Joining the workforce right after graduation can be a whirlwind, especially if this will be your first full-time job. You may wonder about all the laws and guidelines you have to follow and what rights you have as a worker.
While a lot depends on who you work for and where you live, federal protections exist for many work-related issues. Learning what they mean can help you navigate the job search and your new workplace with ease.
Check out these eight employee rights most people don't know about until after they start their first job.
1. Health and Safety Protocols
The Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) requires employers to provide safe and healthy work environments for their employees.
Some jobs, such as construction or engineering, can be inherently dangerous. Even so, businesses are still obligated to provide safety measures. These actions can come in the form of training, wearable equipment, established safety procedures and more. If your job has unaddressed hazards, you can report these to your company or OSHA.
2. Job Benefits
Every business offers different benefits, which is why it's essential to know the specifics of your organization. Before you ask your boss why you don't have certain workplace rights, check if local or federal laws mandate it. Required benefits generally include disability insurance and medical leave.
Everything else you can think of — like dental insurance, wellness programs and retirement plans — is up to the employer. Always apply for the position with the most perks.
3. Workers' Compensation
If you receive an injury while working, you have a right to workers' compensation to pay your medical bills and make up for lost wages. The federal government doesn't cover these expenses — your employer does.
Whether the accident happens because of you or your company, you can still get benefits. Report the incident to your job as soon as possible and file a claim once you have your medical paperwork in order.
With so many industries digitizing their operations, checks and paper documents are becoming obsolete. However, paystubs haven't faded into obscurity just yet. Federal law doesn't force businesses to provide them, but regulations vary across different states. For example, Tennessee doesn't have a rule regarding mandatory paystubs, while New York does.
Your paystub details all of your wages and tax deductions. This document mostly applies to people who work directly under a company. Your higher-ups will provide a record of what portion they took from your paycheck to go toward Social Security and Medicare. Independent contractors may not receive this information because they pay these taxes themselves.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) dictates your employer can't legally stop you from joining a union or organizing. It also prevents your boss from forcing you to join a union to keep your job.
This act protects your workplace rights to petition for better working conditions. Factors like adequate pay, a safe environment and equal benefits contribute to employee health and come under the NLRA.
Employers have differing ideas of what unionizing activities are. However, federal law includes actions such as discussing wages with colleagues and holding strikes. While you may have previously heard that talking about your salary with coworkers isn't appropriate, this isn't true. You can refrain from sharing for privacy reasons, but it isn't forbidden to mention.
6. Interview Questions
You have a right to a certain level of privacy during interviews. Your boss can't legally ask you questions about your family, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion. Employers also can't refuse to hire you based on these aspects — refusal to hire based on your innate characteristics violates workplace fairness laws.
Mentions about family may pop up as inquiries into your marital status or number of children. You may even receive questions about your age, but these are also illegal, depending on the context.
If someone asks you about these things, you don't need to answer. However, you may decide to bring these concerns up if any part of the job will interfere with or impact them.
7. Overtime Pay
Overtime work means overtime pay. The Fair Labor Standards Act states that, in most cases, your boss can't ask you to work more than 40 hours a week without compensating you for that time. This fairness law doesn't apply to all workers, however, and each state abides by it differently.
For example, one state may allow the FLSA to govern overtime rules, while another may change the 40-hour workweek rule to eight hours per day. In other words, you'd receive additional compensation for exceeding an eight-hour day rather than a 40-hour week.
8. Working Off the Clock
The FLSA also covers off-the-clock assignments. Companies can't ask or encourage you to work unpaid hours. If they violate your rights in the workplace and you decide to file a lawsuit, they'll have to compensate you for the time spent.
Working off the clock can mean anything from cleaning the workplace before the workday starts to doing extra paperwork after your shift ends. Keep in mind that the types of tasks that count as unpaid work can become a slippery slope depending on the company and the services you provide.
Learn Your Rights in the Workplace
Prepare yourself to embrace a new stage of life by familiarizing yourself with conventional work policies. Anyone can benefit from receiving some helpful knowledge when they first start a career — it eliminates a lot of confusion and stress. In no time, you'll be settling into your position with a clear understanding of what your future entails.
- Employee Rights - HG.org ›
- 8 Federal Laws That Protect Employees ›
- What Are My Rights As an Employee? | Chron.com ›
- Workplace Laws Your Employer May Be Violating | Careers | US News ›
- Workplace Fairness - Employee Rights, Job Rights, Workers Rights ›
- Employee Rights | NLRB | Public Website ›
- Employee Rights | Nolo ›
- Employee Rights 101 - FindLaw ›
- Employee Rights | U.S. Department of Labor ›
- Employee Rights ›