Employment Law

All employees have basic rights in the workplace -- including the right to privacy, fair compensation, and freedom from discrimination. A job applicant also has certain rights even prior to being hired as an employee. Those rights include the right to be free from discrimination based on age, gender, race, national origin, or religion during the hiring process.

 

If you feel that your rights have been violated, contact Blackwell & Associates for a free consultation.  Our experienced attorneys will review your situation and advise you of your rights.


Employee Rights in the Workplace 
In most states, employees have a right to privacy in the workplace. This right to privacy applies to the employee's personal possessions, including handbags or briefcases, storage lockers accessible only by the employee, and private mail addressed only to employee. Employees may also have a right to privacy in their telephone conversations. However, employees have very limited rights to privacy in their e-mail messages and Internet usage while using the employer's computer system.
Other important employee rights include:

  • Right to be free from discrimination and harassment of all types
  • Right to a safe workplace free of dangerous conditions, toxic substances, and other potential safety hazards
  • Right to be free from retaliation for filing a claim or complaint against an employer (these are sometimes called
    "whistleblower" rights)
  • Right to fair wages for work performed

Job applicants also have rights, in that there are certain pieces of information that an employer may not seek out concerning a potential job applicant or employee. An employer may not conduct a credit or background check of an employee or prospective employee unless the employer notifies the individual in writing and receives permission to do so.

  • Federal Regulations on Employment Relationships
    Following is a quick summary of key federal laws related to employment. For more detailed information on these laws, give Blackwell & Associates a call.


  • Title VII
    Applies only to employers with 15 or more employees and prohibits employers from discriminating in the hiring process based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
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  • Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
    Prohibits discrimination against a person with a qualified disability, defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
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  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act
    Applies to workers 40 years of age and older, and to workplaces with 20 or more employees.  Prevents employers from giving preferential treatment to younger workers to the detriment of older workers.
  •  

  • Fair Labor Standards Act
    Governs salary and overtime requirements set out by the federal government and provides regulation as to the duration of workdays and breaks an employer must provide.
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  • Family and Medical Leave Act
    Provides that employers must allow qualified employees to take up to a 12-week leave of absence for qualified medical purposes and preserves the employee’s job for the duration of the leave.

Step One - Talk to Your Employer
Many employers have extensive training in the rights of workers. The first thing that you should do once you think that your workplace rights have been violated is to talk to your employer about the situation. Under most circumstances, an open and honest conversation can resolve difficulties and avoid the need for any legal action. Almost all companies want to stay within the bounds of the law and will work to avoid legal troubles.


However, there are still occasions when an employer can be truly antagonistic and uncaring about the rights of workers.

 

Many people find that talking to their employer can be a difficult and stressful task. To make things easier, here are a few tips that you can keep in mind when tackling this problem:

  • Learn about your rights.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Remain detached – don’t be emotional.
  • Come to an agreement on the next steps before you leave your employer’s office.
  • Follow up with your employer.

Step Two - Keep Your Own Records
Even if you have presented your employer with all the documents you think are relevant to the workplace rights issue, be sure to keep copies of everything for your own records. In addition, take notes of important conversations that you have regarding the situation. Also, gather any documents that you think may be relevant such as e-mails, employee handbooks, letters, company policy statements and others.


However, you need to be careful that you only retain documents that you have valid access to. There have been cases of workplace discrimination that have been compromised in the past because a person copied documents that were confidential, even though they related to the discrimination claim.


Also, if any of your co-workers saw or heard anything relating to your workplace rights situation, ask them to write down what they heard in signed and dated statements. These could include everything from water-cooler gossip to talk of open age discrimination in the company.


Step Three – Keep all deadlines
When you have taken the above measures in talking openly with your employer and you still feel that nothing has been done to address your workplace rights, it may be time to consider taking legal action. The rights of workers are a very serious matter and the law may come down hard on employers who violate them, but there are still deadlines you must meet. The law in every state sets a statute of limitation for various types of legal actions,which gives the amount of time in which a person has to bring a lawsuit or else give up the claim. These time periods can range from weeks to years, and which time period applies to your case will depend both on your location as well as the rights that were violated and to what degree.