The employer and employee relationship in the work place is regulated by laws, statutes and regulations to protect both parties from abuse. Particularly, Federal and state laws protect employees from unjust or inhumane treatments in the work place and this protection includes different stages of employment from hiring, employment benefits and other conditions of work and even post-employment.
As a prospective employee, you are already protected by employment and labor laws against acts that can be considered as unjust or against public policy. Under EEOC, you are prohibited from discrimination on account of your age, race, sex, color, nationality, religion and disability, among others. It is true though that the state recognizes the right of the employers to management prerogative. However, this right is not absolute. Even in the process of interviewing the prospective employees, employers cannot ask questions that would tend to discriminate against their employees like asking a lady applicant if she is planning to have a baby or get married soon or asking another applicant about his religion and how he practices it.
In case you are already hired, there are also Federal and state laws that protect you against employment and labor law violations relating to non-payment or underpayment of benefits. Every employer should provide at least minimum salaries for their employees as well as provide a safe and hazard free working environment free from harassment, retaliation and discrimination in the work place. Even if the employer did not directly harass the employee at work, if he has knowledge of discriminatory acts being perpetrated against the employee and he fails to prevent it or even tolerates the unjust acts, then the employer is also guilty himself of discrimination and failing to prevent a hostile working environment to his employees.
In cases of labor laws protecting the rights of employees to the provision of at least minimum benefits granted by law, in California in particular, the minimum wage per hour is already $8.00; this may differ according to laws imposed in the state you are working in. However, the general rule is, whichever is the higher between the federally imposed minimum wage and the minimum wage prevailing in the state where you are working in, should be the standard minimum wage in computing your basic salary. If your employer fails to give you what is due you or refuses to pay you back salaries, then you can file an employment complaint or you can even file a case in court relating to claims for wages.
However, in cases of filing for back salaries and benefits, there is a statute of limitations in pursuing your claims. For example, in California, claims for unpaid wages should be filed within 3 years from your cause of action. If you fail to file a case within 3 years, then you are barred and cannot anymore claim back wages for dates beyond the 3 year period. As you can see it is not easy to protect your rights, let alone claim for your back benefits. This is why knowing your rights are only half the battle.
Finally, even in post-employment, there are still safeguards enacted to protect employees against wrongful termination or constructive dismissal at work. You should know that your employer cannot just terminate you, especially if the ground or reason is against public policy. If you have a contract of employment and you are laid off before then, you can file a claim against your employer for breach of contract.
Even if you are an “at will” employee, which is the prevailing employer-employee relationship in California in the absence of any employment contract, you cannot be terminated if the cause is against public policy, i.e. age discrimination, racial discrimination, gender discrimination, disability discrimination, religious discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, national origin discrimination, etc.
As you can imagine, the employer-employee relationship is a fragile relationship that can be easily tipped one way or another. Hence, in case you believe that your employee rights are being violated at work, the best thing to do is seek help from expert employment and labor law attorneys who can immediately shed light on your predicament and make certain that your employment will not be in danger while you claim what is rightfully yours against your employer.Tweet
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