The dog days of summer are almost here, so let’s turn up the heat surrounding the practices of your current employer and discuss unfair pregnancy leave, sexual harassment, age discrimination, unregulated working hours and wrongful discharge. Do you know what your rights are as an employer? Too often people put up with poor working conditions, simply because they do not know any better. Today’s the day to stand up and take note of a few of these laws to make sure you’re being treated fairly.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an employer who has 50 or more employees must grant them a 12 week leave of pregnancy absence as long as they have worked 12 months and 1,250 hours total. This is a solid law that would be easily backed in any court of law in the United States. Most smart employees are not going to mess around with this one.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as any “unwelcome” sexual advance or request. Last year they reported over 12,000 men and women claiming sexual harassment charges (15% male). The first thing the EEOC instruct a victim to do is ask the individual to stop the unwanted behavior immediately and report it through your employee’s grievance system. If this does not help, then it must be brought to the EEOC’s attention. These charges have a short statute of limitation and need to be followed up with quickly.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects both employees and job applicants over the age of 40 from being discriminated in the areas of hiring, firing, promotion, compensation, benefits, responsibilities, training and work assignments. Since 1967, this act has kept a close watch over companies’ and their tendencies when dealing with their multiple-age employees.
Due to declining unionization, some employers save money by hiring temporary workers with unregulated working hours. This leaves employees without the rights of minimum wage, overtime and paid leave. These employers especially prey on immigrants. With a decline of enforcement by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD), our greatest hope is to not stand for these jobs and demand better. As long as people agree to work these conditions there will be an employer to offer them. These variables also play into weekend hours and non-paid on-call time.
Wrongful Discharge can be claimed for any of the above unfair practices plus marital status, religious, weight, handicap and race discrimination. The brunt of these cases are feared by employers as they statistically lose more than half of them and pay several times over what they would have paid the employee if they had stayed and worked the entire year. This should give you an idea of the power you can have over your work environment.
To protect yourself against these injustices, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and WHD work to enforce various equal opportunities dealing with minimum wage, overtime, records and child labor. The U.S. Department of Labor (www.dol.gov) should always be your first ally if you have an unsolvable discrepancy with your employer. They can point you in the right direction and give you a strong second opinion of your situation. Take advantage of these government support mechanisms; you are paying for them with your taxes after all.