A Summary Of Important U.S. Employment Laws

Many workers are protected by law from overwork or underpayment. What other protections are in force? Employees have the right to a safe work environment. This is why COVID-19 has changed the way most businesses operate. Employees are required to wear masks and stay six feet away from each other. Perhaps plastic barriers prevent direct contact with customers or clients. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for guaranteeing workplace safety. Employees who feel their rights to a safe workplace are violated can contact OSHA to rectify the situation. OSHA also oversees Workers’ Compensation programs, which guarantee employees the right to compensation when they are injured on the job.

Employees almost always have the right to form a union in order to collectively bargain for better wages or benefits.

Employees have the right to “blow the whistle” on an employer for breaking laws or unethical behavior. Employees cannot be terminated for these reasons.

Employees cannot be terminated on the basis of race, sex, gender, ethnic background, religion, or disability. The Supreme Court recently ruled that sexual orientation was included in these protections. 

Employers cannot use a polygraph on their employees in most circumstances. 

Law governs how employee wages can be garnished under certain conditions such as when a creditor lawsuit is won in court.

Employees have the right to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. They also have the right to 12 weeks of unpaid leave due to serious illness in the immediate family.

Former veterans have a legal right to preference when employers are hiring. 

Employers have a number of resources available to them to ensure laws are followed (and should obtain legal counsel as well). These resources include elaws Advisors (online tools), the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a National Call Center for toll-free assistance and employment/workplace information and issues, and website support provided by the EEOC and DOJ. State resources are also available in most states.

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