Employee rights can be drafted to prevent the potential for unfair labor practices, but a number of statutes have been drafted in response to specific instances of abuse, mistreatment and inequity experienced in the workplace. Labor laws have evolved, and continue to evolve, to combat a range of unscrupulous employment practices, allowing future generations to experience a safer and more equitable work environment.
Numerous employee statutory rights have been put in place to protect workers from their employers, co-workers and even themselves. Those statutory rights, designed to ensure that workplaces across the nation are safe and equitable, are granted by federal or state authorities rather than private contracts, and are generally drafted to protect the public from harm.
Statutory employee rights confront a range of workplace issues. Pay and benefits, discrimination, retaliation and break times, as well as provisions for access to information and the right to organize labor unions fall under a number of laws, rules and regulations. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) provides for workplace safety, including dangerous activities and exposure to hazardous materials. Rights ensuring privacy, security and equitable treatment seek to prevent such historic workplace mistreatment as punishment, humiliation and outright abuse.
Pre- and Post-Employment Rights
Statutory rights extend to job applicants and former employees in addition to current workers. Provisions for recruiting and at-will employment protect individuals, especially minors, from being forced to work. Statutes are in place to ensure that employment contracts are equitable and clear and that applicants have access to information regarding the working conditions, risks and requirements of each job.
Former employees have the right to apply for unemployment compensation in specific circumstances, which must be paid in part by the previous employer. Certain privacy rights extend to former employees as well, preventing workers from slander and industry blacklists.
Equal Employment Opportunity
In addition to the general provisions mentioned above, a number of statutes ensure that existing workplace rights are extended to all employees regardless of gender, national origin or any other factor of human uniqueness, according to the legal-information website nolo.com. Some jobs, however, have specific requirements that cannot be met by some applicants. Persons with certain mobility impairments, for example, might reasonably be excluded from positions that require the frequent climbing of ladders, but this type of instance is rare.
Statutory employee rights include provisions for the reporting, investigation, settlements and even prosecution of workplace rights violations. If your rights as an employee have been violated, you may initiate an investigation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Unlike most civil actions, cases of workplace-rights violations are handled by the regulatory agencies, making the grievance process accessible to any individual.
According to employeeissues.com, statutory rights granted by state and federal authorities cannot be waived in employment contracts or implied agreements. That does not prevent an employment contract from granting additional rights to select groups of employees while excluding others. A common example of this principle can be seen in union workplaces, where non-union members may find it difficult to obtain the same degree of compensation and benefits as their union co-workers.
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