4 Employee Rights You May Think You Have… That Don’t Actually Exist

When starting out in a new career, it can be extremely upsetting when our employers, colleagues and workplace are far from what we’re expecting. When we get upset at our employers (especially when just starting out), we tend to react in the extreme out of emotional distress without taking time to think about the consequences of our actions.

While nobody should have to endure unsafe  working conditions (which you have a legal right to reject), or discrimination against your human rights, many of us storm out or threaten legal action against employers, without being completely cognizant of their employee rights.

While you should always consult legal counsel, such as L+G attorneys at law, who specializes in employment law if you feel your rights have been violated, here are some rights that employees tend to assume that they have but don’t legally exist. Make sure you’re fully aware of your rights before you compromise your brand new job and career.

Meal breaks

No, seriously. While the hours you work are legally protected, breaks to take meals, coffee or a quick cigarette are not. Your employee has no legal obligation to give you a breaks for a meal… Or anything else. Even your bathroom breaks are not protected by federal law, although since bathroom breaks could potentially lead to a health issue so you may be able to make a case with the backing of OSHA. Nursing mothers, however, do have an entitlement to an unpaid break to express milk.

Is it morally right? No. Is it legal…. Sometimes. Some states protect workers’ rights to a meal break, it’s best to check that you live in a state where this right is protected before you demand one of your employer.

Wrongful termination

Do you live in Montana? If so, then congratulations! Yours is the only state where your employer can fire you without just cause.

For the other 49 states, your employer reserves the right to terminate your employment at will. Poor performance, missed targets or even not liking your tie’s shade of blue are all federally protected reasons to terminate your employment.

Unless your employer discriminates against you on the basis of your age, race, religion, skin color or sexual orientation you have no federal protection against wrongful termination.

First Amendment rights

The  first amendment is a beloved and oft-cited part of the constitution. Freedom of speech is one of the defining tenets of our democracy. However, it’s a tenet that private employers have absolutely no obligation to grant.  

There is no federal provision for free speech protection in the workplace, or even outside of it. If you join a political party that your employer doesn’t agree with, you can be fired. If you express a political view that your employer doesn’t like, you can be fired.

While government employees have a modicum of free speech protection, even this is strictly limited.

Bullying in the workplace

Finally, the one that’ll really get your blood boiling. Most employers will have some provision for filing a complaint against a colleague or boss who bullies or harasses you, you’ll be shocked to learn that neither workplace harassment or bullying are illegal. In any state. Unless, of course, it’s on the grounds of discrimination.

If you’re being bullied or harassed at work, your best recourse is your company’s internal provision rather than federal law.

This post has been contributed by Ryan Gatt, it may contain affiliate links.


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1 Response to 4 Employee Rights You May Think You Have… That Don’t Actually Exist

  1. Pingback: Dealing With Discrimination in The Workplace as an Employee | Always Be Job Hunting

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