Prior to the early 20th century, workers in the United States had very few rights in regards to employment. They were subjected to dangerous conditions, discrimination in pay based on sex, race and national origin, as well as a variety of other issues. Tired of the system being rigged as advantageous solely for businesses, employees formed unions and demanded better working conditions, free from undue hazard and discrimination. As a result, The Workers’ Bill of Rights was created. These federal laws are a series of rights and protections specifically for employees which ensure that all businesses that operate within the United States adhere to certain workplace standards. It is imperative that all businesses understand the rights of their employees and make sure that policies are in place to protect those rights.
Right to a Safe Workplace
In 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed, which states that all employees have the right to work in an environment which is safe from the exposure to dangerous machinery, excessive noises, toxic chemicals, etc. Businesses should consistently monitor the workplace environment for environmental hazards and have an action plan for removing said dangers if found. Companies should also make sure that employees are adequately trained to use machinery and understand how to stay safe on the job. Safety requirements should be posted in visible areas for easy employee access.
Right to Fair Wages
Employees work for money, straight and simple. But it’s important that the money they are paid is enough to meet a certain standard of living for the area. Therefore, employees who are eligible for overtime pay are required to be paid at least the federal minimum wage. It is important to note that although the federal minimum wage is $7.25, most states have a higher designated minimum wage. If operating in a state with a higher minimum wage, employers must pay their employees the higher state wage.
Right to Non-Discrimination and Harassment
An amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 guarantees employees the right to a workplace free from discrimination based on race, sex, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, disability, gender identity, religion or national origin. However, as gender has become another hot topic, HRC explains, “Under the patchwork of state and local employment law that prohibits employment discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation more than three of every five citizens live in jurisdictions that do not provide such protections, and they are needed.” It is important to note that these rights are always going to be going through changes as our society changes, so be sure to keep up on transitions made in state and national laws related to discrimination.
Right to Report or Complain Without Retaliation
Bachus & Schanker tell us that, “If you are ever in a situation where you learn that a coworker or a supervisor is participating in illegal activities, there are laws that protect you after you come clean to management.” Essentially, what that means is that employees have whistleblower protections which state that they have the right to report or complain about unsafe work environments, violations of federal, state, city or county law, and negligence without fear or retaliation (such as termination or demotion) from their employer.
These are just a few of the fundamental rights employees have under the Workers’ Bill of Rights. It is important to note that every state, city, and county have the right to extend the workers rights, and as such, it is essential for businesses to have a clear understanding of what is expected of them in the municipality in which they are operating. More information business practices and news can be found on this page!