Labor laws are created to ensure a healthy and safe work environment for all workers. The U.S. Department of Labor ensures that employees are entitled to several rights involving minimum wage, discrimination, workplace safety and health, harassment, and benefits and compensation. Without these statutes, workers would be vulnerable to different threats and wrongdoings by their employers.
What are my rights?
Workplace laws have improved dramatically in the last decade. Unfortunately, many employees are still unaware of their rights and obligations. Depending on your location, job type, and the size of your employer, you may be entitled to:
- The right to a safe work environment
- The right to a degree of privacy when it comes to personal matters
- Protection against discrimination on the basis of your race, age, gender, national origin, ethnicity, religion, pregnancy, or disability
- In some states and places, protection against discrimination on the grounds of gender identity, marital status, and sexual orientation
- The right to reasonable hours and compensation. This means at least a minimum wage plus overtime pay. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers must provide nonexempt employees with overtime pay when they exceed 40 hours per workweek. Some states such as Alaska, Nevada, and California require overtime pay for those working more than eight hours per day.
- The right to a harassment-free work environment
- The right to take ample time off work to focus on your own, or a family member’s, illness
- The right to paid maternity leave
Protecting your rights
If you believe your workplace rights have been violated, here are some actions you can do:
Talk to your employer
The first step is to see if you can resolve the issue internally. Have an honest conversation with your immediate supervisor and human resources department about the situation. Most organizations are willing to cooperate and talk to the aggrieved employee directly to avoid legal troubles.
Before speaking with your employer, make sure you know which of your rights were specifically violated. This will boost your confidence and help you craft stronger arguments.
Meetings like this can turn emotional quickly. Stay alert and focused by keeping the facts simple and treating this encounter like a business meeting. Prepare notes, list down possible solutions, and write a clear summary of the violation. ;
Keep personal copies of all documents relevant to your case such as letters, emails, employee handbooks, and company policy statements. Document important conversations that you had involving the situation. If you can’t record them in real time, jot them down after and take particular note of dates, time, places and names of people.
Consider taking legal action
Unfortunately, there are employers who can be truly be unsympathetic about the rights of workers.
If you feel that management has done nothing to address your rights, it may be time to talk to an employment law attorney. Their expertise in class action mediation will help you gauge the strength of your legal claim and identify deadlines that may be approaching. Taking the necessary legal action could lead to significant changes in the workplace and even monetary restitution.
Employee rights are designed to ensure that every worker is treated fairly and has a chance to make a living. As such, they should not be taken lightly. Knowing all about your rights will help you better protect them should the need arise.