Several laws on the books protect workers from a variety of poor and unfair working conditions. These statutes come from the federal, state and local levels, and they do not always apply to all companies.
For the best working conditions, both employers and employees should have a good understanding of applicable labor laws, but this is not always the case.
Employee rights in the workplace
A U.S. News & World Report article states that while laws vary between large and small companies and between protections for hourly workers and management, employers cannot legally engage in certain actions. One example includes asking discriminatory questions on the job application. Such questions as a person’s age, marital status, religion and other personal inquiries do not belong on the application.
Employers should also not ask or require employees to sign overly broad non-compete agreements. While most states accept the legality of these agreements, they cannot exceed a reasonable standard. A non-compete agreement that makes it nearly impossible for a former employee to find work would likely not stand up in court.
A list of prohibited actions
Workers who experience seemingly unfair work environments should perhaps consider if the actions are legal. The following list shows some common practices that could violate labor laws:
- Ask workers to work off the clock
- Refuse to pay an employee overtime or minimum wage
- Classify someone incorrectly as an independent contractor
- Ignore hostile working conditions
- Discriminate against workers
Workers should follow a process in place for complaining about workplace violations. These actions vary from place to place but often begin with contacting a supervisor or the human resources department.