Uncover Your Workplace Rights: 15 Employee Rights You Need To Know

15 Employee Rights You Need to Know

Everyone deserves the right to feel safe, be treated equally and receive equal opportunity without discrimination. These rights are also upheld in the workplace by law – known as employee rights. Employers are expected to abide by local and federal employment laws, including employee rights, as they protect employees from unfair or unjust treatment. Although employee rights are implemented by law, employees can benefit from knowing their employee rights, and avoid exploitation or unfair work practices. We’ll go through what your rights are as an employee, and how you can make sure that you are being treated fairly at work.

What are Employee Rights?

Employee rights are the legal and human rights that an employee is entitled to whilst at work. Employee rights can include rights related to hiring practices, wages, training, workplace safety, break times, termination of employment and fair treatment. 

Employee rights are put in place nationwide, however they can vary slightly from state to state, for example: 

  • Overtime pay is calculated at different rates in Texas and Alabama.
  • A meal break is required for employees working 5+ continuous hours in Nebraska, but in Nevada, a rest break is only given to employees working 8+ continuous hours. 

As you can see, the employee rights can vary depending on your state, so knowing your rights can allow you to ensure you receive what you are entitled to.

Who Can Help with US Employee Rights Laws?

There are federal organizations which are responsible for setting and implementing labor laws across the country. Some employee rights are consistent across the entire US, and if there is no specific state law, sometimes federal employee rights laws become the default. Some places you can reference when exploring your employee rights at work include: 

Department of Labor

The US Department of Labor sets the federal laws for employment rights, to ensure that all employees have safe, fair and healthy working conditions. They cover and address issues relating to wages and discrimination, and handle complaints from employees.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) 

The EEOC’s main objective is to implement policies and laws that make discrimination illegal in the workplace. Equal employment opportunity ensures that all employees are given the same opportunities and rights regardless of their identity.

📚 Further reading: A Short Guide to Gender Equality in the Workplace

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) 

The NLRB is responsible for investigating cases where an employee’s rights have been violated in the workplace. They aim to resolve the issues and penalize those responsible, and work with employees, employers and workers unions.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 

OSHA is responsible for setting and enforcing safe work practices for all employees. Workers rights laws also include a safe work environment, and OSHA is responsible for setting these guidelines. Occupational safety and health is especially relevant for employees who work in hazardous conditions, or with chemicals and machinery. 

Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

As employee rights also cover fair compensation, EBSA’s role is to ensure that employees are receiving fair pay and benefits. They offer advice on employer-sponsored benefits, such as retirement funds and health insurance.

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) 

The OFCCP is responsible for upholding anti-discrimination laws and employee rights for contractors who are employed by the federal government. They assist in organizing and liaising with federal departments to ensure that contractors hired are treated fairly.

Top 15 Must-Know Employee Rights


To make sure you are being fairly treated at work, you must know your employee rights. Let's go through the 15 employee rights which you should keep in mind, so you can protect yourself at work: 

1. Employee Rights When Your Company Permanently Closes

If you work in a company with over 100 employees, the federal WARN Act states that employers must give their employees written notice 60 calendar days in advance, if the layoff affects more than 50 employees. And if an employer does not comply with this, they can receive a fine of up to $500 per day of violation. 

2. Employee Rights When Accused of Misconduct

If an employee is accused of misconduct, then EEO laws come into play. Whether the employee is correctly or wrongly accused, they still are protected by employee rights relating to the fair treatment of them and their privacy. If employers violate EEO laws whilst reprimanding misconduct, then legal proceedings could take place.

3. Employee Rights When Terminated

If you have been terminated, you still have employee rights related to your unemployment. An employer must follow the process for providing you with the necessary information so you maintain access to health insurance and unemployment benefits. If you have been wrongfully terminated, an employee can begin legal proceedings. 

4. Employee Rights When Quitting a Job

In the US, there is no law which states you must provide two weeks of notice when resigning. However, if you do quit your job, in most states, your final pay is due in the next payment period. If an employer violates these laws, you can file a complaint with the Department of Labor.

📚 Further reading: A Comprehensive Guide on How to Resign from a Job

5. Employee Rights for Sick Leave

Employees who have worked for more than 12 months are entitled to unpaid sick leave of up to 12 weeks under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Employers who violate these laws can be sued by the employee. 

6. Employee Rights for Annual Leave

There are no federal laws relating to an employee's right for annual leave, as annual leave is decided between the employer and employee. If an employer does not uphold an employee’s annual leave as stipulated by an employment contract, then the employees rights have been violated, and they could complain to the Department of Labor.

7. Employee Rights When Facing Discrimination

Workplace discrimination is illegal, and a violation of laws set by the EEOC. You are protected from discrimination of all forms throughout the hiring process and employment. If an employee is being discriminated against, the employer could be responsible for rectifying and providing compensation. 

8. Employee Rights Regarding A Safe Work Environment 

According to OSHA, all employees have the right to a safe work environment. If an employee feels their safety is not being protected, or has had their employee rights violated, they can file a complaint to the OSHA. 

9. Employee Rights Relating to Maternity and Paternity 

All employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after giving birth or adopting a child, according to the Family and Medical Leave Act. Some states also have paid leave, but this varies. Employers who violate the employee’s rights to maternity or paternity leave can be sued by the employee.

10. Employee Rights for Overtime

Employees are entitled to at least ‘time and a half’ pay for any hours exceeding 40 hours a week according to The Federal Labor Standards Act, but some states pay more than this. If an employer violates an employee’s right to overtime pay, they are subject to fines of $1000 per violation.

11. Employee Rights Relating to Privacy 

The EEOC states that all employees have the right to privacy of their personal information, and that it should be stored and handled with confidentiality. If an employer violates an employee’s privacy rights, they could be sued by the employee. 

12. Employee Rights to Medicare and Social Security

Employees in the US are entitled to Social Security upon retirement and Medicare benefits based on their employment type. These are paid through your taxes, so staying on top of your tax payments is essential. 

13. Employee Rights Regarding Freedom of Speech

Employees have the right to discuss matters of pay, benefits and their contracts between each other, and an employer cannot place bans on these topics. However, discriminatory speech or harassment does not count as free speech in the workplace.

14. Employee Rights for Unionization and Collective Bargaining

According to the NRLB, employees cannot be discouraged from unionizing, either with direct or indirect methods to prevent them from doing so. Employee rights for collective bargaining mean that employers and unions can meet and discuss reasonable changes in good faith. Employers who violate the employees rights to unionize or collectively bargain face charges, but the laws differ by state.

15. Employee Rights to Freedom from Retaliation

According to the EEOC, employees are protected from retaliation by employers. This means that employers cannot punish employees for exercising their rights to be free from harassment, discrimination or to receive accommodations they are entitled to. Employers who violate these employee rights against retaliation can be sued by employees.

Key Takeaways

Employee rights are in place to protect all workers and ensure they work in a safe and fair workplace. Even though employee rights can differ between states, all employees are protected by federal workers rights which provide security relating to pay, time off, and freedom from discrimination. Studying your employee rights can ensure you’re protected at work. If you want to learn more about equal opportunity, anti discrimination and other employee rights, check out CakeResume's resources for more!

CakeResume is a free resume maker and portfolio builder that provides hundreds of resume templates (free download) and various job resume examples to help showcase the best you. Landing your dream job will be a piece of cake!

— Originally Written by Bronte McNamara —

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