Know Your Rights at Work

Do you remember that 1977 Johnny Paycheck song “Take This Job and Shove It?” There’s a reason this country ditty resonates with so many people. Just about everyone has worked a job that could have inspired the song’s sentiment if not its lyrics.

Making a living can be trying under normal circumstances. When an employer violates your rights, your morale and ability to earn a living plummets. Federal and state laws protect workers from harassment, discrimination and unfair compensation.

Some rights differ by state and depend on whether you’re privately or publicly employed, belong to a union or work by contract. These laws apply to job applicants and employees. When you know your rights at work, you’re in a better position to protect yourself. Let’s take a closer look at some of a worker’s basic rights.

Right to Privacy

Employers don’t have a right to randomly look through your personal possessions. Such items as handbags, backpacks and briefcases are private. You also have a right to privacy in your phone conversations. When it comes to using the internet or email on your employer’s computer, however, your rights are limited.

Right to Fair Compensation

Wages and benefits must be paid without regard to a worker’s race, age, gender, religion, disability, genetic information or national origin. Workers have a right to fair compensation for the work they complete. For instance, an employer cannot legally pay a woman less than a man for equal work. Compensation includes wages and benefits.

Right to Be Free from Discrimination and Harassment

Employers break the law when they discriminate or harass on the basis of race, age, gender, religion, disability, genetic information or national origin. Retaliating against an employee who has complained about discrimination or harassment is also illegal.

Right to a Safe Workplace

Employers must provide a workplace free from dangers such as toxic substances. Workers have a right to refuse working in hazardous conditions without threat of dismissal.

Government Employees in Washington Have Additional Rights

Public employees may have additional rights when it comes to probing complaints of discrimination. These include the right to investigations, hearings, appeal of discipline and filing suit for damages.

Protecting Your Workplace Rights

On paper, employment laws sound straightforward. In practice, navigating a workplace complaint can be complex. You can file a complaint with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries concerning wages, rest breaks and safety. Learn more about laws against discrimination from the Washington State Human Right’s Commission.

Northwest Legal Advocates can offer you counsel concerning your employment rights. Contact us for a consultation.