All work and little play are a shortcut to work drive and performance drops, but if you throw lack of knowledge about employee rights and responsibilities into the mix, things can get pretty ugly. If you’re a newbie waiting for the employer to fill you in on relevant labor laws and regulations, you may be waiting for a long time. Once you’ve landed your first job, you should take steps to educate yourself about legally guaranteed employee rights so that you’d be able to protect your interests in the workplace. Don’t know how to start your labor law research? Fret not: here are a few basic employee rights you should be aware of if you want to stay on the safe side of the employment contract.
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1. Right to fair wages
The Fair Labor Standards Act adopted in 1938 envisages that all employees have the right to fair compensation for their work. The right to fair wages is guaranteed by laws and regulations such as FLSA amendments (1949-1989) and Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act passed in 2016. In case an employer fails to observe the right to fair wages, the employee has the right to file a suit and initiate court proceedings over breach of law.
2. Right to minimum wage
According to the Fair Minimum Wage Act, employees are entitled to receive at least a minimum wage as compensation for their work. Since 2009, the federal minimum wage has totaled $7.25 per hour, but some states enforce a minimum wage higher than the federal standard. In states such as California, Alaska, Hawaii, Colorado, and Washington where minimum wage exceeds the federal rate, employers have the obligation to pay their employees pursuant to the higher rate.
3. Right to equal pay for both sexes
The 1963 Equal Pay Act made it illegal for employers to pay men and women different wages for similar or the same type of work. Often summarized by the phrase “equal pay for equal work”, the Equal Pay Act protects employees from wage discrimination based on sex, but it does have a few exceptions, such as the cases where the employer sets wages based on seniority or a similar payment system wherein wages are measured by factors outside employee’s sex.
4. Right to workplace safety
According to the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act, all employees are entitled to a safe workplace. This means the employer needs to make sure the work environment is free of toxic substances, excess noise levels, and other common workplace hazards. If the employer fails to identify and eliminate health and safety threats and provide adequate training and equipment, the employee can hire a personal injury lawyer and take the employer to court.
5. Right to discrimination-free workplace
Pursuant to the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other laws including Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, employers must not discriminate against candidates or employees based on race, age, disability, gender identity, religion, nationality, and other categories such as pregnancy and sexual orientation. The law against discrimination at the workplace applies to all companies with 15 and more employees.
6. Right to harassment-free workplace
According to a Cosmopolitan survey, one in three women have experienced sexual harassment at work, which is rather alarming since employers have the legal obligation to protect their staff from sexual harassment as envisaged in the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In this light, the employer is obliged to provide anti-harassment training and encourage staff to report “any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical sexual conduct of a nature that unreasonably interferes with the employee’s ability to do their job, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.” On top of that, employers are also required to investigate and address suspected harassment cases.
7. Right to privacy
One often overlooked the point of the labor law which protects employee’s interests, privacy rights envisage that employees’ personal belongings are exempt from searches without a prior written consent. This means that the employer is not allowed to run background or credit checks behind an employee’s or job candidate’s back. Nevertheless, privacy rights don’t apply for internet and email use on business computers or networks: in such cases, regular checkups are only normal.
8. Right to protection against retaliation
In some cases, the employer may not take legal actions lightly, and they could even take steps to retaliate against an employee who dared speak up against abuse or illegal practices at work. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforced regulations to prevent the employer from retaliating against an employee for testifying about illegal work practices, filing charges or complaints for employer’s actions that are illegal, unhealthy, or violate specific public policies, or for participating in employment discrimination proceedings such as lawsuits or investigations.
Ready to set said across labor waters? Hoist your flag and keep a close watch over your rights at work: after all, if you don’t take legal steps to protect your interests, nobody else will.
My name is Alex Williams. I am a journalism graduate and a rookie blogger trying to find my luck. Blogs are the perfect opportunity for presenting yourself to the wider audience, getting the chance to showcase my expertise and receiving recognition. I am a regular contributor at Bizzmakr Blog | Facebook | Twitter