Employee’s rights: the Basics


The labour law covers all rights and obligations in an employer-employee relationship, whether applicant, employee, former employee. Due to the complexity of employment relationships and the wide variety of situations that may arise, the employment law covers legal issues as diverse as discrimination cases, unfair dismissals, wages and taxes, and safety in the workplace. Many of these issues are governed by the applicable federal and state law. However, while the employment relationship is based on a valid contract entered into by the employer and the employee, state contract law may dictate the rights and duties of the parties.

Rights of Employees in the Workplace

All employees have basic rights in the workplace, including the right to privacy, fair compensation, and not to be discriminated against. An applicant has certain rights even prior to being hired as an employee. Such rights include not being discriminated against in terms of age, gender, race, nationality or religion during the hiring process. For example, a potential employer may not ask the applicant certain questions related to his family.

In most states, employees have a right to privacy in their place of work. This right applies to the personal possessions of the employee, including handbags or briefcases, lockers accessible only by the employee, and private mail addressed only to employee. Employees also have a right to privacy in their telephone conversations or in their voice mail messages. However, employees have limited rights with respect to privacy in their e-mail messages and Internet usage while using the computer system of her employer.

There is some information relating to the applicant or employee that an employer may not inquire. An employer may not perform a background check or credit of an employee or of an applicant unless you notify the person in writing and receive a permit for part of this to do so. (See also: How to enforce their rights in the workplace.)

Other important rights for employees include:

  • the right not to be discriminated against or harassed in any way;
  • the right to a workplace that does not present hazardous conditions, toxic substances, and other potential threats to security;
  • right not to suffer retaliation for filing a complaint or lawsuit against an employer (known often as the rights of “informant”);
  • right to a fair remuneration for the work done.

Federal regulations pertaining to Labor Relations

Below is a summary of the principal federal laws related to employment. For more information, see Description of labor laws and anti-discrimination.

Title VII

  • Applies only to employers with 15 or more employees.
  • Prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants during the hiring process based on race, color, religion, gender, or nationality.

Americans with Disabilities act (Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA)

  • Defines “disability” as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the activities of daily living important.
  • Prohibits discrimination against a person with a qualified disability.
  • Provides that if an individual with a disability can perform essential functions with or without a reasonable accommodation, that person cannot be discriminated against by reason of his disability.

Law against Employment Discrimination by Age

  • It prevents employers to give preferential treatment to younger workers to the detriment of older workers.
  • Only applies to workers 40 years and older and to workplaces with more than 20 employees.
  • Does not prevent an employer from favoring older clerks, to the detriment of younger employees.

Law fair Labor Standards

  • Regulates the duration of the working hours and rest breaks that an employer must ensure.
  • Governing the salary and the payment of overtime in accordance with what is established by the federal government.

Law of Family and Medical leave

  • It states that employers must allow their employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave for medical purposes that qualify.
  • Determines that to qualify for the license, the employee must have worked for the employer for 12 months or 1,250 hours in the last 12 months prior to the license.
  • It preserves the jobs of employees who qualify for the license.

Employees have many rights in the workplace established in both the federal and state laws. If you believe that your rights have been violated in the employment context, in their best interest may be to contact a lawyer who specializes in employment law, who will explain your options and protect your legal rights.

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