Seven Workplace Rights Employees BELIEVE They Have . . . But Don't!

20 September 2013 / Uncategorized / Comments Off on Seven Workplace Rights Employees BELIEVE They Have . . . But Don't!

Most employees believe they already know the list of “rights” they possess, simply by being an employee.  After years of watching shows like Law & Order, CSI and COPS, they have absorbed lots of legal information, and not surprisingly, most of it is wrong.

We at Widget thought we’d take a break from Tax and Accounting concepts and take a fun look at some of the laws that employees think they have…but don't.

  1. "I was wrongfully terminated."

    Maybe if you lived in Montana you'd have a point. Montana is the only state in the nation with a law saying you can only be fired for just cause. Otherwise, you live in an “at-will” state. That means you can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. They don't have to have a good reason. They don't even have to give a reason in most states. Boss in a bad mood? He or she can fire you. Period.

  2. "I have the right to see my personnel file."

    No federal law requires private employers to allow employees to inspect or copy their own personnel files. Only some states require employers to allow you to look at your file and even fewer require your employer to allow you to copy items in your file. Many times, the only way you'll find out what's in your file is if you subpoena it in unemployment or other proceedings.

  3. "I am entitled to my break right now."

    No federal law requires employers to offer any work breaks for anything, even meals. Some state laws do require work breaks, but it's not a majority. No federal law even requires bathroom breaks!!  Some states also offer protection for nursing moms taking breaks. Those employees taking “smoke breaks” or “coffee breaks” should tread carefully.

  4. "My boss makes me work in a hostile work environment."

    It's pretty much your boss's job to create a hostile work environment. A hostile environment is not illegal. Workplace harassment is not illegal. Bullying is not illegal in any state. Only hostile environment or harassment due to race, age, sex, religion, national origin, disability, color, taking Family and Medical Leave, whistle blowing, or some other legally-protected status is illegal.

  5. "I exercised my First Amendment Rights and told him how it was!"

    Only government employees have free speech protections, and those are very limited. Otherwise, you can be fired in most states for your speech (including political speech) in the workplace or outside the workplace. You can't be fired for objecting to something illegal, but be very careful to make sure you're protected before you speak out.

  6. "My boss invaded my right to privacy."

    Your boss can read your work e-mails and monitor your Internet usage at work. If your employer is going to listen into or record phone calls, there are some legal restrictions. You also have privacy rights in your medical information. There is no federal law protecting your social security number, but California and New York do offer limited protection against employers displaying your number.

  7. "I was discriminated against because my boss didn't like me."

    If your boss is discriminating against you for being you, that isn't illegal. Favoritism, nepotism, and being obnoxious are not illegal. Discrimination based on age, pregnancy, race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, color and genetic information are illegal. In some states, other categories such as sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, and being a domestic violence victim are also protected.

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