8 Workplace Rights That You May Not Realize You Have

workplace employee rights

By Alison Green

Do you know what rights you have at work? You might assume that you can rely on your employer to follow the law in every circumstance, but in fact, many employers violate labor laws, often simply through ignorance. It pays to know what your rights are.

Here are eight of the most important workplace rights you might not realize you have.

1. Your employer can't withhold your paycheck for poor performance.
No matter how poorly you perform, your employer can't dock your salary. Make an error that costs the business thousands of dollars? Break an important piece of equipment? These are costs of doing business for your employer, and it can't come out of your paycheck. Of course, if you really mess up, you might get fired, but you still must be paid for all the hours you worked.

2. You must receive your paycheck promptly.
Most state laws dictate how soon you must receive your paycheck after a pay period ends. In some states, your employer may even be required to pay you additional money on top of your wages as a penalty if your paycheck is late.

More: How To Make Sure You Won't Be Laid Off: 5 Tips

3. Whether you're eligible for overtime pay isn't up to your employer; the government decides.
The federal government divides all types of jobs into one of two categories: exempt and non-exempt. If your job is categorized as non-exempt, your employer must pay you overtime (time and a half) for all hours you work above 40 in any given week. Your categorization is not up to your employer; it's determined by government guidelines.

4. Your employer cannot ask, require, or even allow you to work off the clock.
If you're a non-exempt employee, you must be paid for all time worked. You can't waive this right. Moreover, your employer cannot give you comp time in lieu of overtime pay.

5. Your employer can't stop you from discussing your salary with your co-workers.
The National Labor Relations Act says that employers can't prevent employees from discussing wages among themselves. Many employers have policies against this anyway, but these policies violate the NLRA law.

More: Read This Before You Sign That Severance Agreement

6. Similarly, your employer can't stop you from discussing your working conditions with your co-workers.
Here again, the NLRA protects you. The reason for the law is that employees wouldn't be able to organize if they were forbidden from talking with each other about such important issues.

7. Promises made in your employee handbook are often binding.
Circumstances vary, but in many cases, courts have ruled that promises made in employee handbooks are legally binding. In particular, pay attention to whether your company writes that it "will" or "shall" take particular actions; those statements are more likely to be binding than statements that your employer "may" or "can" do something.

8. Your employer can't pay you as a contractor while treating you like an employee.
If your employer controls when, where, and how you work, the government says you're an employee-and your company needs to pay your payroll taxes and offer you the same benefits it offers to regular employees.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.

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You can always tell an OLD news article by the dates of the comments, You would at least think if they wanted to appear like a new article then take last months comments off,;lolol

December 02 2012 at 8:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wal Mart needs to realize this. If not why do they stay in court for all this stuff.

November 05 2012 at 12:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

GM has some strange rules also about when overtime is required and what will happen if you do not work the overtime. But there again I guess a large company like that can do as they please as long as they buy off the authorities!

November 03 2012 at 12:17 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

They state that your employer cannot order you to work off the clock, but it is my understanding that Walmart does this often! What gives with this?

November 03 2012 at 12:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

my husband is a union corrections officer and has worked 16 hour shifts 4 days in a row,and the 5th day worked his regular 8 hour day. They force him to do this,not voluntary. Where is the union when this needs to be stopped? Lining their pockets. He is not the only one that has to do this,either.

November 02 2012 at 9:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you work for the government, they can and do give comp time instead of pay.

November 02 2012 at 8:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This article applies to wage-slaves only.

#1 - in the military (monthly salary) you CAN be docked from your pay and/or reduced in pay PERMANENTLY.
#2 - does apply.
#3 - WAGE-SLAVES ONLY - if you are on a salary, you can be asked to complete an assignment on your own time without a change in salary. Of course, if you can complete the assignment within normal working hours (you might want to take a very CLOSE read of your contract) you then get the time off. [The military contract I signed stated that I would get one meal a day (Said nothing about being hot or cold.) and one hour of rest a day. In other words, 24/7 with no change in pay at all.)
#4 - see #3 above
#5 & #6 are true everywhere except in the militray you can NOT unionize - by law!
#7 - Really? Then why did they change the laws (YES, the laws) so that I now have to pay for my medical benefits that were the major reason I stayed in the military for 20+ years? And when I get older (read as "when I go on Medicare (as required to keep the benefits I was promised)) why does it cost me even more???
And for #7 also - ask a lot of people who lost their benefits when the companies sold out or went bankrupt or just decided to change their benefits package.
#8 - be careful of the definitions you make - you might get what you want

November 02 2012 at 7:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Employers have the right to fire you just because they want too. They can not give you an incorrect reason. All the employer has to say is I no long want you as an employee. As an employer I would not give anyother reason. Warnings are not required by law. Employers and managers do not say anymore than " I do not want you as an employee". If the employee asks why, do not give an answer.

November 02 2012 at 7:28 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rjen164497's comment

maybe in your country noit in AMERICA

November 02 2012 at 10:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why people and companies aren't hiring. See story above. Employers have rights too in a free country. Who wants to put up their money and time, to have the Government and unions run their business. You as an employee want to dictate to a business, then start your own.

November 02 2012 at 7:21 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply


November 02 2012 at 6:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to NKS55S's comment

Who would hire you with your attitude.

November 02 2012 at 7:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rjen164497's comment

rlen your areal nut job who needs to learn to undrestand what your reading before posting your ignorant toughts

November 02 2012 at 10:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

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