According to the Pew Research Center, over 157 million Americans are a part of the workforce.
If you’re a fan of the 40-hour workweek, anti-discrimination laws in the workplace, and paid leave, you have the labor strikers of early America to thank. While labor unions have existed in the US since the country’s founding, it’s taken us a long way to get where we are.
After World War II, there was a huge wave of labor strikes in which workers demanded better pay and better working conditions. It’s thanks to these early workers that we have many of the rights at work that we do today.
However, many employees have a very limited understanding of what their rights are. Chances are, there are some rights you have that you don’t even know about.
Read on below to discover the top rights at work that you may not know you have.
Believe it or not, your rights start even before you’re offered the job. While job interviews and applications can be stressful and time-consuming, it’s important to keep your rights in mind throughout the process.
While an interviewer can grill you about your skills and previous job experience, there are certain questions that are off-limits during interviews. Here are some topics to watch out for:
Religion: Asking about religion is often a sign of illegal discrimination in the workplace. However, an employer can ask you if you’re available to work weekends, which may be an issue for some who attend worship services.
Disability: It’s illegal for an employer to ask you if you have a disability. However, if your disability is visible, they can ask you what they can do to accommodate you.
Childcare/Family Plans: Asking about future family plans is often a tactic that employers use to discriminate against women. You do not need to answer questions about your marital status, pregnancy status, or childcare arrangements.
Age: Unless an employer is asking about your age because they suspect you’re younger than 18, they cannot make their hiring decision based on age.
Union: An employer cannot ask if you’re a member of a union during the interview process.
That being said, there are some things employers can ask about that may surprise you. For example, they’re allowed to ask for you to complete a background check and a drug test. They can also require you to complete a credit check as a part of the application process, just so as long as it’s relevant to the job.
Right to a Safe Workplace
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), every employee has the right to a safe workplace. The OSHA was created in 1970 as a part of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
The organization ensures that every worker in the US has access to safe and healthy working conditions. The goal of the OSHA is to protect workers from:
- Illnesses caused by poor health conditions in the workplace
- One-time injuries
- Recognized hazards that may result in death or serious injury
To protect workers from unsafe conditions, OSHA demands that employers abide by certain workplace safety standards. Employers must:
- Post a visible OSHA job safety notice in the workplace
- Keep records of all injuries, illnesses, and deaths, as well as instances of exposure to hazardous materials
- Offer safety training if necessary
- Offer a workplace free of health and safety hazards that could lead to illness, injury, or death
If you notice unsafe conditions in the workplace, you have the right to report to OSHA. You also have the right to refuse to work if there’s a reasonable belief that the workplace poses an immediate risk to workers.
You can also refuse to work if your employer refuses to fix the dangerous situation. If you do get hurt on the job, you may want to think about hiring a worker’s compensation lawyer. You can click here to find workers compensation near me.
Understanding your wage rights can be complicated, especially if you work in an industry where you’re allowed to accept tips. According to the law, every employer needs to pay you the federal minimum wage or the state minimum wage.
Your employer has to pay you whichever one is higher. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, but if your state’s wage is $10.00 per hour, then your employer needs to pay you $10.
In some states, your employer can pay you below the minimum wage if you make tips. However, the total amount you earn in tips must be equivalent to the minimum wage for the hours you worked.
Your employer may also be required to pay you up to 12 weeks of pay if you need to miss work for the following reasons:
- The birth of a child and care of a newborn
- Adopting or fostering a child
- Taking care of an immediate family member
- Taking medical leave due to a serious health condition
To qualify for the leave, you usually need to have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the past 12 months prior to the leave. You also need to have worked for the employer for the past 12 months, although the months don’t need to be consecutive.
Rights at Work: Now You Know
Now that you know about some of your basic rights at work, it’s time to assess whether your employer is treating you fairly. If you believe the answer is no, you may be entitled to a lawsuit.
Of course, workers’ rights are very complicated, and you should always consult with a lawyer before taking any action. Be sure to check back in with our site for more workplace news and tips.