Workplace laws differ across the globe. Governments in various jurisdictions, whether at the level of a nation, province or local government, have enacted various laws to protect the rights of both workers and employers.
Since employers can typically afford attorneys, they know their rights, understand what qualifies as an illegal activity, and understand what they are legally bound to do.
Employees, however, are often in the dark about the workplace laws that may be entirely in their favor. They are also unaware of specific provisions that can cost them their job, should the boss deem it fit.
Although specifics of such laws would vary, and some of them may be entirely non-existent in some countries, it pays to run a quick Google search and find out if similar laws exist in the city, state, or country where you are currently employed.
So, let's take a look at some of the most common examples of workplace laws that your boss doesn't want you to know:
#1 Workplace Laws about Leaves
Full-time employees of a company are typically entitled to leaves & holidays during the course of employment.
Most well-established companies have standard leave policies in place, developed after consulting a lawyer experienced in federal and local labor laws, as applicable.
When you join a new company, you and the employer will typically agree on various leave benefits – whether fully paid, partially paid, or unpaid.
But, disputes may arise. When this happens, it is good to go through the parts of labor laws applicable in your country that concern leave benefits.
The Family & Medical Leave Act in the US, for instance, provides a particular category of employees up to 12 weeks of annual leave. Although it's an unpaid leave, the Family & Medical Leave Act mandates that the worker cannot be dismissed during this timeframe.
In India, currently applicable legal provisions under the Factories Act 1948 provide annual earned leave of a minimum of 12 days to workers who have been employed for at least 240 days in a given year. Workers are paid as per the standard daily wage rate against earned leaves. Young workers (under the age of 15 years) are entitled to 20 earned leaves (one earned leave for 15 days of work), and adult workers are entitled to 15 earned leaves (one earned leave for 20 days of work) in a year in India.
Whether a company pays you for 'time not worked' – say, during holidays (federal or not) or vacations, is generally a matter of agreement between you and the employer.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in the US, for example, does not bind employers in any manner to pay workers for 'time not worked.' Personal leaves, sick leaves, etc., aren't covered either.
Most companies incentivize leave benefits and offer more benefits & flexibility to their workers than required by law; some employers may be offering leave benefits in a manner that violates applicable laws.
Dig deeper to figure out if your boss is violating any law before you raise a dispute.
#2 Older Workers & Age Discrimination
Such laws forbid discrimination in the workplace against older workers.
For instance, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) in the US was signed into law in 1967, and it protects employees above the age of 40.
In the UK, older workers are protected from ageism through the Equality Act.
In countries like India, there are currently no specific laws that address age discrimination in the workplace.
Age discrimination in different aspects of employment such as recruitment, training, employment terms, transfers, and dismissals isn't uncommon.
If you have been at the receiving end of discrimination due to age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race, or ethnicity, consider learning about the legal protection available in your country.
#3 Broad Non-Compete Agreements
Non-compete agreements have gained popularity over the last few years. Such agreements generally stipulate that employees cannot work for a direct competitor for a specific duration of time after they leave the company.
Such agreements can also discourage their people from starting a business or working with a different employer in the same domain as a part-time employee.
Non-compete agreements are illegal in some jurisdictions like California, North Dakota and Oklahoma. However, various states make exceptions for certain professions. For instance, broadcast industry professionals are exempt in Maine, accounts get a limited exemption in Kansas, and physicians are exempted in Delaware.
When non-compete agreements are legal for your profession in your state or country, you may find that they are often too broad to make it extremely difficult for someone to find a new job.
If you have reasons to believe that your employer is forcing you to sign an unreasonable non-compete agreement, consider speaking with a labor law specialist or an experienced employment law attorney to find out if your legal rights are being violated.
#4 Overtime Pay
Many employees use different tricks to avoid paying workers for overtime. Some companies misclassify their workers in different categories to avoid paying additional wages for the work done. For example, a company might tell you that you do not qualify for overtime pay since you happen to be a salaried employee. Or, someone may ask you to perform nonexempt duties in the workplace.
So it is a good idea to learn about the laws and regulations governing 'how people are paid' in your province or country.
In the US, the FLSA mandates that nonexempt workers be provided with overtime pay whenever they work for more than 40 hours a week. In addition, some states in the US have additional laws that govern overtime pay. For example, California, Nevada and Alaska require employers to provide overtime pay to workers when they work for more than 8 hours a day.