Huey Lewis and the News had a hit in 1982 with Working’ for a Livin’. The chorus included the phrase “I’m taking what they’re giving ’cause I’m workin’ for a livin’.”
It’s a catchy tune, but the idea that you have to simply suck it up and take what you can get as an employee is not true. Employees have numerous rights and protections in the workplace that govern their employment status, compensation, and their wellbeing.
The first step to no longer simply “taking what they’re givin'” is to know how these rights and protections apply to you.
It happens. But is it legal?
If you are not protected by an employment contract or a collective bargaining agreement (union membership), the unfortunate answer is yes. “At will” employee-employer relationships can be terminated by either party at any time. Even firing someone for a stupid reason does not make it illegal.
Blowing the Whistle
The United States government wants people to come forward when they witness illegal behavior. As a result you are protected in the event you blow the whistle on Medicare fraud, money laundering, tax evasion or other illegal actions.
Harassment and Discrimination
Not only are you protected from harassment and discrimination in the workplace, you cannot legally be fired for reporting it. If you are, you may have a valid wrongful termination case on your hands. For the record, the following classes are protected from discrimination:
- Marital status
- Color or national origin
- Height and/or weight
Whether you deserve payment for hours worked over 40 in a week depends on your classification. Exempt (salaried) employees are not eligible for overtime while non-exempt (hourly) employees are.