Employment – Know Your Rights!

  • Are Same-Sex Couples Entitled to Share Employment Benefits?Traditionally, one benefit of marriage was being able to share in a spouse’s employment benefits, like health, vision, and dental insurance. Unfortunately, many same-sex couples have struggled for years to receive the same level of benefits and even the right to be married. With more and more jurisdictions recognizing same-sex marriages, are employers now required to provide same-sex couples with the same level of benefits as heterosexual couples?
  • Are Sexual Harassment Investigations Confidential?An all too common occurrence in the modern workplace is the sexual harassment. This can take many forms, like unwelcome sexual or romantic advances, sexual blackmail, offensive touching, discussions of intimate activities that make others uncomfortable, etc. While there are a number of laws to protect those who complain of such activities, what of those who are accused, particularly if the sexual harassment claim is determined to be unfounded or used as a means of embarrassment or retaliation?
  • Can I Be Fired for Lying on My Job Application?
  • Can I Be Fired for Missing One Day of Work?
  • Can You Fire Someone For Their Social Media Complaints About Work?Social media is everywhere today; from Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn, it would be almost impossible for an employer not to have someone working for them that has some form of social media presence. While you might be able to keep an employee from updating their Facebook status from the office, can you do anything about what they say or do about you or your company on their social media in their own time? Indeed, can you fire someone for their social media complaints about work?
  • Habitually Absent, Tardy, or Sick? How to Deal with Employees Who Are Not Coming to WorkDo you have a trouble employee that can never seem to make it to work when they are supposed to? Either they are always late or they are not there at all? How should you go about disciplining this employee, particularly if you have let it slide in the past? Is there any risk to firing someone for claiming too much sick time (even if they are entitled to those days under the terms of their employment)?
  • How to Deal with Sexual Harassment in the WorkplaceSexual harassment is usually defined by Courts and employers using the definition of sexual harassment contained in the guidelines of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This language has also formed the basis for most state laws prohibiting sexual harassment.
  • My Employer Didn’t Pay Me, Now What?Employment law can be confusing and it can be difficult to learn what your rights are and what you are entitled to. When an employer does not pay for something (whether regular wages, overtime, tip splitting, reimbursements, or something else) it can be very frightening and confusing. Is the employer right? Should I even bother fighting?
  • What Are America’s Child Labor Laws?It is often a coming of age event: getting that first job, usually to pay for something irresponsible like a sports car or a video game. But how old does one have to be to start working? How many hours can they work every day and week? Who gets to control the money (i.e., the child or the parents)?
  • What Are America’s Minimum Wage Laws?The United States has statutory minimum wage laws intended to ensure that even the least skilled of workers are able to earn enough money on which to live. As of July 2009, the federal minimum wage was set to $7.25 per hour, which equates to weekly earnings of just $290 per week (before taxes) for a full time job. However, many feel this number has not kept up with inflation and that this number is no longer a livable figure.
  • What Do I Need to Know About A Non-Compete Agreement?Many have been asked to sign non-compete agreements or thought they might be a good idea to protect their business interests when hiring someone. But, what do they do? How are they enforced? What legal requirements do they have to follow?

Paid Leave for Many Workers Due to Coronavirus

If you work for a business with less than 500 employees, under the  Families First Coronavirus Response Act you may be eligible for paid sick or family leave due to impacts from the coronavirus pandemic. Starting April 1 and through December 31, 2020, you may get:

  • Up to two weeks of paid sick leave if you or a family member is quarantined or has symptoms of COVID-19
  • Up to an extra 10 weeks of paid family and medical leave if your child’s school or daycare provider is closed or unavailable

Businesses will receive funds from the government to cover costs of providing leave. If you own a small business with less than 50 workers, you may not have to provide leave for childcare purposes.

Discrimination and Harassment at Your Job

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. These laws protect employees and job applicants against:

  • Discrimination, harassment, and unfair treatment in the workplace by anyone because of:
    • Race
    • Color
    • Religion
    • Sex (including gender identity, transgender status, and sexual orientation)
    • Pregnancy
    • National origin
    • Age (40 or older)
    • Disability
    • Genetic information
  • Being denied reasonable workplace accommodations for disability or religious beliefs
  • Retaliation because they:
    • Complained about job discrimination
    • Helped with an investigation or lawsuit

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal labor law that allows an eligible employee to take an extended leave of absence from work due to:

  • Illness
  • Caring for a qualifying sick family member
  • The birth or adoption of a child
  • Military caregiving or other emergencies related to a family member’s active duty service

This unpaid leave is guaranteed by law and is available to workers at companies with 50 or more employees. FMLA fact sheets can help you understand your rights and coverage.

Labor Unions

A labor union or trade union is an organization of workers which bargains with employers on behalf of its members. The purpose of a labor union is to negotiate labor contracts. Elected leaders of labor unions negotiate specific items of employment including:

  • Pay and benefits
  • Working conditions
  • Complaint procedures
  • Hiring and firing guidelines
  • Help with unfair labor practices

When a union leader negotiates an agreement, it’s binding on the union members and the employer. Sometimes, these agreements affect non-union workers as well. Labor unions can be found in the private sector and at government agencies.

Minimum Wage, Overtime, and Misclassification

Minimum Wage The federal minimum wage is the lowest legal hourly pay for many workers. Tipped employees may have a different wage. The minimum wage is $7.25 per hour for covered nonexempt employees as of July 24, 2009. Learn more about the minimum wage in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Many states and cities also have minimum wage laws. Where federal and state laws have different rates, the higher wage applies. Find your state’s minimum wage laws and its minimum wage for tipped employees. Contact your state labor office with questions about minimum wage. Overtime Pay An employer may require or permit a worker to work overtime. The Fair Labor Standards Act states that workers who clock more than 40 hours per week are to get overtime pay. There are few exceptions to this rule. Learn more about overtime pay. Download fact sheets and see e-tools for overtime pay guidance. Visit the Fair Labor Standards Act Advisor for exemption classifications and state legal tools. Misclassification An employer says a worker is an independent contractor. The law says the worker is an employee. That’s misclassification, which can: Affect a worker’s pay, protections, and benefits Cause tax problems for both businesses and workers

Unsafe Workplace Complaints and Conditions

Several different federal government agencies handle questions or complaints about workplace issues, depending on the nature of the issue:

  • Mining: Contact the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) at 1-800-746-1553 or file online to report mine safety or health hazards.
  • Interstate Trucking:
    • For complaints about safety issues on the road, such as being forced to drive in unsafe conditions, fill out the online complaint form or call 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238).
    • If you have a complaint about safety issues occurring inside a trucking building or facility, there are a variety of ways for workers to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
  • Aviation: Contact the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or use the online complaint form.
  • Most Other Industries: File a complaint with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Please note: OSHA may refer you to a state agency.

Workers’ Rights

As an employed worker, you’re entitled to certain rights in the workplace – especially ones that keep you safe. These include the right to:

  • Be trained in a language that you understand
  • Be provided with the necessary safety equipment
  • Report injury or illness
  • Voice your concern over unsafe working conditions without fear of retaliation

In order to improve safety in the workplace, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) updated its existing rules regarding how employers must report injury or illness in the workplace. As of January 1, 2017, certain employers are required to electronically submit injury or illness data. Doing this allows OSHA to improve enforcement of workplace safety requirements and provide valuable information online for workers, job seekers, customers, and the general public. The new rule also prohibits employers from discouraging their workers from reporting an injury or illness

Wrongful Discharge/Termination of Employment

If you feel that you have been wrongfully fired from a job or let go from an employment situation, you may wish to learn more about your state’s wrongful discharge laws.

  • Wrongful termination or wrongful discharge laws vary from state to state.
  • Some states are “employment-at-will” states, which means that if there is no employment contract (or collective bargaining agreement), an employer can let an employee go for any reason, or no reason, with or without notice, as long as the discharge does not violate a law.

If you feel you have been wrongfully discharged or terminated from employment, you may:

  • Contact your State Labor Office for more information on wrongful termination laws in your state.
  • Seek legal counsel if your employer terminated you for any reason not covered under state or federal law.
  • You may also be eligible for unemployment compensation and extension of your health care benefits.


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Charlestown, MA 02129

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