What are Workplace Rights?

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  • Written By: Emma G.
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 20 January 2020
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In the United States, federal and state laws protect the workplace rights of employees. Workplace rights are the rules that govern how employees must be treated in the workplace. This typically keeps all workers safe and ensures that they will be treated fairly and compensated for their work.

There are numerous workplace rights that cover a range of circumstances. Some rights apply to all workers. The most basic rights of all workers are privacy, safety, compensation, leave, and freedom from harassment and discrimination. Other workplace rights are designed to protect specific types of workers, such as the right of a new mother to take maternity leave. Some workplace rights protect workers in certain stages of their jobs, such as during the hiring or firing process.

The right to privacy protects workers from the moment they apply for a job until they retire or are fired. It keeps an employer from sharing information about a worker's medical history with other employees or with people outside the company. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits prospective employers from making job applicants undergo a medical examination before offering a job.


Right to safety ensures that workers who do jobs in dangerous environments are given the training they need to keep themselves safe. It also demands that employers provide adequate safety equipment, such as helmets for construction workers. Workers who are injured on the job have the right to compensation. This encourages employers to make their workplaces as safe as possible to avoid paying compensation fees.

Workers also have a right to be compensated for their work and to take time off from work in certain situations. Federal and state governments set minimum wage laws. Compensation laws governing overtime and holiday hours vary from state to state. The right to leave allows workers some time off from their jobs. Special rules govern maternity and paternity leave, sick leave, and paid and unpaid vacations.

Freedom from harassment protects employees from physical, emotional, and sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can include any form of unwanted sexual advance, including explicit e-mails, comments, or text messages. This right ensures that no worker feels threatened in the workplace. Freedom from discrimination goes hand-in-hand with freedom from harassment. It keeps employers from treating employees differently based on gender, religious affiliation, race, or sexual orientation.

There are several places to learn about workplace rights and how they apply to specific workers and situations. For more information, workers can contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), or the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). To find more information on workplace rights granted by individual states, workers can contact the state in which they work.



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