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How to Assert Your Rights in the Workplace

Educate yourself as to your rights as an employee.

To assert your rights, you’ve got to know what they are. Laws are in place to protect workers. You’ve got to educate yourself as to how the laws protect you.

Some of your rights may include:

The right to be paid at least the minimum wage, as well as overtime for any hours worked over 40 in a week (29 U.S.C. § 201 et. seq.).

The right to a safe workplace (29 U.S.C. §651 et. seq.).

The right not to be discriminated against or harassed because of your race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, ancestry, or disability (42 U.S.C. § 2000e et. seq.)

The right to take a leave from work to recover from an illness, care for a family member, or care for a new child (29 U.S.C. § 2601 et. seq.).

Protection against retaliation (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964).

You may call NLS at 1 - (866) 761-6572 to obtain more literature on each of these rights.

Talk to your employer.

Very often, you can resolve your problems at work simply by sitting down and talking to your boss. Your problems very well may be the result of a simple mistake or misunderstanding. Most employers want to follow the law. Sometimes, however, they just don’t know what their legal obligations are. You may have to educate your employer as to what your rights are.

Some helpful tips for talking to your employer:

  • Seek advice from union representative if available.
  • Know what you are going to say to your boss, before meeting with him or her. It may be a good idea to write down everything that you plan to tell your employer. You can take these notes with you to the meeting. That way you can be sure that you won’t forget to say anything important.
  • Keep your cool. When meeting with your boss, you don’t want to be too emotional. Problems at work can be extremely stressful. But you can’t let your emotions get the best of you when discussing your problems with your employer. If you are overly emotional, you will be unable to clearly get your point across. You may want to practice what you want to say before meeting with your boss so that you can make sure that you can keep your cool.
  • Before ending your meeting, make a concrete agreement with your boss as to what the next step is. What will the company do next? What will you do next?
  • Follow up with your employer. After meeting with your employer, make sure he or she actually does what you agreed to. After a few weeks, schedule another meeting to see how the situation is progressing.

Document everything.

Take detailed notes about everything that you think is related to your problem. Write down what was said when you discussed your problem with your boss and coworkers. Include dates, times, and names of other people who may have overheard the conversation. Get your hands on anything that you legally have access to that could help you support your argument, such as the employee handbook and performance reviews. If your coworkers witnessed anything that could help you prove your side of the story, have them write down what they saw or heard, sign and date it.

Take legal action.

If your boss isn’t taking your complaint seriously, you may need to take legal action. Be aware that the law sets time limits on how long you can take to file a lawsuit. So, you must not just wait and assume that you will be able to take legal action sometime in the distant future. If you feel that you need a lawyer, NLSA may be able to help you find representation.

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