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Treated unfairly at work? Know your rights

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It is important to understand your rights in the workplace under the law. You can refuse to do work that’s dangerous and unfair, and you can sue your employer for damages when your rights are ignored or violated.

Common examples of unfair worker treatment

Examples of common violations of workers’ rights include:

  • Hiring Violations. Many employers get off on the wrong foot by asking inappropriate questions that might include inquiries designed to uncover sexual inclinations, religion, ethnic background, or other invasive questions that have nothing to do with the position you are applying for.
  • Benefits and Leaves of Absence. You should question any employer about paid sick days, fringe benefits, health insurance coverage, and policies on leaves for childbirth and other personal reasons.
  • Privacy Policy. Some companies have legitimate reasons to monitor their employees electronically, but others do not. Find out what the privacy policy is so you know what to expect.
  • Unsafe Workplaces. You have the right to work without fear for your safety. If you feel your work environment is unsafe, you can politely refuse to work in the unsafe area until the safety risks are eliminated.
  • Reporting Illegal Acts or Wrongdoing. You can fight back if you see your employer or supervisor do something wrong or commit an illegal act. It’s scary to report your boss because of the risk of retaliation, but workplace whistleblower laws will protect you when you report illegal or unethical activities.
  • Union Troubles. Your employer might be a union or nonunion shop, but there will likely be a campaign to change the shop’s orientation if you work there for several years. You have the right to vote as you see fit without experiencing extreme methods of persuasion.
  • Personal Safety. You should be free of worrying about your personal safety, workplace bullies, and union strong-arm tactics. Report any verbal and physical violations immediately. Not all bullying involves physical injuries; coworkers and supervisors can intimidate you with threats, overheard conversations of a threatening nature, and unfair treatments — such as passing over you consistently for advancement.
  • It is illegal to discriminate against employees or job applicants based on gender, race, ethnic background, sexual orientation, or disabilities that don’t disqualify them from doing the work.
  • Unpaid Wages. Employees are often cheated on their wages by forcing them to work overtime without extra pay, docking pays illegally, failing to reimburse employees for expenses, and rounding work time down to the lowest figure.

Knowing your workplace rights

The signs of discrimination can be difficult to detect, especially when the situation has been ongoing for years; these four signs may indicate workplace discrimination:

  1. Assigning unnecessary work to persuade you to quit.
  2. Paying you a lower salary than what the work is worth.
  3. Passing you over for promotion routinely when your work justifies advancement.
  4. Calling you at home frequently to cover for an emergency.

You might think that calling you at home to cover for sick employees indicates trust, and it could. However, it could also be a huge red flag that you are discriminated against when most of your colleagues don’t like being called.

EEOC supervises claims against employers

Employee claims of unequal treatment at work are handled by The law prohibits workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation for reporting violations.

You have the right to request transfers for religious or disability issues, but employers can’t discriminate against you for your religious affiliation or disabilities that don’t compromise your work.

Report violations first to your immediate supervisor or a higher company official if the supervisor is part of the problem. If no action is taken to remedy the citation, you can report the violation to the EEOC, hire an attorney, and fight for your legal rights.


Story by Mark Scott. With a law degree under his belt and years of experience, Mark Scott set off to make the law more accessible to all. He decided to help people lost in the maze of legal terminology to find their way. Mark writes clear and concise pieces and gives simple advice that is easy to follow. On account of positive feedback from readers, he decided to dedicate more of his time to this goal and became a legal columnist. In his writings, Mark covers a wide array of topics, like how to seek legal counsel, or how to deal with different procedures. Furthermore, he directs his readers toward other trustworthy resources for more in-depth information.

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