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Know Your Rights as a Worker: A Guide to Employee Rights in the Work Place

There are many laws that help employees work in a safe, non-discriminatory environment. That includes laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, sex, color or national origin. 

Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. While these laws are in place to help protect employees, that doesn’t mean every business abides by the law. 

Especially if you’re not aware of what employee rights in the workplace you have. It’s important to know your rights and how to protect them.

If you feel you’re rights are violated, keep reading. We’re sharing with you our guide to employee rights. 

Employee Rights in the Workplace Include Safe Conditions

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 entitles all employees to a safe workplace. This law protects employees in both the private sector and the federal government.

Your employee rights and responsibilities means you have a right to speak up about unsafe conditions without fearing retaliation. And it means you need to contact OSHA to request an inspection if you see unsafe working conditions. 

You Have a Right to Fair Wages

Your employee rights include earning a fair wage for the work you do. That includes being compensated adequately for extra hours worked.

The Fair Pay Legislation includes several laws including the Equal Pay Act of 1963. This law states you cannot earn less money based solely on your gender. 

Minimum wage is currently a hotly debated topic. In New York, the minimum wage recently rose to $15 per hour. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. It hasn’t risen since 2009.

Know your rights and responsibilities regarding how much you’re paid. You deserve every cent you earn. If you aren’t, contacting employee rights lawyers can help you determine what your next steps are. 

You Have a Right to Not Be Discriminated Against

Not being discriminated against is one of your biggest workplace rights. We’ve mentioned a few above such as the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and the Civil Rights Act, but there are a few discriminations you may not be aware of. 

Harassment is a form of discrimination. And it’s not always easy to prove. Attorneys such as the ones found at JYA Law can help you determine if you’re being harassed at work and how to handle it. 

But there are still more forms of discrimination. You shouldn’t face discrimination in the workplace for being religiously affiliated, pregnant or a parent. 

Your Rights Concerning Hiring and Firing

The first thing you need to understand about working in the private sector is that most employees are hired at will. That means it’s perfectly legal to fire an employee for any reason (or even no reason), as long as it’s not for discriminatory reasons. 

If you think you’re on the verge of being fired, read up on your legal rights before you’re given your pink slip. But realize that if you violated company policy, failed a drug test or broke the law, it’s legal to terminate you. 

However, if you are fired, find out if you’re eligible for unemployment benefits. This only pertains to those who aren’t at fault for losing their jobs. 

Military Leave

Also, if you’re called to report for active duty in the military, you are entitled to return to your position for up to five years after you return to civilian life. You’re also allowed to continue your group health benefits for up to 24 months during your leave. 

However, this law does not entitle you to receive a paycheck from your employer while you’re on active duty. 

What You Need to Know About Labor Laws

There are a lot of labor laws. Let’s go over each one so you have a basic understanding of how they affect the workplace environment. 

The Fair Credit Reporting Act means an employer can run a background check. There’s also the Background Check Law that regulates how employers can use that information during their recruitment process.

Know what your employee rights to privacy are before you give the go-ahead to having a background check performed. 

Health and Retirement Rights

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act ensures you have rights when it comes to health and retirement plans. The Family and Medical Leave Act provides employees with 12 workweeks of unpaid leave for each 12-month period. 

However, the employee must work for their employer for at least 12 months and a minimum of 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to qualifying. If you do qualify your job is safe for the entire duration of your leave. 

And if you leave your work, COBRA entitles workers the right to continue with their health insurance coverage for a period of time. 

Nursing Moms Have Rights

If you’re a nursing mother, the Affordable Care Act ensures you have the right to a private room and the time to nurse and express milk.

Rights for Foreign Nationals

Even foreign nationals have employee rights. There are specific rules about work permits and wages for foreign national working in the US as stated by the Immigration and Nationality Act. 

There are also specific work visa’s foreign nationals must obtain in order to work legally in the US. What type of visa depends on the type of employment.  

Employees Rights to Privacy

There are no laws regulating your right to privacy when it comes to employers sharing information. While many employers created their own policies about not giving away information such as whether an employee was fired for cause, that doesn’t mean it’s always enforced. 


You have the right to organize and form a union at work. The Wagner Act of 1935 and the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 protects your rights and also regulates how unions can operate. 

Lesser Known Laws You Need to Know About

There are laws regarding whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor. Some of the differences are minor, but important since it impacts both your earnings and your taxes. 

Overtime Pay

Getting paid for overtime is great, but not everyone is entitled to it. If you’re an exempt employee, no matter how many hours each week you rack up, you’re not entitled to extra pay. 

Non-Compete Agreements

If you’re asked to sign a non-compete agreement, read the fine print. If you choose to leave, you may be restricted in where you can find other employment. 

Get the Help You Need 

If you feel your employee rights in the workplace are being violated, it’s time to take action. Make sure to document any incidents to keep a record.

That includes if you’re injured at work. You have the right to work in a safe environment. It’s important to know your rights. Click here to learn about premises liability