Working Americans spend significant amounts of time in the workplace; many of us spend more time at work and with colleagues than at home with friends and family. Beyond the workplace, we rely upon employment to provide a livelihood for ourselves and our families. Because work plays such a crucial role in our lives it is essential to understand the laws that govern the workplace and regulate employee protection. Our friends at Avloni Law go into further details below.
Generally, employment laws grant all workers specific rights and protections, and manage the relationships between employers and employees. They set standards for compensation, safety, and benefits, while prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation at work. Employment laws apply to all employees regardless of status or citizenship, and can apply to former employees and job applicants as well.
Federal employment laws establish the minimum guidelines for worker rights, while state and local laws may establish more rigorous protections. As a result, the rights of workers may vary between states and counties.
There are hundreds of employment laws, and the laws are complex and ever changing. However, it is important to familiarize yourself with the basics. Below, learn more about some of the important rights that you have as an employee:
Federal law makes discrimination in the American workplace illegal. Employment discrimination is the differential or unfavorable treatment of employees based on their membership in or affiliation with a “protected class;” for example their race, gender, ability, age, medical status, or sexual orientation. Differential or unfavorable treatment in the workplace could impact hiring, pay, benefits, workplace opportunities, performance reviews, physical or verbal treatment, assignments, and firing.
There are many forms of employment discrimination. Some of the most common forms of discrimination reported are disability discrimination, sex and gender-based discrimination, racial discrimination, and age discrimination. It is possible to experience multiple forms of employment discrimination.
The Federal Civil Rights Act (CRA) and the False Claims Act (FCA) prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who participate in protected activities. Legally protected activities include making a report or complaint regarding unlawful activity being carried out by the employer, resisting the illegal activity being carried out by the employer, or participating as a witness in a complaint or report made by a coworker. It is unlawful for an employer to take any negative or retaliatory action because an employee engaged in a protected activity such as making a complaint or report.
Federal law prohibits workplace sexual harassment. There are two main forms of prohibited sexual harassment at work: hostile work environment harassment, and quid pro quo harassment.
Hostile work environment harassment refers to sexual harassment that is severe or pervasive, so as to create a hostile workplace and interfere with an employee’s work. Harassment is considered severe if it is egregious to the point that one occurrence of the harassing behavior makes the environment hostile. Harassment is considered pervasive if it occurs repeatedly, so as to create a hostile workplace environment.
Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment occurs when participation in a sexual behavior is represented as a condition of employment. For example, a supervisor suggesting that you may receive a promotion if you go on a date with them, or a manager telling you that they will hire you in exchange for a sexual favor, are both considered illegal quid pro quo harassment.
Wage and Hour:
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets standards for minimum compensation. Wage theft occurs when an employer violates wage and hour law by failing to pay their employees for the work they have completed. There are a variety of ways that wage theft can occur in the workplace.
Employers must pay their employees at least the minimum wage required by state and federal law. Employers must also pay their employees the amount they are due for their work, and they time that they have worked, in a timely fashion. Employers may not deduct money from a paycheck even if they believe that they are owed money. Employers must also provide employees with proper meal and rest breaks during their shifts, as required by law, and if they do not, they must pay the employee in extra pay premiums. If employers violate rules surrounding pay and compensation, they are likely committing wage theft.
Protected Medical Leave:
Under federal law, employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide employees who qualify with up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In order to qualify for FMLA leave, an employee has to have worked a minimum of 1250 hours for the employer over the past year.
Employers must provide employees who qualify for FMLA leave with up to 12 weeks of protected medical leave over each 12-month period. Employers are required to hold open the job, or a substantially similar job, for the employee to return to upon being released. For employees who require more than 12 weeks of leave, employers may be obligated to provide additional time off in the form of reasonable accommodation if it is not unduly burdensome for them to do so.
If you feel that your rights are being violated in the workplace, reach out to an employment attorney. In the complex landscape of federal laws and state laws, an employment attorney can help you understand the civil rights that you have as an employee, and help you fight for your rights at work. If you are going through an employment dispute, it is important to have an employment lawyer advocate for you as you navigate the legal situation.