When a company is chasing its business goals, including improving efficiency and lowering overheads, employee working hours may start getting longer as wages reduce. While there is nothing wrong with having business goals, some employers take advantage of workers and violate their rights in order to achieve these goals.
Employees in these kinds of situations are often stressed and unable to focus on their jobs. In addition to unfair labor practices, other common workplace rights violations include hostile working environments and workplace discrimination or harassment. Depending on several factors, including where you live, the size of your employer and the type of job you do, both state and federal law protects you from these and other kinds of workplace rights violations.
The law forbids your employer or other parties in the workplace including coworkers from discriminating against you based on your race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, nationality or any other protected characteristics. Unfortunately, discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment, is still common in most workplaces.
As an employee, you have the right to fair pay, including receiving at least a minimum wage and overtime for working more than 40 hours in a week in case you are a non-exempt worker. Your employer may also be violating your rights by misclassifying you as an exempt worker or an independent contractor when you are not. Other unfair labor practices that violate your employee rights include your employer denying you the right to take family-related leave, sick leave and other leave violations.
As an employee, the law entitles you to a safe working environment free from hazardous conditions. For instance, your employer should provide you with appropriate safety gear if you work with dangerous machinery. The employer should also ensure the workplace is free from toxic substances and conditions that can be harmful to your health or cause injuries, including slippery surfaces.
While the above are the top three employee rights violations in most workplaces, there are many ways that your workplace can violate your rights. However, you should not tolerate any workplace rights violation as the law provides several remedies.
If you believe your rights have been violated at work, you have some options or steps that you should take to fight for your rights. The steps include:
In case your workplace rights are violated, your first course of action should be to talk to your employer about your situation. In most cases, most companies want to follow the law hence they provide negotiation channels in case of workplace disputes. Even though informal negotiations with your employer can help resolve most workplace issues, to be successful, the negotiations must be open and honest.
Having informal negotiations with your employer does not always work. In cases where there is workplace discrimination, before you file a private lawsuit, you need to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The law tasks EEOC to investigate your claims or facilitate mediation between you and your employer. Mostly, the EEOC gives you the right to file a discrimination suit against your employer after their investigation is complete. However, you need to file your discrimination charges within EEOC deadlines.
You can also consider taking legal action by filing a private suit against your employer. However, suppose you decide to sue your employer. In that case, you need to be well prepared, including having the necessary documentation, gathering evidence and be willing to allocate time and money to the exercise. You also need to examine your motives for filing the private lawsuit. For example, you should not be motivated by revenge or the expectation of a huge payout.
If you decide to take legal action or seek other remedies, you should be aware of legal deadlines or your state’s statute of limitations. By failing to meet these deadlines, you may lose your right to file a lawsuit or claim damages. To know if you have a case and how you can avoid labor law complications, you might need to consult an experienced employment attorney.