Every workplace handles employee rights differently. Some are activists who make sure every employee has what they need. Some are complaint-based so that mostly only the “squeaky wheels” get requested compensation. Others are unbelievably hostile to the idea that employees are anything more than drones hired to do a job without complaint or anything more than basic pay. Some have HR departments, some don’t. Some HR departments are responsive and helpful, some are configured more like insurance agencies questioning every claim with hostility. Most employers fall somewhere in the middle.
Unfortunately, there are far too many employers that only respect certain aspect of employee rights and try to use bullying, retaliation, and even petty social pressure to keep their employees from claiming perfectly reasonable rights. Today, we’re here to highlight five things you should be able to do at work and, more to the point, you absolutely should not have to fear doing in a reasonable workplace.
1) Speaking to Your Manager about Coworker Disputes
Coworker disputes happen. Whether your office mate won’t stop humming show tunes or a member of your team is missing important deadlines, you need to be able to take these concerns to your manager. After all, that’s what managers are there to do: Manage. However, some managers and even whole workplaces take on the attitude that anyone who reports a problem is the true creator of the problem, not just an employee seeking an amicable solution.
If you are afraid to talk to your boss about normal workplace disputes and concerns for fear of retaliation or mistreatment, your employee rights are being denied.
2) Going to HR About an Employee Rights or Discrimination Concern
An evolution of this is the inability to go to HR about problems that are distinctly in their wheelhouse. If you hear a coworker make an appalling racist joke to a client, if one of your coworkers is getting bullied by the rest of their team, or if you know that a colleague needs family assistance and is too shy to ask, HR is who you are supposed to go to. This is also true if you are the subject of discrimination, denied employee rights, or if someone in your office needs disability compensation.
Unfortunately, many HR departments are not just unhelpful but abjectly hostile toward employees who report problems. Especially in toxic workplaces with a habit of covering for favored employees or shoving problems under the rug. HR is supposed to defend employee rights and if they are not doing their job, your rights (and those of all your coworkers) are likely being violated.
3) Asking for Time Off You Have Earned
You deserve to be able to take the paid time off you have earned. PTO is actually a part of your employment package and if it is denied to you, your employer is essentially refusing to pay you the full value of your yearly employment contract. You also have the right to take unpaid time off as needed, up to whatever amount was contractually agreed on by your employer.
You should not have to fear asking for time off and should be able to schedule that time with reasonable notice. An employer should not be able to frighten, threaten, or otherwise prevent you from taking earned time off. Nor should they be able to deny you time based on how they think you will be using that time. Whether you are staying home for mental health reasons, caring for a sick child, or going to theme parks, that time is yours to take.
4) Getting a Bad Reference if You Resign
It’s a sad fact that many managers and employer organizations have a pattern of vindictive mistreatment of employees who choose to leave. They may take your resignation personally or you may have simply seen similar mistreatment happen to previous employees who were left and then openly bad-mouthed after their departure.
Some employers even start to abuse an employee during their two-weeks notice in order to ‘punish’ them for resigning. This is an overt and appalling abuse of employee rights and is often an attempt to keep employees trapped in a disadvantageous working environment by threatening them with bad references after they go.
5) Filing a Workers Compensation Claim After an Injury
Finally, there is the issue of worker’s compensation. Legally, any significant workplace injury (beyond a papercut or stubbed toe) should be reported immediately. This contributes to workplace safety statistics and helps both your employer and OSHA improve safety in the future. Your employer also pays for Workers Comp insurance which is where the funds come from to pay for the medical expenses and leave time after serious workplace injuries.
However, since the insurance premiums go up after a claim, many workplaces try to bully, cajole, or threaten their employees into not filing a claim or settling for a claim that is too small to take care of their needs after the injury. If you are afraid of retaliation for filing a workers compensation claim, then your employer is most likely breaking the law in their behavior toward injured employees.
Employee mistreatment is an unpleasantly common occurrence in both big and small workplaces, but you should never let intimidation cause you to give up your employee rights. Instead, fight back! The law office of Aiman-Smith and Marcy specializes in defending the rights of employees from their employers, no matter how powerful your employer may be or what threats they have made or mistreatment they have shown in the past. If you have reason to fear when standing up for your employee rights on your own, let us back you up and, if necessary, file an employee rights lawsuit against your abusive employer. For more information about how to stand up for the rights of you and your colleagues as employees, contact us today!