Employee Rights in the Workplace

Employee Rights

Employee rights in the workplace are important rights. Many people spend most of their waking hours either going to work, working or coming home from work. In a troubled economy, everyone must admit that just having a job is a blessing. However, despite the importance of having stable employment, it is equally important for employers to respect the rights of their employees, especially those rights guaranteed under the law.

Understanding Employee Rights in the Workplace

There are laws in place that protect employee rights in the workplace. Federal protections deal with wages, discrimination, overtime, a safe work environment and family leave, among other things. These laws have all been developed in response to pervasive discrimination or problems that have plagued the workforce at various times. The laws are designed to ensure that every employee is treated fairly and has an honest chance to make a living.


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 paved the way for the elimination of discrimination in the workplace by prohibiting discrimination based on color, creed, national origin, age, gender, and religion. Some states have added state laws providing he same protection against discrimination based on marital status, sexual preference, disability and pregnancy, although federal law has not yet adopted protections for people based on these characteristics. An employer is not allowed to deny you a job or promotion based on any of the protected classifications under federal or state law.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 were instrumental in extending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include other sectors of the population that were being discriminated against.


You have the right to be paid a fair wage for the work that you perform. There is a federal and, in many cases, a state minimum wage law that dictates the base amount employers must pay to every employee. This pay rate must be paid for any hours worked and there must be a pay increase for any overtime hours worked. Overtime is defined as working more than 40 hours a week and in some states is extended to also include more than 8 hours on any workday.


Federal law mandates that employees must be paid for overtime hours. The bonus pay is usually a 50% increase per hour for every hour over forty hours per week. Some states like California require overtime pay for more than 8 hours in one workday. The increase in pay is not optional but mandatory. The employee can't release the employer from their responsibility to pay the increased wage.

Safe Workplace

OSHA is the federal agency that has been tasked with insuring that employees have safe working conditions. Federal law requires OSHA inspections of all manufacturing facilities and OSHA has the ability to levy large fines for unsafe work environments.

The definition of an unsafe work environment includes employee exposure to chemicals without proper safety equipment, safe guards on dangerous machinery, and prohibitions on exposure to toxic or corrosive chemicals without protective clothing. There is also job protection for those that blow the whistle on violations or request an audit of their company.

Family Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides for job security and time off of work to care for a family member with a serious illness or when a new baby is born or adopted. The guaranteed leave requires employers to give you up to 12 weeks off with job protection. While the time off is guaranteed, it is unpaid. This time off can't be denied nor can the employee lose their position while taking the time off.

Understanding Your Rights

Most employees aren't fully aware of the employee rights in the workplace and the laws that are in place to protect them. Always address questions about employee rights in the workplace to your company's Human Resources office. If they do not have the answers that you are looking for, try the Department of Labor office near you.

If you feel that any violation is made, taking extensive notes and keeping records is one of the key tips to protecting your rights in the workplace. Remember to take any questions to your supervisor and discuss them without fear of retribution. If you are discriminated against because you have brought up a violation, documentation will be invaluable in a court case.

The rights are in place to prevent abuses by those in power, and every employee should understand these rights and ensure that they are not violated. A high premium is placed on equal opportunity and the right to make a living in the U.S., and every citizen who is aware of their rights can benefit from these protections.

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Employee Rights in the Workplace