7 Employment Laws Every Worker Should Know
Every worker in the US knows that federal and state laws protect them from discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, and unsafe working conditions. However, the laws that govern employment vary from state to state and are often rather nuanced.
Generally, employees should know:
- If they are actual employees or independent contractors
- Whether local, state or federal minimum wage laws apply to them, and
- Whether they are an at-will employee
In addition to the above, below you'll find 7 common employment laws that everyone should know.
1. What Is FMLA?
The FMLA is the Family Medical Leave Act. If you work for a qualified employer, and are a qualifying employee, you are legally allowed to take time off to care for a sick family member. The FMLA can protect your job for a limited duration while you are out.
2. Can you be Fired for Going on Strike?
Not only can you not be fired for going on a lawful strike, but engaging in union organization activities can also be considered protected activity. However, strikers beware, impromptu walk outs may not be considered lawful.
3. Legal for Your Boss to Take Your Tips?
For those in the service industry, this question frequently arises. Generally, a boss or employer cannot take an employee's tips. However, an employee's hourly wages can be reduced or offset based upon tips. Additionally, tip pooling among tipped staff is generally okay so long as notice is provided.
4. Is It Legal for Your Boss to Read Your Email?
While this may seem to be an affront to a worker's privacy, an employer can read an employee's work email, and potential even their personal email, if the personal email is used for work purposes and so long as the employer has a compelling reason. Generally, employees provider their employer with consent to monitor their online activities at work when they sign on-boarding/hiring documentation.
5. Can You Be Fired for Taking Legal Drugs?
If legal drugs, such as cigarettes, marijuana, alcohol, and even prescribed medications, are getting in the way of your work performance, or the performance of others, an employer can discipline and even terminate an employee. There are some protections that exist for the disabled under the ADA, but generally, to qualify a disability must be permanent.
6. Can You Be Fired For Refusing to Do Something Illegal
Although employees that are asked to violate the law are often fired when they refuse to comply, those terminations, not surprisingly, violate the law. Barring specific state laws, generally, an employee fired for refusing to follow an illegal direction will be able to sue for wrongful termination in violation of public policy.
7. Are You Legally Required to Take a Lunch Break?
State laws will vary on whether you are required to take a lunch break, however, generally, the law only requires employers provide the break and not compel or incentivize employees to skip their lunch.
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