can't Force You To Quit

People come to me and say, “I was forced to quit.” Huh? How did the employer do that? Gun to head? Torture devices? Kidnapped loved one? Because your employer can’t make you quit. Quitting is entirely, 100%, up to you.

Just because your boss or HR comes to you and says you have to resign, doesn’t mean you should. My usual advice is never, ever submit your resignation, no matter how much they demand it, unless you have another job lined up or the company offers you an incentive to resign that makes it worth your while.

You need to weigh your options carefully before agreeing to resign. Now is the time to negotiate. If they want you gone, let them pay you to go away. Otherwise, make them fire you. You need to consider the upsides and downsides to quitting versus being fired. Here are some things to consider.

Why You Shouldn’t Quit
You haven’t complained about illegal harassment or discrimination that occurred: It may be a bit late in the game, but if you didn’t follow the company’s written policy on reporting harassment based on race, age, sex, religion, national origin, disability, etc. then you may lose potential claims against the employer. Now is the time to put together your formal, written complaint of discrimination and harassment. Submit it to HR as soon after the meeting where they asked you to resign as you can. If you think the resignation request is being pushed by your harasser, say so. Tell them how others of a different race, age, sex, religion, or whatever your protected category is were treated differently. Tell them that those others are not being asked to resign. Ask them to do a prompt investigation. Sometimes, they really don’t know about the discrimination and reporting it might stop the termination process in its tracks.

They aren’t offering anything: If they don’t offer severance or some other monetary incentive, why would you quit? Don’t make it easy on them. If they want you out of there, they should offer something, in writing.

You might lose your right to unemployment benefits: Some unscrupulous employers use the resignation as an excuse to claim you aren’t entitled to unemployment. It could be your word against theirs if you don’t properly document that you were forced to resign.

They want you to sign something right away: If the employer is shoving something in front of you and demanding you sign it, consider that a red flag. They’re trying to trick you. Don’t sign anything you don’t understand or are too distraught to think about clearly. Tell them you need time to think about it. Take it to an employee-side employment lawyer if there’s anything in it you don’t fully understand.

You have claims against the company: If you think you have a discrimination, whistleblower, worker’s compensation retaliation, breach of contract or other claim against the employer, you may have leverage to negotiate a better exit package. Don’t sign a release of claims without fully exploring your options.

You aren’t fooling anyone: Some people think a resignation looks better on a resume. Maybe. But if you resign and are then unemployed for months or years, who do you think you’re fooling? HR people aren’t (mostly) dumb, so they will know something happened that prompted your resignation.

Why You Should Quit

Great severance package: If you are offered a severance package that will tide you over sufficiently when you’re looking for another job, then you might want to take the deal. Make sure you aren’t also signing away your right to work for a competitor, your pension, or something else of value. Take it to a lawyer to be sure.

Won’t challenge unemployment: In most states, the mere promise that you’ll get unemployment without a hassle isn’t much incentive. Unemployment is usually a fraction of what you were making. However, if you think they might have a basis to successfully challenge your unemployment, then you might consider the resignation as long as they make the promise about unemployment in writing.

You have an alternative: If you have a job offer you’ve been considering, have a startup company you want to spend more time on, or think it might be time to retire, then a forced resignation might help you make a smooth transition. Make sure they agree they won’t tell potential employers or customers anything other than that you left to pursue other options.

If your employer is asking you to resign, you have some power. Now is the time to explore your options, talk to a lawyer, call your union rep, and read everything carefully. You may have more leverage to negotiate in this situation than you think.