1: legal

In the interviews, I felt like workers didn’t have a very firm grasp on their legal rights, and so here I outline a few of them.

The first resources I found relevant were legal resources. Resources to connect workers with their rights, in regards to compensation, salary discourse, paid time off, parental leave, and more.

1. State Workers’ Compensation Officials by State

Here is a list of State Workers Compensation Officials by State. These officials administer four major disability compensation programs which provide workers who are injured at work or acquire an occupation disease (or their dependents) with: 

  1. Wage replacement benefits 
  2. Medical Treatment
  3. Vocational Rehabilitation
  4. Other benefits

Click here for more information about what these services can do for you.

2. Family and Medical Leave

  1. Know your rights in terms of leave! 
    1. The Family and Medical Leave Act provides twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period:
      1. for the birth of a child or to care for a newborn child within one year of birth;
      2. for the placement of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
      3. to care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
      4. a serious health condition that renders the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
      5. any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty” or
      6. twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the service member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).

3. Workplace Fairness

Know your rights! This website offers fact sheets in regards to your rights as a worker, and also offers resources and legal support for workers who think their rights may have been violated.

4. AFL-CIO COVID-19 Resources

Been affected by COVID-19? Here are the ALF-CIO’s covid-19 resources by state. You can find resources and benefits to replace lost wages, eligibility requirements for emergency paid leave, housing and food assistance programs, and health insurance and public health services and guidance.

5. AFL-CIO Form a Union

Workplace doesn’t have a union? Here is information on how to start one and how to start one safely.

All fifteen workers interviewed for Work Ideology said that they were never informed about unionization in any meaningful way. 

“We’ve never really gone into the structure of unions, I don’t think I had a lot of education on them. And I think that they’re framed by corporations in a really negative light, and they always discourage them. So yeah, I don’t really have a huge knowledge of unions.” 

“In school, unions were not talked about. But my view on unions is that they’re a very positive force. It’s the way that workers can take back the power from corporations by just standing together and saying that they won’t work until these factors improve” 

But before you do so, know your rights to engage in union activity.

6. Workplace discrimination 

Here are some of the relevant laws regarding workplace discrimination. Feel free to refer back to this list if you think you are being discriminated against in the workplace.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

  • You cannot be discriminated against on the basis of age, race, religion or gender

Age Discrimination Act of 1975 

  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects certain applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment. The ADEA is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 

  • Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a qualified applicant or employee with a disability. The ADA applies to private employers with 15 or more employees and to state and local government employers. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the employment provisions of the ADA.

Discussing your pay is legal at work! Don’t shy away from it. 

Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees have the right to communicate with other employees at their workplace about their wages. Wages are a vital term and condition of employment, and discussions of wages are often preliminary to organizing or other actions for mutual aid or protection. 

It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you in any way for having that conversation. 

It is unlawful for your employer to interrogate you about the conversation, threaten you for having it, or put you under surveillance for such conversations.  

Additionally, it is unlawful for the employer to have a work rule, policy, or hiring agreement that prohibits employees from discussing their wages with each other or that requires you to get the employer’s permission to have such discussions.

If your employer does any of these things, a charge may be filed against the employer with the NLRB.

7. Facts about Retaliation

US Equal Opportunity Employment Commission
Learn more about what constitutes retaliation, why it happens, and how to prevent it. Contact a lawyer (how to find a lawyer) if you think that you have faced workplace retaliation.

8. What to do if you think you are being discriminated against (from Shegerian Law):

  • Use the company’s internal complaint process
    • First, file an official internal complaint to your human resource department. You may think that this can get you in trouble or that the company may act against you, but know that federal law (see XXX) protects employees who file such complaints. 
  • Gather evidence
    • Collect evidence of any unwanted action or behavior that occurred, including notes, messages, emails, or recordings. It’s always best to get it in writing. 
    • It’s crucial that you prove that the management has been made aware of the discrimination and has failed to respond appropriately to protect your rights. 
    • Write down the discriminatory treatment or harassment you’ve been subjected to, including the time, date, and place. 
  • Be mindful of witnesses
    • Take note of anyone who has witnessed the discriminatory act, and reach out to that person to ask if it’s okay to have them as witnesses.
    • Document their names, contact details, and ask if they are willing to write down what they’ve observed. 
    • If you wish to pursue the case with a lawyer, the lawyer can contact your witnesses for a credible account of the incident. 
  • Arm yourself with knowledge of the laws that apply
    • Research labor laws to see which ones apply to your case. If it involves discrimination, there are federal laws that protect people with complaints around age, race, and disability discrimination. You can also look into your state or provincial laws if the federal law isn’t enough to help your case.
  • Include proof of the negative impact of the workplace violation or hostility on your health and performance
    • Gather performance reviews or any form of work assessment that you’ve received from your job. 
    • This is one way you can prove that the hostile work environment and discriminatory behavior have negatively affected your work performance. If you’ve consulted with a therapist or doctor around the time of the incident, take note of that as well. 
  • Always document everything
    • This has been mentioned before, but it’s worth emphasizing, especially if you plan to take things to court. Document everything, even the minor occurrences—the date, time, messages, notes, or other recordings that provide a clear and detailed account of the incident will strengthen your case.