Knowing what you’re entitled to when it comes to your workplace can be daunting, especially for those of us that have been in the same job for the last few years. You may have forgotten what was agreed when you were employed, or you might be unsure if rules and regulations have changed recently. Whatever your reason for wanting to know your rights at work, you should always have access to them. Some bosses may make it difficult for you to access them through fright of action being taken against them. Hopefully that’s not the case with your employer, but make sure you do know what your rights are.
Vacation allowance. Finding out from your employer how many days a year that you’re entitled to paid vacation leave is something you should be finding out. Although it’s not necessary for your employer to give you paid vacation leave, 77 percent of private employers in the USA give their employees paid vacation leave depending on how long you have been with the company.
Asking your boss if that’s something they offer, or if you already know they do how many days they will pay you for will allow you to book a vacation accordingly, knowing that you won’t miss out on much (if any) money.
If your boss doesn’t choose to give their employees any paid vacation, it’s not to say that you can’t take a break every now and then. Be sure to check with your management how much notice they need to book the time off. You can still take holidays, but unfortunately they won’t be paid.
Injuries. Knowing your rights if you happen to become injured at work is important too. If you’re in an industry where injuries occurring are more likely (for example, working with large machinery) then there should be a procedure in place.
First and foremost, report the injury to your employer as soon as it happens. You will then be able to take action (if needed) with your workers compensation claim without worries about being fired or bullied by any members of staff. You have the right to say no if your employer asks you to use your own health insurance for treatment. You also may be entitled to compensation if the injury disables you in any way, regardless of whether you return to work or not.
If your employer is unfair, or the claim is lost through their compensation claims, you have the rights to take your injury claim to attorneys who deal with workers compensation who will reopen the case for you and take it from there to win it for you. Regarding your employers, if the injury was due to lack of training or faulty equipment, you also stand the grounds to sue the company too, but this is usually out of your own doing, and unless you get a solicitor, you will have to represent yourself.
Pay. Another right that you should make yourself aware of is if you’re being paid the correct amount. The current minimum wage as of August 2017 in the USA is $9.25. Of course, depending on your line of work you may be earning more than that per hour, but there are still steps you can take to ensure that you’re being paid correctly.
Obviously, if you’re being paid less than the minimum wage per hour then you stand rights to take action against this. The first step is to tell your employer, as this may just be a mistake made by them. However, if they seem to ignore what you’ve said, then you should take your case to your local state labor department who can look into this for you. If your boss is found to have not been paying you enough you will be entitled to back pay.
Also, if you’re working within an industry that receives tips (like restaurant work) then you should ensure that you’re being paid fairly out of that too. In your contract it should state whether a portion of the tips collected should go to you, and if you find that you’ve not been paid these, your employer is in a breach of contract.
Equal Rights. We all know about the abolishing of the rule that women couldn’t vote happening, and the right to work and be treated the same as everyone else has always been a longstanding issue in the workplace.
If you feel like you’re being discriminated against at work, and for whatever reason, the first thing you should be doing is talking to your employer. Often in the workplace discrimination happens when the boss’ back is turned. Tell your employer what has happened and who exactly has been discriminating against you. If you’re able to prove this then that will also go in your favor.
Under the circumstances that your boss doesn’t take action, or maybe they are the one’s harassing you then there are steps that you can take. Make notes and record proof of what is going on and then you can take your company to a tribunal to sort these issues. If for some reason a tribunal states that you have no rights there, then head over to ACAS who can give you all of the support you need and advise you on your next steps.
You also have the right to speak to your employer if you’re pregnant and can no longer do every aspect of the job required (like heavy lifting) so that your boss can amend your workload until you return to work after having the baby. If needed, take proof in form of a Doctor’s note to your employer to make sure you’re not expected to do anything that could harm your baby while you’re pregnant. Again, if this request is ignored, seek legal help to make sure that you are getting what you’re entitled to.
Breaks At Work. Make sure that you’re getting the correct amount of breaks at work for the amount of hours you’re working. Did you know, that in most states you’re entitled to 10 paid minutes of rest every four hours of work? Are you getting that amount of a break every four hours?
If you find yourself being treated unfairly and not being allocated any time for a break then you can go as far as suing the company that you work for, but first it might be best to speak to a local tribunal for some advice before pursuing legal action, as this can cost you a fair amount of unnecessary money.
To clarify, you might not get your ten minutes every four hours on the dot. Although that would be convenient, it’s not always possible depending on what kind of work you do. If you’re a Doctor, you might be working a little longer or even a little less before you manage to get a quick break. If you know you’re going to get a break, you don’t stand grounds to take action against your employer.
Ending Of Employment. If you choose to end your employment, make sure you find out from your employer how much notice you’re legally required to give to them before leaving the job. If you don’t honor this notice, your wages could be deducted and further action may be taken by the company.
The same principle goes for employers that are intending on letting someone go. No matter what the reason, you must give your employers a certain amount of notice before asking them to vacate the premises.
If you’re fired, you may have the right to continue any healthcare benefits from the job for a short time and it might also be worth looking into unemployment compensation. Here your details will be looked at, and the events leading up to you being fired will be taken into consideration before any decision is made.
Contract. The best way of ensuring that you’re being treated fairly at work and that you know what your rights are within the workplace, is to make sure that you have your contract of employment in a safe place. You can go back and look over it if the need ever arises. Sometimes, employers will change a contract with the thought that you may have lost your original, so be wary of that.
If you’re not sure where your contract is, ask your employer for a copy of it. Make sure you read it thoroughly and if anything shows up that you don’t remember signing for, or if anything is missing, then you will need to speak to your employer so that the problem is rectified.
To sum up, you have the rights to know directly from your employer what happens in certain situations. If your employer is being unfair then you do have the rights to take legal action against the company.
Photo by Alexander Mils