Workers’ rights

Workers' rights - woman worker

Learn about workers’ rights that will protect you in the workplace.

Once you find a job, you have certain rights to protect you at work. The US government has workers’ rights laws that say how much money you must make. There are also laws about how many hours you can work and how your employer treats you. Your employer must provide a safe and healthy place for you to work.

Wages

Minimum wage

The federal government makes laws for the whole country. The state governments make laws in their states. The federal government and every state have a set a minimum wage. Minimum wage is the lowest amount that employers must pay their employees. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. This means that an employer anywhere in the United States MUST pay you at least $7.25 per hour.

State minimum wage

Sometimes the state minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage. For example, the state of California has a minimum wage of $8.00 per hour. Arizona has a minimum wage of $7.65 per hour. In these states, employers must pay workers the higher amount.

Minimum wage and tips

Tips are money from customers to thank you for your service. Tips are not included in the meal or tax amount. If you work in a restaurant or in a job where you receive tips of more than $30 a month, then you can be employed as a “tipped employee.” Tipped employees must be paid at least $2.13 per hour plus their tips. Tips must be more than $5.12 per hour so that you are still earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 ($2.13 + $5.12 = $7.25).

Equal wages

In some countries, men and women are paid differently. However, US laws don’t allow this. If you are doing the same job as a co-worker, you must be paid the same. You should also get the same overtime pay, vacation hours, and bonuses.  Employees should only get more if they are in different positions. They can also be paid more if they have better skills or more experience.  

Other workers’ rights

Discrimination

Discrimination laws encourage employers to hire people from different backgrounds and to treat everyone the same. It is illegal for an employer to NOT hire you because of:

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Disability: having physical problems or an illness
  • Age: being 40 or older
  • National origin: where you come from

Work injuries

Injuries can happen to you while working. If you get hurt while working, it is very important to tell your manager right away. You also need to find a doctor to treat your injury. Workers’ compensation laws can protect your rights to have treatment. Some of your treatment and wages could be paid for by your company.  

Right to privacy

Your company is not allowed to look at your personal things. Your purse, bags, storage lockers, and briefcases are only for you. If you receive mail that has your name on it, your manager is not allowed to read it.

If you use a computer for work, your boss is allowed to look at your emails. If you use a phone, some companies are allowed to listen to your phone calls and messages. This is different for every company. You should never say or write negative things about your company.

Unfair termination

Unfair termination means that you got fired for an illegal reason.  If you think that you lost your job because of discrimination, a work injury, or harassment, you should think about talking to a lawyer. There are lawyers who help people with workers’rights.

If you think illegal things are happening in your workplace, tell your employer.  If your employer is not able to help, write down what is happening. You may need this information later.   

Workplace safety

Your employer must make sure your workplace is safe and without hazards. Hazards are things that can harm you, such as chemicals or unsafe tools or equipment. Sometimes, your job requires you to do something unsafe. For example, a construction worker might have to climb up on tall buildings. Under the law, employers have to tell you about the potential dangers at the workplace. They also have to train you in a language that you understand. If you feel or see something is unsafe that your manager does not know about, tell them. 

Learn more

The RCO does not provide legal advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal advice. If you are looking for free or low-cost lawyer or legal help, please refer to these pages for information:

 

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