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EMPLOYEE RIGHTS / FEB. 24, 2015
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Top 10 Workers’ Rights in the Workplace

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A large portion of our time is spent at work, so it is important to ensure that we are working for an employer who abides by all Federal Regulations regarding employment and anti-discrimination laws. FindLaw has created a comprehensive overview of the actual employment and anti-discrimination laws. Every individual deserves to be treated fairly in the workplace in order to have a positive and enriching environment that cultivates career development and productive work. This article will address the top ten workers’ rights in the workplace.

Online Resources for Workers

Workers must completely understand their rights in order to know if they are being violated. There are a variety of resources available online for workers. Two such resources are discussed below.

  • Workplace Fairness is a good resource for workers to learn more about their rights. Additionally, the organization provides lawyers and advocates. They also share information on any changes with regard to discrimination law. Other employment-related resources are also available.
  • Working America is another valuable resource for workers to learn about issues concerning their rights as well as news as released in their press room.

Listing of Workers’ Rights

The top ten workers’ rights range from working in a safe workplace environment to having no discrimination while at work. Those rights are discussed below.

1. Safe Workplace Environment

Every employee should expect that their workplace environment is safe and has no health and safety hazards. If a worker experiences unsafe hazards in the workplace, a complaint can be filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This is a way for an employee to bring such hazardous situations to the attention of the authorities as well as the employer—in a non-threatening or retaliatory manner.

2. Wage Equality

Employers are not required to pay all employees the same pay. The right regarding wages involves paying equal wages to employees who execute similar job tasks with an equal skillset requirement. The workplace environments must also be similar in circumstance.

3. Overtime Wage Equality

Labor laws dictate that employers are required to pay time-and-a-half rate of pay for employees who work additional hours over the regular 40 hours in a week. Workers who are salaried employees are not eligible for overtime pay.

4. No Discrimination in the Workplace

Employers are not permitted to discriminate against employees regarding hiring, firing, wages or promotions based upon the following factors:

  • Gender
  • Pregnancy
  • Religion
  • Race, Ethnicity or National origin
  • Age (Labor laws protect individuals aged 40 and older)
  • Disability (Labor laws dictate that an employer is responsible to reasonably accommodate an individual with a disability to do his or her job)
  • Immigrant Status (Labor laws require that employers cannot refuse to hire an individual because of a perceived accent or that the individual was born in another country. However, every employer is required to authenticate each employee’s citizenship status.)

5. No Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment of any kind is illegal and workers are protected against this in the workplace. Being forced to participate in sexual favors for job security or in order to receive a promotion is considered sexual harassment. Additionally, being subjected to extremely pervasive comments in the workplace which creates a hostile environment is also considered as sexual harassment.

6. Medical and Family Leave

Labor laws permit employees to have up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave—and job protection—regarding the birth of a baby, adopting a child, caring for an extremely ill family member, and also recovering from an illness you have. Labor laws dictate that the employee must have worked for a year or at least 1,250 hours for the same employer (who has more than 50 employees).

7. Joining a Union

All employees have a right to either join or support a union to assist in the negotiation of various employment contracts with the employer. An employer cannot intimidate you nor interfere with your decision to join a union. Each individual employee has the right to decide whether or not to be represented by a union.

8. Unemployment Benefits

Labor laws provide for employees to receive unemployment benefits as long as they have been working and currently meet specific requirements from their state of residence as well as the federal government.

9. Free from Retaliation

Employees have the right to be free from retaliation when they file a claim against their employer for a violation of one of their rights. Being free from retaliation is also considered as “whistleblower” rights.

10. Stand Up for Themselves

Employees have the right to be free to stand up for themselves when they feel that any of their rights are being violated—or if they feel a need to respectfully express themselves to their employer. Fear of punishment or retaliation should never deter an employee from speaking up during such a situation. Agencies like OSHA and other government entities need to stand up for employees who are experiencing any type of violation of rights.

In order for an employee to stand up against any violation of rights, he or she must first know what their rights are as explained in this article. Have you ever experienced any violation of your rights as a worker in the workplace?

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