Know Your Rights
Knowing the federal regulations and federal statutes that govern us is important for every American. It can not only help you better understand government, but it can help protect your individual rights. For instance, there are many federal laws that workers need to know to ensure that their rights are abused or disregarded by employers.
Federal Laws Every Worker Needs To Know
A few things that you should clarify first and foremost include:
- If you are an employee or an independent contractor, as this will impact how state and federal laws apply to you in the workplace.
- If your company is beholden to the local state and federal laws regarding minimum wages.
- If you are considered an ‘at-will’ employee.
Once you know these, you can better conduct law research that pertains to your specific situation. That said, here are a few of the most important laws that all workers should know.
- The Family Medical Leave Act. Unexpected things happen, and if someone in your family falls ill, all qualifying employers are required to allow you time off to care for your sick or injured family members. This means you cannot be fired or otherwise disciplined for taking this allotted time off, provided you do not take off more than allowed.
- Striking. Going on strike can send a powerful message to unfair employers, and if you are involved in a lawful strike, you cannot be fired from your job. Lawful striking is a protected activity, as it is considered a union organized activity. However, impromptu walkouts can be constituted as a grey area, and as such may not be protected under all circumstances. Always be aware of the law and how they apply to your strike before you begin.
- Tips. If you work in a field that allows for you to receive tips, you may have wondered if your boss can legally take your tips. Typically, employers are not legally allowed to take tips from their employees; however, it is legal for them to offset hourly wages due to tipping. Additionally, if all tips are pooled together and then evenly distributed among workers, it is a legal practice as long as everyone is notified ahead of time.
- Emails. By law an employer can legally enter and read an employee’s work provided email accounts, and potentially their personal emails if it is used for work related purposes. This usually only occurs if employees have supporting reasons to suspect something suspicious; however, it is technically legal. Generally, this should be explained and agreed to when you sign your employment acceptance paperwork.
- Legal Drugs. Legal drugs such as cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and prescription medications can actually warrant termination provided the impact your overall work performance. That said, there are protections to individuals who can prove permanent disability.
- Refusing Illegal Activity. If an employer asks you to engage in something that is against the law and you refuse leading to termination, you can legally sue for wrongful termination. Employers cannot, under any circumstances, demand you do anything against the law.
- Lunch Breaks. Lunch breaks are typically regulated by state laws, but they are very important to workers. Typically laws stipulate that employers must provide a break and not use methods to try and coerce workers to skip.
Understanding the laws that directly affect your rights as a worker is highly important. Knowing what employers legally can and cannot do, helps protect your rights, and prevent you from being taken advantage of by unfair, unethical, and illegal business practices.