11 Ways You Don’t Know Your Employment Rights Are Being Violated

Knowing your employment rights is the first step to knowing when they are being violated by your employer or manager. When you don’t know your rights, you could be vulnerable to inappropriate and illegal employer activity. You need to understand your employment rights.

Quick Rights of EmploymentEmployees giving thumbs up

  • Safe work environment
  • Employee privacy
  • Discrimination-free environment
  • Fair wages and overtime pay
  • Harassment-free workplace
  • Work leave to care for a family member
  • Leave after new baby or adoption

Most workplaces are required by law to provide these rights to every employee. When an employee’s rights are interfered with or violated, the employee may have a case under law. Sometimes you may not even be aware that your rights are being violated.

Speak with a lawyer to determine whether or not you have a case. Chat with an employment attorney: (412) 626-5626 or lawyer@lawkm.com.

11 Ways You Don’t Know Your Employment Rights Are Being Violated

You may not realize that your workplace rights are being violated unless you know your rights. While for the most part employers try to abide by the law, some may not even be aware when they break the law. This means you need to know how your rights are being violated.

Unpaid Payable Hours

Your employer is obligated by law to pay you for any time spent setting up equipment, cleaning a work area, checking stock inventory, attending a shift meeting, and changing in and out of protective equipment. If you work through your lunch break, that should be paid. If you work an extra hour after your normal work hours, you should be paid.

Zeke works at a factory where he must wear protective gear. His manager told him to never clock in until after he’d put on all the gear. Zeke clocked the time it takes him to change into the gear, and he realized that it takes him almost 15 minutes. Every day, he isn’t paid for 30 minutes because he isn’t allowed to clock in before putting on the protective gear. By law, he should be paid for this time.

Unpaid Vacation Time

While Pennsylvania doesn’t require employers to pay employees for unused vacation time, specific companies may have policies to do so. A company that pays a few employees for their unused vacation time should expect to do so for every employee. When a company fails to follow through on their own policy, you may have a right to sue.

Winona accrued 10 unused vacation days at her job. At the end of the year, her company said she had to use them or lose them. But she knew that other coworkers had received pay for those days. Winona believes that the company didn’t follow their policy with her because she’s not white.

Use-It-or-Lose-It Vacation Leave

Some companies have a “use it or lose it” deal for their employees and their vacation time. Basically, if an employee doesn’t use up his or her vacation time by the end of the year, then the vacation time is lost. This policy is actually illegal in some states, such as California, Nebraska, and Montana. The key here is that employers must be consistent in upholding their policy.

Unpaid Commission or Bonus

When you join a company, who promises a certain pay alongside a commission payment or bonus, your employer is obligated by law to follow through on those promises. While the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t regulate bonuses or commissions, the FLSA does require that an employer follows through on their promises. You are entitled to your commissions or bonuses if you have met the standards set out by your employer.

Chad was told that if he made 5 sales within a week that he would receive a 5% bonus off of the total purchase price. He made 5 sales a week for a month and expected his bonus in his pay check, but he didn’t receive it. Six months later, he still has not received any of his promised bonus money.

Misclassification of Employees

Sometimes employers misclassify their employees. Whether it’s done maliciously or not, it’s illegal to misclassify your workers as something they are not. After all, a misclassified worker misses out on certain benefits.

Exempt Workers

Exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay. Determining whether an employee is exempt or not is based on a number of factors such as salary and job duties. However, your job title and description isn’t usually enough to decide whether or not you are exempt.

Independent Contractors

An independent contractor does not receive medical, dental, or unemployment benefits from the companies that employ them. While an independent contractor has the flexibility and authority to make their own business decisions, they don’t receive the same employee rights of tax and wage laws. Therefore, it’s important that independent contractors be classified appropriately.

Unpaid Overtime Pay

Employees are entitled to overtime pay when they work over forty hours in a work week and are eligible for overtime pay. Overtime pay is a rate of 1.5 times the regular hourly rate. Meaning, an employee who makes $10 per regular work hour would receive $15 for an overtime hour. No matter how your employer decides to pay you, whether weekly or semi-monthly, you should still be receiving your overtime pay.

Lyla ends up working through her lunch break every day due to the amount of work her boss needs her to do, but he won’t allow her to leave early. By the end of the week, Lyla has technically worked 2.5 hours overtime. Although she’s certain that she’s eligible, she’s never received overtime pay and is afraid to ask for it.

Comp Time Rather Than Overtime Pay

Comp time, also known as compensatory time, is paid time off, which is given to an employee rather than overtime wages. This is not always legal for some businesses and employees. But, the idea is that the comp time be worth the same as the overtime wages. The FLSA requires that comp time be give in the same pay period as the overtime hours, and non-exempt employees must receive paid overtime.

Ollie was offered comp time rather than overtime pay, but he thinks that he’s actually considered a non-exempt employee. He requested overtime pay, but his manager told him that they only do comp time. Ollie suspects that his employer may be breaking the law.

Not Reporting Overtime Hours

Most offices require that an employee receive permission to work overtime hours. When that permission isn’t granted, some managers will choose to ignore that a non-exempt employee is working overtime. Despite those hours being payable, they are never paid. This is against the FLSA standards for overtime.

Sydney sometimes works a few extra hours on Monday to help the office have a head start for the work week. Her boss always comments on her hard work but fails to financially compensate her for the time. She is a non-exempt employee and, by law, she knows she should be receiving overtime pay.


The law protects employees who have noticed illegal activity and spoken out against that behavior, whether reporting the company to the government or internally reporting. A whistleblowing individual could be an employee, client, contractor, supplier, or anyone else. Companies often retaliate against whistleblowers with demotions, termination, benefit denial, and pay reductions.

Jared noticed that the non-native English speakers at his job were not receiving the same amount of training in their own language as English speakers. The nature of their jobs require detail and caution because of the material they work with. Information was only given in English. Jared saw this as a violation of OSHA and reported it. His boss found out about it and cut his work hours. Jared may have a case of retaliation.

Workplace Discrimination

The Civil Rights Act outlined protections for employees based on race, gender, age, nationality, and religion. No discrimination based on any of those statuses within any part of the hiring process is considered acceptable in employment. Although not all types of employment acts are considered discrimination, you should speak with a lawyer if you believe you have faced workplace discrimination.

Vivi was transferred to an all-male department. The men asked her to service them and made other sexual comments to her. A few made comments about her skin color and that colored women used to have to do their masters sexual favors. Vivi reported the discrimination to her boss and filed a report with the company for the workplace discrimination.

Work Discussion Between Coworkers

The National Labor Relations Act allows employees to discuss their work, wages, and treatment amongst themselves. This means that coworkers can discuss their salary on social media or in the break room. However, it’s not uncommon for employers to write policies specifying that employees are not permitted to discuss wages or other work problems. That policy is against the law.

Fred started to notice some disparity of treatment at his workplace. On Facebook one night, he tagged a few of his coworkers in a post with a high privacy setting, asking if they’d noticed this differing treatment. A few of them chimed in. The next day, Fred was fired for posting about work on Facebook, but he thinks that he may be protected by the National Labor Relations Act.


There are many ways that you don’t know your employment rights are being violated. And when you don’t know what your employment rights are, you are so much more likely to be vulnerable to illegal activity. If you suspect that your employment rights have been violated, speak with an employment lawyer today.

Chat with an employment attorney: (412) 626-5626 or lawyer@lawkm.com.