Chances are if you are in high school or college right now, you are probably looking to make some extra cash or take an internship at some company. Perhaps you are even working while you are going to school. Chances are also, that your school did not give you any sort of a pamphlet or workbook telling you about your legal rights when it comes to working. Actually, schools give students zero chances to actually prepare them for the work world. Instead, this is something you have to figure out all on your own. Well, maybe not, since you are reading this and I do plan to give you a few tips along the way to help you out. Below are a few laws, guidelines and tips you need to learn about when it comes to employment law no matter where you live. Well, actually some states may have different laws, but united they are usually all the basic laws outlined below.
At Will Employment Law
In most of the states in the USA you can be fired at will for no reason at all. This is called At Will. Your employer can fire you because you chew gum at work, because they are in a bad mood, because they don’t like the way your shoes look or because you were sassy, moody or sarcastic towards them. Of course there are exceptions to every rule. These exceptions include getting fired because of your sex, age, creed, religion or even in some states because of your sexual orientation. You also cannot be fired for being a whistle blower or making a workman’s comp claim. I remember a day when I got harassed and then fired and rehired when they took it upon themselves to make my life a hell when I got injured on the job. As soon as they figured out I knew the rules, they were in a hurry to hire me back. A lot of employers assume that just because you are young, you are automatically stupid. Don’t be stupid, read every work place law you can and educate yourself on each one.
Bullying vs. Harassment
If you have a job, you may start to realize that there is a fine line between bullying and harassment and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. If you are being bullied at work, there is nothing you can do really; either suck it up or quit. On the other hand, if you are being made fun of because of some definitive line that has to do with your race, creed, religion, sex, age, etc. well that’s a whole other ballgame, that is harassment, and depending on your state and protected categories, certain things are not allowed when it comes to harassment and those protected categories. One of the best things you can do is read through the employment law for your specific state and read any handbooks they gave you before you started the job. In the handbook there should be guidelines, rules and laws. Also it should be noted that if you report someone for bullying, they can and probably will retaliate. On the other hand, if you report someone for harassment, they can retaliate but the law protects you. Food for thought.
Discriminate Acts and Laws
When you discriminate against someone just for being themselves, it’s not illegal or against the law. However, when you bring things like race, sex, sexual identity, disabilities, color, religion or origin into it, you can get a person in trouble, it is against the law and it is illegal. Some things like sexual orientation may not be a protected category in ALL states in the USA, but the other ones are depending on company size and a few other things. For example, if you live in Florida, and you work for a small family owned business with less than 10 employees as an intern, you might not have the same rights as someone that works at a large enterprise in Florida, that has 5000 employees and you work as an employee not an independent contractor. Visit your state government website for more information.
In most of the states in the US if you are under the age of 18 at the time of getting hired, you cannot be bound under a contract or contractual agreement. However, once you turn 18 you may be placed under certain contracts. They can state all sorts of things such as not sharing information with competitors, not working for a competitor for X amount of months or years after you quit/fired/let go, they can state confidentiality agreements and more. Make sure that if you are ever asked to actually sign a contract that you read it from front to back and that you understand it before you sign it. If you have any real issues or you want to make sure that you are protected legally, you could always go to a lawyer for a consult to see if you have anything to really worry about.
Social Media and Electronics
When it comes to your job, you were hired to work. You were not, however, hired to play on your phone, download pictures, play around on your iPod unless it’s to listen to music and unless you were told you could do so. You also were not hired to talk on Facebook or text, send emails or watch videos on YouTube. If you do these things at work and the company catches you doing so, they have all rights to check what you are doing and you can be fired for doing it. When it comes to privacy issues in the workplace, you have very few rights, especially when it keeps you from doing your job!