If you’ve ever been treated unfairly at work, you may have found yourself wondering if what your employer is doing is legal. Knowing your rights will help you to answer this question, or at least indicate when you should get an employment lawyer to help you understand your current situation.
HKM Employment Attorneys notes that while some rights infringements are blatant, others can be more subtle, and taking on your employers without legal help may be ill-advised. Nevertheless knowing the basics will help you to determine whether you just have to accept a situation that seems unfair or whether it breaks the law and there’s a chance you can do something to address it.
Rights Agreed on in an Employment Contract
When you sign an employment contract, it’s not just a matter of accepting the responsibilities of an employee, it also stipulates some of your rights. It’s not necessary for a contract to stipulate rights that are already granted by state and federal law. You can assume these are a natural part of any employment. However, there may be additional provisions, such as notice periods, or access to perks that are mentioned in your contract.
Rights Defined in State Laws
The next tier of protection of your rights can be found in state employment laws. However, these vary from state to state, so don’t just assume that rights you enjoyed in one state will be the same if you relocate to another one. For example Mississippi has the lowest number of laws designed to protect employee rights while California is the USA’s most employee-friendly state. If you aren’t sure whether the law protects you from certain actions on the part of your employer, consult a local employment law specialist.
Rights Enshrined in Federal Law
Federal laws apply to the whole of the United States and are there to protect workers from the most serious possible rights violations. These include provisions for minimum wages, laws against discrimination in the workplace, and laws protecting children against exploitation. You’re also entitled to take a certain amount of unpaid leave for certain family responsibilities, and provision is made for leave in the event of illness. Besides this, there are numerous rules and regulations regarding workplace health and safety. Find out more about these laws on the usa.gov website.
A Hierarchy of Laws
As you will have seen, there are three tiers of laws protecting employee rights. The top position in this hierarchy is held by Federal law which cannot be contradicted by State Law. The terms of your contract are at the bottom of the heap. They may not conflict with either Federal or State law, but they may offer you a greater range of rights and protections. What they cannot do is to enforce a situation in which you have fewer rights than those dictated by the authorities under which they fall.
What to Do if You Think Your Rights as an Employee Have Been Violated
There are various ways to file complaints with the authorities when you have evidence that your rights have been infringed. However, contract law works slightly differently and you will have to initiate your complaint with the help of a lawyer if you hope to see the terms of your contract being enforced or hope to claim compensation. In all instances, it’s advisable to get professional help to obtain redress when malpractice on the part of your employer infringes your legal rights.