While employment is generally an at-will relationship, it does not mean that you are completely without any rights at work. On the contrary—there are certain things that your employer cannot do, and they risk legal liability if they violate your rights. However, the onus of protecting your rights falls on you. Here are some steps that you can take to protect yourself while you are at work.
Are You a Contractor or an Employee?
Many employers try to limit your rights by sticking to the fiction that they are not technically your employer. Instead, they try to classify their employees as independent contractors, which actually reduces your rights. It is important to know the difference between the two. Even if you are an independent contractor, you still have some rights and it is critical to know what the company can and cannot do on the job. Make sure that they are fairly compensating you. Even if you are an independent contractor the company still must pay you in accordance with the law.
Federal law prohibits employment discrimination at work. The law specifies protected classes such as race, ethnicity, and religion among other things. If you fall into any of these protected classes, your employer cannot treat you any differently than they would anybody else. Employers must address any complaints of discrimination, and they have the obligation to ensure that you are not subject to any discrimination in the workplace. If your employer fails to do this, you can file a complaint with the federal government.
There are numerous state and federal laws that provide you with protections at work. If you are injured on the job, you have the right to file for workers’ compensation for qualifying injuries. These exist to help pay for your medical costs and lost wages. Federal law prohibits your employer from subjecting you to a dangerous workplace. There are safety standards that exist for your protection. If you feel that your workplace is dangerous in any way, you can file a complaint with OSHA, the governmental body that enforces safety standards on the job.
Just like you cannot be discriminated against on your gender, your pay must also not be less than that of a man. If you can show that someone with an identical job title is paid more than you are, you can bring a claim under the Equal Pay Act. Unless the employer can show that one of the exceptions to this law applies, they will be strictly liable for any discrimination. This is true even if they do not mean to discriminate. All you need to do is file a claim with the EEOC within two years of learning about the pay discrimination.
Workers who are well informed of their rights are the ones who are the best protected from any intentional or unintentional harm done by employers. The law provides numerous protections for workers, and you can take legal action if your rights have been violated.
Here’s another article you might enjoy: Hiring and Firing: The Legalities of Employment