As a society, we are constantly working to make all areas of our lives regulated and beneficial for all parties involved. Employment legislation is one of the best examples of this development. Although there are still many things left to be desired, the current level of employee rights does bring a great deal of order into an area that has historically been open to abuse and misinterpretation.
Therefore, understanding these rights is an absolute imperative – both for employees who need to be aware of the specific acts they can use to get a fair treatment at the workplace and for business owners who can leverage this body of regulation to properly manage their workforce.
So, let us break down some of the most important rights that grant individuals fair treatment during employment.
The right to reasonable hours and fair pay
A 40-hour work week is something that’s been aspired to since the 19th century. And, although this concept has seen legal implementation in virtually any developed country in the word, the reality is that whether voluntarily (financial reasons) or due to pressure from the employer, a great number of workers are forced to work beyond this threshold. In such circumstances, the workers at least need the tools they can use to fight for fair pay for the overtime hours.
As of December 2016, the USA has started implementing the legislation system under which the employers have an option to limit the workweek to 40 hours and/or raise the threshold for overtime salaries from $455 to $915 per week – a great step in the right direction.
The right to equal treatment
The right to equal treatment is yet another field of work-related legislation that has been actively fought for over the last decades, and, in some cases, even centuries. But we have finally come to the point where a person can’t be discriminated (during the job search and in the workplace) based on the following traits:
- Race and ethnicity
- National origin (as long as the employee is now a US citizen)
- Religion (this right extends to exceptions to dress code)
- Disability (applying to qualified workers with a reasonable need for accommodation)
- Age (in regard to workplaces with more than 20 employees)
The right to receive a contract of employment
A contract of employment is a legally binding document that thoroughly regulates the relationship between the employer and the employee and is called upon both parties in the case of disagreement. It usually covers topics like expected work hours, job position, paid holidays, sick leaves, minimum notice period, etc. Employees who don’t receive such a contract during employment are open to mistreatment and abuse. You should be aware, though, that a contract of employment is prescribed by law and should be requested during negotiations.
The right to be safe and healthy
The right to physical safety is one of the most basic and straightforward workers’ rights. At the current moment, this privilege is under the management of OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and covers a wide variety of dangerous situations ranging from being in the presence of toxic substances to being cut by a blade.
Another important aspect of this legal field is the privilege to be spared from work due to illness or injury without losing pay or the ability to claim superannuation insurance benefits. Unfortunately, although both these things are regulated by law, they are, especially in the latter case, frequently disputed by the employers, which is the reason why so many workers need to use the services of compensation lawyer to fight for their rights. Things are, however, moving in the right direction.
The right to report problems
Workers who have reported problems at their respective workplaces (“the whistle-blowers”) have, in the past, been exposed to all sorts of repercussions ranging from bullying to loss of working hours and even dismissal. Individual examples of such practice are, regretfully, still present, but employees of today at least have the legal means to seek protection against retaliation. If retaliation in the form of intimidation, denial of benefits and denial of overtime hours does occur, the workers can report the mistreatment.
Notification of background checks
Before they make a final decision in regard to employment, the employers tend to do a background check on new candidates. In some cases, this practice is performed on current employees as well. These investigations usually cover the following areas:
- Arrest records
- Criminal convictions
- Verification of educational credentials
- Verification of previous employment and professional credentials
- Credit history
The job candidates and existing employees have the right to receive a notification if such investigations ever occur.
The right to leaves and time off
All employees have the right to get a certain amount of paid leave during the year. These days off come in the form of annual 5.6 weeks of paid leave coupled with holiday leaves which are regulated by federal and state laws. Different religious groups can refer to the right to equal treatment to get days off in order to observe religion-specific customs.
The paid absence, of part-time workers, is regulated by pro-rata entitlement.
Of course, every employee can apply for family leaves. For instance, women are entitled to 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave, while other eligible workers have the option to take one or two weeks of paternity leave around the period the baby is due or born.
Finally, the workers also have the right to weekly and daily rest breaks. The daily rest period reserved for nutrition and hydration accounts to 20 minutes. If the shifts exceed six hours per day, the employees are entitled to at least one day off per week.
We hope this short breakdown helps you to realize the extent of contemporary employee rights in the USA. Of course, this issue is far more complicated and requires in-depth conversation, but the topics we have presented are a solid base you can use to extend your research. The best thing we can take out of this conversation is that the employee rights are regulated, and steps are constantly being made to cast some light on the areas that are still considered a bit gray.
This development benefits both employers and employees. All mutually-beneficial relationships are built on clear foundations. This one is no exception.