NOLO’s Encyclopedia of Everyday Law (Workplace Rights) Part I

Posted by Chris Morales on Wed, Jul 31, 2013 @ 01:50 PM

If you're like most workers, you have experienced occasional job-related problems or have questions about whether you are being treated fairly - and legally - on the job. Here are several common problems:

-You were not hired for a job and you suspect it was because of your race, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.

-Your employer promoted a less qualified person to fill a position you were promised.

-You are regularly required to work overtime but are not given extra pay, or you are paid for your overtime hours at your regular pay rate (rather than time-and-a-half).

-You need to take a leave of absence from your job to care for a sick parent or child, but you are concerned that this will jeopardize your job or your eligibility for a promotion.

-You want to know whether your employer can read your email messages or monitor your telephone conversations.

-You have been laid off and you want to know whether you're entitled to unemployment compensation or severance pay, and when you will get your final paycheck.

Federal laws provide a number of basic guarantees for most workers - such as the right to work free from discrimination, to take leave for certain reason, and to be notified in advance if they will lose a job due to a plant closing or large-scale layoff. Many states give workers additional rights - for example, to receive a higher minimum wage or to take time off to attend a child's school conference or serve on a jury. And some local government provide even more protections. Your employer must follow whichever law-federal, state, or local - provides you the most protection.

Which laws cover pay and work hours?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the major federal law that covers wages and hours of work. It regulates how much workers must be paid, how many hours they can be required to work, and the special rules that apply to younger workers. The law includes provisions on:

-minimum wage

-hours worked

-overtime, and

-child labor

The FLSA applies to most employers, including the federal government, state and local governments, schools, and virtually all private employers.

In addition, your state probably has a wage and hour law that covers the same basic topics. Many state laws give workers more rights than the federal law, so it's always a good idea to become familiar with what your state requires.

Does my employer have to pay me overtime if I work more than eight hours in a day?

Under the FLSA, your employer does not have to pay your overtime if you work more than eight hours in any given day. The federal law is interested only in weeks, not days-as long as you work less than 40 hours in week, you aren't entitled to overtime.

Can my boss force me to work overtime?

Under the federal FLSA, your employer can require you to work overtime and can even fire you if you refuse to do so.

The FLSA does not limit the number of hours in a day or days in a week that an employer can schedule an employee to work. It only requires employers to pay nonexempt employees overtime (time and a half the worker's regular rate of pay) for any hours over 40 that the employee works in a week. However, your state may provide additional rights, such as the daily overtime standard explained above. Contact your state labor department to learn more.

What laws ensure my right to take vacations?

Here's a surprising legal truth that most workers would rather not learn. No federal law requires employers to pay you for time off, such as vacations or holidays. This means that if you receive a paid vacation, it's because of custom, not law.

If I lose or leave my job, when will I receive my final paycheck?

State law, not federal law, determines when employees must receive their final paychecks, so the answer to this question depends on where you live.

Does my employer have to pay me for time I spend on jury duty?

No federal law requires employers to pay employees for jury duty, but some state laws do. Most states prohibit employers from penalizing an employee who is called for jury duty or actually serves on a jury.

Do I have legal rights if I feel that my workplace is unsafe or unhealthy?

Federal and state laws protect you from an unsafe workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) is the main federal law covering threats to workplace safety. OSHA requires employers to provide a workplace that is free of dangers that could physically harm employees.


The Morales Law Firm would like to thank NOLO's Enclyclopedia of Everyday Law for sharing this information with us. 

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Tags: California, background check, jury, work rights