Human Resources Training: Know Your Employee Rights!

Is your employer violating your rights as an employee? What a harrowing thought to have on your mind! Fear not: we have some answers to common workplace misconceptions and what to do if your employer is violating your employee rights.

Question: Can my employer discipline or terminate me for posts on social media?

Answer: This is a bit of a murky topic. On the one hand you DO have the National Labor Relations Act protecting your rights to band together and try to make changes or improvements to your working conditions. On the other hand, the employer has the right to prohibit maliciously false statements about the company, as well as any kind of harassment, discrimination, or bullying. Your best bet if you feel that you have been wrongfully disciplined or even terminated is to seek legal counsel.

Question: Is it legal for my manager to not pay me overtime?

Answer: This depends on the type of work you do, and is NOT up to the employer to decide. The federal government has two categories for all types of jobs: exempt or non-exempt. As a non-exempt employee, if you work more than 40 hours in a given week, your employer absolutely must pay you time and a half for those additional hours worked. So how do you know which one you are? Exempt employees are typically high-level executives or professionals, as well as outside sales employees and a few other categories. This is a good resource to narrow down which category you should fall into.

Question: Can my boss ask me to work off the clock?

Answer: The wording of this question typically answers itself as a solid “no.” If you are concerned with a clock in the first place that would mean you are paid for time worked, which would classify you as non-exempt. This is a right you have that you aren’t even able to waive. So if you’re paid by the hour and you are doing work tasks from home outside of your normal work hours for no pay, your employer is breaking the law.

Question: I’m an independent contractor, can my supervisor require specific office hours of me?

Answer: Absolutely not. An independent contractor is not an employee, and if your company is controlling when, where, and how you work they are legally required to pay your payroll taxes and offer benefits that it would offer regular employees. It’s alarming the number of companies who continue to hire independent contractors and treat them like employees. Here is the IRS’s guide to the differences between independent contractors and employees.

Question: Can I be disciplined for discussing my salary with my coworkers?

Answer: A tremendous number of organizations tout this policy when they hire someone on, but the fact is they are acting against the law. According to the National Labor Relations Act, employees must be allowed to effectively unionize or organize to improve their working conditions. Wage equality falls under that category and if employees are not permitted to discuss this matter they can not discover potential inequalities.

As you may have noticed, some of these violations are so common that employers could very well not even know they are in violation. A good first step is to always have a discussion with your superior, rather than full out legal recourse. If this strategy doesn’t pan out you can also file complaints with the National Labor Relations Board or the US Department of Labor.

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