Be Aware of Your Rights as an Employee

Be Aware of Your Rights as an Employee


EmployeeAll employees have basic rights in the workplace, including the right to privacy, fair compensation, and freedom from discrimination.

A job applicant has assured protections before being hired. Those include the right to be free from discrimination based on age, gender, race, natural origin, or religion during the hiring process. Moreover, a prospective employer cannot ask family-related questions during any hiring stage.

There is some information that an employer may not pursue concerning an applicant or employee. They may not access a credit or background check unless the employer informs the individual in writing and obtains their approval.

In most states, employees have a right to privacy while at work. This includes:

  • Personal possessions including purses or brief cases;
  • Storage lockers assigned for the exclusive use of the employee;
  • Correspondence that is addressed solely to the employee.

Protection Against Racial Discrimination and Harassment

Many different kinds of treatment that are racially based may be considered torment if the behavior is unwanted and if it is severe or inescapable. However, the courts have refused to adopt an agreed upon workplace code of conduct or behavior that would make it easier to identify racial harassment immediately.

Unless the conduct is unwelcome or severe, the legal system will not consider the actions to be inappropriate.

Since every conflict is different, there is no single response when to comes to dealing with racial issues.

Discrimination Still Serious Problem in the Workplace

Gender and race discrimination in the workplace continue to be serious problems today.

The ADEA (The Age Discrimination in Employment Act) protects workers from age discrimination in every stage of the employment relationship, including job advertisements, interviewing, hiring, compensation, promotion, discipline, job evaluations, demotion, training, job assignments, and termination.

ADEA forbids practices and policies that are seemingly neutral but have a disproportionately negative effect on older workers, as well as those that decidedly treat older employees different from the younger. Age discrimination rules vary from state-to-state.

The minimum wage applies to probationary periods, minors, and training attendance. The federal minimum wage for covered nonexempt employees is $7.25 an hour and has not changed since 2009. There are bills in Congress proposing increases for the minimum.

Furthermore, each state has a set minimum wage but some counties within the state have different wage requirements. For example, in Illinois, it is $8.25, and in Chicago, it is $10.50 per hour with a $0.50 raise every July 1 through 2019.

If both state and federal minimum wage laws apply, the employer must pay the larger wage.

Overtime pay is a frustrating subject for workers. Many do not know whether or not they are qualified for overtime. Additionally, they do not know what they must do if the employer is not paying them correctly for the extra hours.

A quick overview of employee rights:

  • A person cannot be fired without a justifiable reason;
  • There must a be good reason to fire a person over the age of 40;
  • Employers can be sued if a boss makes remarks that are considered discriminatory;
  • If your boss is impossible to work with and bullies the employees, a “hostile work environment” complaint may be filed;
  • Workers age 14-17 must have a 30-minute break if they work five or more consecutive hours;
  • Employees have the right to know about benefits, policies, and procedures;
  • Everyone in the workplace has the right to ask questions.

Understanding one’s rights is important, as is knowing how and where to seek answers that apply on both federal and state levels.

Written by Tynesia Cabil
Edited by Cathy Milne


FindLaw: Employees Rights 101
Workplace Fairness: Your Rights
HG Legal Resources: Employee Rights

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Jesus Corvius’ Flickr Page- Creative Commons License