5 Workplace Laws Employees Need to Understand

Employment at Will

An at-will employee generally has no right to their job. Many employees believe that there are laws that protect them from being fired without reason or notice, but those employees are wrong. Being an at-will employee means that, absent a contractual relationship, your boss does not have to provide you the benefits of such protections as notice or reason for termination. While this may be discouraging news, this also allows you the benefit of quitting your job with no notice or no reason as well.

Pay Rate and Hours

The only reason that most people work is to get paid, but in order to have a just wage, you must understand the laws that govern your pay rate and hours. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides the structure of the right for you to earn a fair pay rate for the hours that you put in work. The FLSA is a federal law, so all employees are covered. The law has established:

  • 40-hour work weeks
  • Overtime pay
  • Minimum wage
  • Child labor laws
  • Equal pay for equal work regardless of sex or gender, and
  • Paid time off

Each state’s payment laws may differ within the limitations set by the FLSA, but the FLSA sets minimum standards.

Employment Discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for upholding federal laws that make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees. In order for the EEOC protections to apply, you must have been discriminated against because of your race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. The EEOC will also protect employees, who have complained or filed a claim for discrimination, from the termination of their employment.

Family and Medical Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is another federal program that assists employees with balancing their work and personal lives without jeopardizing their employment position. The FMLA provides employees with job protection while participating in a 12-week unpaid leave from work. FMLA will cover situations such as serious medical conditions, caring for an immediate family member, allowing time to spend with newborn or newly adopted children, or military obligations.  Additionally, there are other factors to consider when taking this time off, including:

  • Is your employer covered? (businesses with 50 or more employees must comply)
  • Are you covered as an employee?
  • Is your reason for the leave protected?
  • Did you meet proper notice requirements?

Privacy Rights

While there is a general right for an employer to monitor their employees, employers may only monitor those actions that take place on or in employer property. There is a clear line between personal property and business property, and employers must comply. Company desks, files, lockers, and cars are considered employer property and, therefore, are subject to searches. Digital records, on the other hand, often blur this clear line. That is why it is important to understand that an employer may also monitor any action that is transmitted via a work computer, email account, phone or mobile device. If you are participating in private conduct at work, make sure this conduct is through your personal property. For example, an employer has no right to monitor the texts, calls, or emails sent through your personal mobile device, but will have the right to monitor those actions taken on a company’s mobile device.

If you have any concerns regarding employment law issues, contact the New York employment law attorney Steven Mitchell Sack to protect your rights. Call Steven Mitchell Sack, “The Employee’s Lawyer,” at (917) 371-8000 or email him at sms@StevenSack.com.

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