Exploring common myths about workplace law.
At almost any workplace there are always people who are upset about the way they are being treated and others who say that the behavior is against the law and even suggest that suing the company would be the right way to handle it.
Of course, suing a company for frivolous reasons isn't a good idea. Not only will it probably be thrown out of court, the allegations could come back to haunt you the next time you look for a job. I'm not saying that employers never violate the law. They do, and when they do, they need to be held accountable. However, the truth is that many people don't really understand the laws in their state and there are a few myths that most employees believe that aren't actually true.
Here are a few of the most common labor law myths:
- Most states have “employment at will” laws – Depending on your state, labor laws can vary. However, the majority of states have employment at will laws, which means that an employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at all. Unless they are violating your civil rights by firing you for a protected reason, like gender, race or age, they are within their rights to fire you simply because they don't like you. In these states, you aren't guaranteed a job.
- Regular breaks – Many employees are upset when they aren't given an appropriate break time or when they are frequently asked to work through their lunch break. However, there is no Federal law that requires employers to provide breaks to their employees. While there are some states that have laws that govern breaks and many companies have an official break policy, most of the time employers provide breaks at their own discretion.
- Discrimination – Federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on race, age, sex, religion, national origin, disability, color, family status, marital status and genetic information. Some states have laws that give additional protections, but even these are limited. Discrimination based on other things is perfectly legal. Your boss can give a promotion to someone they just like better, pick their family member over you or even just act like a jerk, and it is not illegal. Favoritism and discriminating against you because you don't like their favorite baseball team is perfectly legal and there is not much you can do about it.
- Privacy – For some reason, we all seem to operate under the belief that we are entitled to privacy in the workplace. This couldn't be further from the truth. Employers can monitor your emails and your computer usage. They can search for information about you on the internet and even stalk your social networking accounts. Although there are some restrictions about monitoring your phone calls, for the most part, even that is legal. In fact, if your company supplies you with a cell phone, they can usually monitor that as well (including GPS information).
Before you start consulting a lawyer about the possibility of suing your employer, just make sure that the behavior is against the law. Just because it isn't fair doesn't mean that it isn't legal.
Of course, if you are a member of a Labor Union, there may be rules in place that provide you additional protections based on your contract. If this is the case, you should consult a copy of the contract or your union representative.
Have you ever wanted to sue an employer? Did this list surprise you? Let me know in the comments.
By Melissa Kennedy- Melissa is a 9 year blog veteran and a freelance writer for LogisticsJobsiteBlog, along with helping others find the job of their dreams, she enjoys computer geekery, raising a teenager, supporting her local library, writing about herself in the third person and working on her next novel.