How to Understand Your Rights as an Employee
These are the basic legal rights that every employee should know and understand.
There's nothing like the feeling of starting out in a brand-new career. But as you sign on the dotted line and learn the ropes at your new job, are you aware of your rights as an employee? Knowing what they are is the best way to ensure they stay protected. Here’s how you can understand your rights as an employee.
Who establishes employee rights?
Federal law enacted and enforced by the US Department of Labor set out the rights of both employees and employers. Whether you're a doctor, a line cook, or a quality control inspector, your rights are defined by the National Labor Relations Act and a number of other laws.
The US Department of Labor has special laws in place particularly to protect people with disabilities, veterans, women, and minorities—all groups who have been discriminated against at times in the past.
What are some of my most important rights?
- Join a union. Employees have the right to form or join a union. Unions exist to present a united front to employers in negotiating hours, benefits, and wages on behalf of members. Under the law, your employer is not allowed to threaten or obstruct you in joining a union, or fire or demote you for doing so. A union is not allowed to threaten or harm you for not joining, either.
- Be free of discrimination. As an employee, you also have the right to not to be discriminated against or to have anything used to make decisions about whether you are hired, fired, promoted, or demoted other than your work record. This means an employer cannot act either for or against you on the basis of your sex, race, religion, disability, or even genetic information.
- Get equal pay. Another important right you have as an employee is the right to get equal pay for equal work. Although this problem is most often seen when women are paid less than men, it can technically happen anywhere and to anyone. What's important in considering whether a person is being fairly paid is not if they have the same job title as someone else in the company, but if their work consists of the same duties.
What kinds of things are employers prohibited from doing?
Employers may not recruit and advertise for jobs in a way that shows preference for a particular kind of person (e.g. one sex or race or age). So, for example, an advertisement cannot seek "men only." It would also be illegal for a company to recruit only by word of mouth through a particular community.
Additionally, employers may not test for things that are unrelated to the job they are advertising for. Any tests for hiring or for promotion decisions have to be accessible to anyone, and the employer must be able to show that the test is necessary.
Employers must make reasonable efforts to accommodate your religious practices or your needs if you have a disability. If making these accommodations would cost too much or create a great inconvenience to the workplace, however, then the employer is not obligated to make that accommodation.
What should I do to defend my rights?
The most important thing to do if you believe your rights are being threatened is to consult with experts who can help you defend them. The legal experts at Avrek Law Firm will be able to help you fully understand your rights, file a discrimination claim, negotiate with an employer, or even take a case to court as necessary.
Having a job is a wonderful thing, and knowing your rights as an employee is an important step to a wonderful and fulfilling career.