Although we all recognize it’s important to know your rights, actually understanding them is a whole other issue.

Understanding Workers Rights

Yes, you can ask your lawyer or union representative about whether your rights are being disrespected or not. But, this can cost you time and money. Before you pick up the phone, let’s explain what worker’s rights are, and what they should look like in your workplace.

What Are Workers Rights?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one singular definition of worker’s rights. This is your first hurdle to understanding what your company can and cannot do. We will be following the International Labor Organization’s (or ILO’s) definition of the term and expanding on each element.

The ILO says that worker’s rights promote and respect these 5 topics:

  • The Right To Collective Bargaining And Freedom Of Association
  • The Right Against Forced Labor
  • The Right Against Child Labor
  • The Right Against Discrimination
  • Safe Working Conditions

The Right To Collective Bargaining And Freedom Of Association

This first point has two big definitions attached to it. The first is “Freedom of Association”. This right allows both companies and workers to defend themselves and their self-interest.

Although this definition is vague, it is primarily used to negotiate salaries and benefits.

The second term is “collective bargaining”. This right allows workers and employers to talk to each about their freedom of association. You can discuss pay, working conditions, and developments. With this open communication, you can then bargain as a group for improvements.

In practice, this means it is within your worker’s rights to discuss pay. Here are some other actions you can take which are within your worker’s rights under “Collective Bargaining And Freedom Of Association”:

  • Worker’s Rights For Companies:
    • Companies can create their own rules, elect representatives for the company and organize programs freely.
    • Can join confederations with international organizations and workers.
  • Worker’s Rights For Workers:
    • Protected against anti-union discrimination.
    • Protected against harassment or interference by either their employer, company, or co-worker.

These rights allow open communication, which in turn allows for better working conditions and competitive economic growth. As you can see the rights go both ways, allowing freedoms to the company as well as the worker.

The Right Against Forced Labor

Forced labor is when someone has to work against their will. There also has to be a threat or actual form of penalty for someone to fall under this category.

Having the threat of penalty is enough for someone to be seen as forced. This means that emotional abuse can be added to this category. This loose definition allows law enforcement to stop slavery, trafficking, and even more complex issues.

There are two common complex issues that many do not realize is a form of forced labor.

The first is when someone gets trapped into debt as their employer or company refuses their pay.  The most common reason for the refusal is to finance the business. Working without pay, when pay was expected and agreed upon, is forced labor.

The second is when companies coerce their employees to do overtime or extra work unpaid through psychological manipulation. This means making someone feel like they have to work more than they are contracted to.

If you are unsure about your current working conditions, contact a local lawyer like the  Tiemann Law Firm in Sacramento and discuss if your situation is in fact forced labor.

The Right Against Child Labor

The definition of a child changes from state to state, however as a general rule the youngest you can work in the USA is 14 years old.

This law protects children against working during their education, allowing them to focus on studies. It stops them from entering poor working conditions for their growing bodies. And it stops companies from hiring children just so they can have workers on low wages.

The Right Against Discrimination

Any discrimination against race, skin color, sex, political opinion, or religion isn’t allowed under your worker’s rights. Unfortunately, depending on the state, your sexual orientation or gender identity might not be protected.

Safe Working Conditions

In this situation, working conditions include; wages, working times, physical and emotional stress, and occupational safety and health.

Depending on your state, there is a minimum you are allowed to be paid, and a maximum you can be asked to work for. This stops companies from making you work for unmaintainable amounts of time for unlivable wages.

Summary

These 5 elements of your worker’s rights protect you from working in unstable, unmaintainable, and unhealthy conditions. Although some are reliant on state laws, most are protected throughout the USA.