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What are Employment Rights?

Lainie Petersen
By Lainie Petersen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Employment rights, sometimes known as employee rights, are a matter of employment law and thus vary by jurisdiction. In many places, there are several categories of employment rights, including those pertaining to discrimination, workplace conditions, and wages. Enforcement of employment rights may be left to one or more government agencies, and employees in some places may be able to sue their employers for damages caused by the employer's failure to respect employees' rights.

In the United States, employment rights begin even before a job candidate is hired. Employers are forbidden by federal law from discriminating against job applicants on the basis of their race, gender, or age. In some states and cities, anti-discrimination laws are even stricter and may protect job applicants against discrimination because of their sexual orientation. Federal law also protects job applicants' privacy during the application process, requiring employers to receive permission from applicants before conducting credit checks and informing them if information discovered in a background check negatively impacts their candidacy for a position.

Workplace safety is an important aspect of employment rights. The United States and many other countries have laws that require employers to provide a safe working environment for their employees. For example, employers are typically required to ensure that the buildings in which they operate are structurally sound. They are also required to provide employees with protective equipment and clothing if necessary to the safe performance of work tasks. Some countries also extend the idea of workplace safety to issues of workplace harassment, enforcing laws against the harassment of employees on the basis of the gender, disability, or race.

Labor law also addresses how workers are compensated by their employers. Many countries have established a minimum wage law, which ensures employees minimum compensation for their labor. Some countries also require employers to provide paid time off to their employees, either as holidays, sick time, or various types of family leave. Other countries, such as the United States, do not require employers to provide paid time off, but do require some employers to provide unpaid leave for employees who are coping with a serious personal or family illness or problem.

Enforcement of employment rights can take place at several levels. Some local governments may enforce building and health codes, while other laws, such as anti-discrimination laws, may be enforced by national agencies. In the United States, employees whose rights are violated may have recourse with several government agencies at the local, state, or federal level, depending on the nature of the rights breach and the suitability of the agency for addressing the problem.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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