3 Workplace Laws You Need to Know About

It’s difficult to believe that in todays day and age, US workers are still being subjected to poor treatment by their employers, such as overtime violations, hazardous working conditions, discrimination and fear of punishment for speaking up.  The recession has made people fearful of losing their jobs and are therefore putting up with unfair treatment, allowing the employers to continue unlawfully and unchecked.

Workplace violations are particularly common in the low-wage labor market, with almost 26% of workers claiming to be regularly paid below the minimum limit and almost 80% of the same group who worked more than 40 hours not being paid the legally required overtime limit.

One way to prevent these violations from happening, is to be aware of the workplace laws in your state and take action if you believe you are not being treated in accordance with the law.  However, understanding legal jargon can be tricky and time-consuming, so here are three common Workplace Laws you should know about today:

1. Overtime Laws

If you live in the state of California you may not be aware that there are more stringent overtime laws than in most other states.  According to the Department of Industrial Relations, hours worked in overtime must be paid at the following rates:

  • One and a half times an employees regular rate of pay for hours worked over eight in a workday, or forty hours in a work week.
  • Double time for hours worked over twelve in a single workday, or for hours worked over eight on the seventh day of the work week.

In addition to common pay related queries and claims relating to the above rules, many companies often misclassify workers as ‘independent contractors’ when in fact they are entitled to ‘employment status’. Employers may have done this accidentally or intentionally in a bid to avoid paying costly overtime wages. Misclassification claims under California overtime laws are becoming increasingly commonplace – make sure you have been correctly classified, and take action if not.

2. Access to Personnel Records

Under California state law employees and ex-employees have the right to get copies of their personnel records and files that related to the employees performance, or any grievance concerning the employee.  This access should be allowed no later than 30 days after a request has been made.

3. Social Media Accounts 

Six states including California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan and New Jersey, recently passed some pretty tough new social media privacy laws that could have serious implications for any employers who violate the rules throughout the recruitment process.

Thanks to two bills signed into law in 2012, businesses and schools are prohibited from demanding that applicants share social media passwords or information.  With an increasing number of people regularly using social media accounts, both on and off the job, employers have gotten into the habit of asking employees to reveal the username and passwords for their personal accounts under the guise of company safety, but state legislators consider this to be an invasion of privacy.

This article was written by Amanda Walters, an experienced freelance writer and regular contributor to Huffington Post. Follow her here: @Amanda_W84

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