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Addressing Workplace Rights With Your Employer

Many employees aren't aware of their workplace rights. Worker's rights are governed by labor laws. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) oversees these laws, which cover important areas like workplace safety, employment discrimination, and working conditions. Understanding your rights is crucial for fair treatment on the job. Read on to learn more about these rights and how to address them with your employer.

Your Employee Rights

Depending upon where you live, the kind of job you have, and the size of your employer, worker's rights include the right to:

  • safe work environment, free from undue dangers
  • A degree of privacy in your personal matters
  • Not be discriminated against on grounds of your age, race, national origin, gender, ethnicity, pregnancy, religion, or disability
  • Not to be discriminated against on the basis of marital status, gender identity, or sexual orientation (in some states)
  • Legally specified pay, meaning at least a minimum wage, plus overtime pay for any hours worked over 40 hours a week
  • A workplace environment with no harassment, such as sexual harassment
  • Take time from work to tend to your own illness or that of a family member
  • Take leave following the birth of a child

Important Labor Laws To Know About

Several federal laws protect workers' rights and regulate conditions of employment in the U.S.

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor standards.
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) enables eligible employees to take job-protected, unpaid leave for specified medical and family reasons.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment. It also requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations for employees with a disability.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Act ensures safe and healthy working conditions. It sets and enforces standards and provides training, outreach, education, and assistance.
  • The Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Familiarizing yourself with these key labor laws is essential for protecting your rights in the workplace.

Federal Agencies That Enforce Worker Rights

Several federal agencies play vital roles in enforcing the worker rights listed above.

Additionally, agencies such as the DOL handle matters related to equal pay, human rights, and worker protection. They also oversee regulations concerning minors in the workforce and administer worker's compensation programs to ensure employees receive proper support in case of workplace injuries or illnesses.

1. Talk to Your Employer

The first thing that you should do if you think your workplace rights have been violated is talk to your employer. Many people find that talking to their employer can be a difficult and stressful task. To make things easier, here are a few tips that you can keep in mind when tackling this problem:

  • Be informed about your rights, especially the ones you think have been violated. This will give you confidence going into the meeting. Learn more about state-specific laws on our employment law legal answers page.
  • Keep the facts simple. Treat this meeting with your employer like a business meeting. Write a brief summary of what violation occurred and prepare suggestions for how to resolve the situation.
  • Figure out what to do next. Before you leave your employer's office, decide on the course of action that will come after the meeting.
  • Follow up. Just like with any important meeting, be sure to follow up after your discussion. If you and your employer decide that your manager will investigate the problem, make sure that the investigation actually takes place.

2. Be Sure To Keep Your Own Records

Even if you've presented your employer with all the documents you think are relevant to the workplace rights issue, be sure to keep copies of everything for your own records. Remember to include important details such as the date, time, place, and names of people who took part in the conversation.

You need to be careful that you only retain documents to which you are allowed access. In the past, some workplace discrimination cases have been compromised because the employee copied confidential documents that they were not authorized to reproduce.

If any of your co-workers saw or heard anything relating to your workplace rights situation, ask them to write down what they saw or heard in a signed and dated statement. This could include everything from water-cooler gossip to talk of age discrimination in the company.

3. Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines!

If you have already spoken with your employer and still feel that nothing has been done to address your workplace rights-related concerns, it may be time to consider taking legal action. Be mindful of the deadlines you must meet. For example, every state has unique statutes of limitations for various types of legal actions. These statutes specify the amount of time in which a person may bring a lawsuit of any kind, including lawsuits against an employer. These time periods can range from weeks to years. The time period that applies to your case will depend both on your location as well as the specifics of the claim.

Have an Employment Attorney Evaluate Your Claim

If you believe your rights as an employee have been violated, you may want to consult with an employment law attorney about your situation. The lawyer will be able to help you determine the strength of your legal claim, as well as point out any deadlines that may be approaching. Get a handle on your potential claim today with a legal evaluation.

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Contact a qualified employment attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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