Employee Rights in the Workplace : An Introduction. At the most basic level, employee rights exist to protect workers from employer liability for actions taken in the course of their employment. Additionally, these rights exist to ensure that workers are fairly compensated for their work. Further, these rights may be interpreted against the employer in cases of sexual harassment or discrimination based on gender, race, age, religion, or national origin. Additionally, an employee may be protected by other federal or state laws, such as those protecting the environment, workers’ compensation, workplace safety, whistle blowing, occupational exposure to toxic substances, and others.
The federal laws that provide employee rights help to define the parameters of these rights, and they often address discrimination, workplace violence, whistle blowing, and other major issues. The Department of Labor is the leading agency charged with ensuring that all federal employees have these protections. On its own, the EEOC enforces both federal laws and policy written by the Department. In addition to enforcement of federal laws, the EEOC also protects American employees from harassment in the workplace by employers, and it works closely with agencies and offices that protect American workers, such as OSHA.
There are also many state-level laws on worker’s rights and workplace regulations. A few of the most important and influential include: The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) – The FRCA establishes guidelines and standards for reporting, collection, and use of consumer credit information, and ensures that your information is accurate and free of errors. Another important state-level FRCA is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This code regulates how debt collectors may contact you, where they may go to obtain your credit report, and what they may ask for. It also protects employees who are victims of abuse, workers who are retaliated against for filing complaints, and even employers who fail to follow the law and its regulations.
When you work for an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are following all of the state laws. For example, in Texas, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against employees on the basis of race, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation or any other protected class. However, most employees do not understand or don’t take advantage of their rights when working for companies outside of Texas. Often, those who are from out of state and working in Texas may not be aware of their rights. Therefore, it is critical to know your rights and how to protect them.
Another important area of worker’s rights is medical leave and disability discrimination. There are two separate laws related to medical leave – one that requires covered workers to be given an opportunity to recover from a job injury or illness; and another that prohibits employers from denying a qualified applicant necessary medical leave due to reason that the person is unable to work due to a physical condition. Both of these laws are often times ignored by employers and employees. In addition, some states (such as Texas) have what are called “right-to-work” laws which prevent an employer from entering into a contract with an employee during the term of that contract if that employee will refuse to engage in certain types of union activity.
The most common type of violation of workers’ rights happens to be discrimination. Under these laws, there are several different categories of people that are protected. People protected under the law may be discriminated against based on race, age, gender, religion, national origin, or disability, or sexual orientation. In addition, employees who commit hostile environments are also protected. This means that if an employee is harassed based on any protected class, the employer may be held responsible.