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Labor Rights


State and federal government have created laws to protect workers both before and after being hired. These laws protect workers from discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, unsafe workplaces, fair and equal wages, etc.

Many laws involving discrimination came from the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s One such law makes it illegal for an employer to fire, refuse to hire, harass, pay less, discipline or refuse to hire an employee because of religion, sex, race or national origin. Remember that these rights apply only to people who have legally obtained the right to work in the United States.

The minimum wage that a worker receives per hour is set by federal or state law. An employer cannot make you work on your own time without pay, must pay you overtime and cannot pay you less than the minimum wage. Minimum wage for employees who receive “tips” can be less than the wage paid to regular hourly employees. If an employee receives “tips”, his total (gross) wages (tips+hourly wages) must equal at least the minimum wage.

An employer cannot base wages on your sex, skin color or religion for employees who perform equal work. Equal work basically means doing the same job. The only time pay differences can occur for employees who perform equal work is when other employees have more seniority, a better work performance history or some other reason that does not discriminate on illegal grounds.


Federal laws require employers to provide a safe workplace. It is understood that some jobs may be more dangerous than others but employers still must provide within reason a safe workplace. Some examples of providing a safe workplace include suppling safety equipment (safety glasses, gloves, etc.), limiting exposure to dangerous substances, etc.

The Immigration and Nationality Act, a federal law, was created to stop employment discrimination against immigrants. Some parts of this act apply only to employers with a specific number of employees. Primarily the act prevents employers from discrimination because of ancestory, accent, language, country of birth, birthplace,etc. This act also prevents employers from punishing workers who filed discrimination charges against them. The Immigration and Nationality Act also prevents employers from requesting more documents than necessary to determine identity or employment eligibility, or rejecting documents that appear genuine. This is important when filling out an I-9 form for an employer. The employer is not the INS and must accept documents that appear to be genuine.

When you are applying for a job you have rights. A possible employer cannot deny you work because of race, sex, age, nationality, religion, disability or pregnancy. Also, the employer that you are interviewing with should not ask questions about your religion, disability, age (as long as he asks only wether you are over 18 years old), race, citizenship status, whether you are married or have children, etc. Even though a possible employer cannot discriminate against you for these reasons, he is allowed to not hire you because of how you are dressed. An employer is allowed to discriminate as much as he wants as long as his discrimination does not violate the rights that the federal government has guidelines for. Always dress and groom yourself as well as you can when applying for work.


If you think an employer whom you have interviewed with has discriminated against you, contact your local Equal Employment Opportunity Office and make your claim.

Workers Compensation Insurance protects employees who are injured on the job or possibly because of dangerous conditions at work. Workers Compensation Insurance covers an employee if the injury (with exceptions) was his own fault. If a worker uses this insurance, he cannot sue his employer for damages. In order to receive Workers Compensation benefits a worker must be able to prove that he was injured on the job or because of the responsibilities of the job. Some exceptions that make an employee not eligible to receive Workers Compensation Insurance are fighting, breaking the law or violating company policies.


Workers Compensation laws are different from state to state. If you are injured on the job you may want to talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer (PI) in our directory who specializes in Workers Compensation law or a labor lawyer. Every case and situation is different, so do not let anyone at your workplace tell you that you are not eligible to receive Workers Compensation benefits. No matter what your residency status is, consult a lawyer. It is best to talk to a lawyer immediately and save all your documents, including your doctor's report.

For more detailed information on the Immigration and Nationality Act, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Equal Pay Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, Family Medical Leave Act, Wage and Hour issues, etc., please research them on the Internet, look in our Government Agency directory or consult a lawyer.

If you think that a possible employer or present employer has discriminated against you, contact an employment or labor lawyer immediately. You do have rights. Stand up and use them.

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