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Understanding your rights as a worker is important, whether you have been recently hired or recently terminated. Both state and federal governments have enacted a wide range of employment laws protecting workers from discriminatory treatment, unfair labor practices, wrongful termination, unsafe work environments, and more.
Phases of the Employment Process
The hiring process can raise a variety of legal issues, often related to equal employment opportunity laws. Violations of the employment laws include inappropriate interview questions such as "what is your sexual preference?" and "do you abuse drugs and alcohol?", discrimination based on the applicant's race, national origin, gender, pregnancy, age, disability, or religion.
Discrimination and harassment in the workplace can come in many forms such as: age, gender, disability, race, sexual harassment, sexual orientation discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, religious discrimination, and national origin discrimination. These types of discrimination are illegal.
Employee privacy rights have come under heightened scrutiny in recent years, especially as employers increase their reliance on computers and electronic mail in the modern-day workplace. In reality, employees have very little privacy. Employers can generally search through anything that happens on company computers. Employees do have certain privacy rights, however, many companies require drug testing as part of the job. An employer may require a drug test from employees who may handle sensitive information or need to exercise good judgement.
Wages and Benefits
Wages and benefits are one of the primary interests an employee may have, and unfortunately, disputes over the payment of wages and provision of benefits are not uncommon. There is a wide range of laws concerning wages and benefits. Legal rights include tips on overtime pay, employee health insurance, and retirement plans.
Family and Medical Leave
Federal and state laws exist to address the question of when and how an employee can take time off from work to deal with health issues or a family member's health issues. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees can take extended time away from work to handle certain family or medical matters. Not every employer is required to provide its employees with family or medical leave. Federal law states that an employer is required to provide eligible employees with leave if the employer is either: a state, local or federal government agency, or a private business engaged in, or affecting, interstate commerce, that employed fifty or more employees in twenty or more weeks in the current or prior calendar year. An employee who works for a covered employer is eligible for leave if he or she worked for the employer for at least twelve month, and for at least 1,250 hours over the twelve months immediately preceding the need for leave. For example, a female employee cannot take paid maternity leave under the FMLA if they have been with their employer for under a year.
Employees have the right to a workplace that is reasonably free of safety and health hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets and enforces national standards to ensure the safety and health of America's workers. If employees are injured on the job, employers are responsible for the medical costs associated with the injury.
Whistleblowers are people that see illegal activities within their workplace and when their supervisors refuse to handle the issue, the employee reports these violations to a government agency, such as OSHA. Many serious violations of the law by individuals and employers would never come to light if these employees did not stand up. Consequently, whistleblowers cannot be fired or disciplined for reporting the wrongdoing of their employer.
Losing a Job
Wrongful termination is a broad term that we use in law. Although many employees may feel that their employer wrongfully terminated them, sometimes the termination was on illegal terms. The definition of wrongful termination is limited to only those circumstances where an employee was fired for an illegal reason. An employee cannot be fired based on their race, gender, ethnic background, religion, or disability including pregnancy. It is also illegal to terminate an employee if that employee filed a legal complaint against the employer, or because the employer brought the employer's wrongdoing to light: whistleblower.
If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, sexually harassed, or wrongfully terminated, the employment lawyers at Jacoby & Meyers can help you receive the compensation you deserve.