Guide to your rights as a worker

In the US, a number of agencies work in conjunction to protect workers while on the job. These protections range from requirements to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities to requiring health and safety measures at work. Each agency creates rules that support Congressionally passed laws. States also have a part in the process and can enact more strict laws than those at the federal level. The following are the main federal agencies that set rules and standards, and enforce worker rights:

  • Department of Justice,
  • Department of Labor,
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
  • Occupational Health & Safety Administration.

Add to that the state level of each agency to form a clear picture of the complicated nature of worker rights.

Department of Justice

Although many associate the DOJ with criminal law violations like murder and bank heists, it enforces:

  • Title VI Of The Civil Rights Act Of 1964
  • Title II Of The Americans With Disabilities Act
  • Title III Of The Americans With Disabilities Act

The Civil Rights Act illegalized discrimination based on color, national origin, or race by any program that receives federal financial assistance. Title II of the ADA illegalized discrimination against people with disabilities by local and state agencies. Its protection extends to all activities, programs and services including public transportation and government building access. Title III Of The ADA provides the same protection accommodations in private businesses such as movie theaters and restaurants.

Department of Labor

As the agency devoted the labor force, DoL sets rules and enforces a plethora of legislation. Among its duties, the DoL enforces laws such as the Family Medical Leave Act that allows an employee up to 12 weeks of protected leave during a single year to address a “serious health condition” of their own or a family member. It also enforces The Rehabilitation Act that prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against federal workers.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The EEOC oversees the hiring processes via its rules and enforcement. It investigates discrimination violations and may settle issues out of court or bring a lawsuit.

Occupational Health & Safety Administration

OSHA sets the majority of workplace safety rules. It mandates safety procedures, use of specific protection equipment, conducts on site inspections, and prosecutes violators.

State Agencies

In certain areas of worker rights and safety regulation, states may set laws that address areas not covered by OSHA or that exceed its requirements. Although this usually extends to safety regulations, it can reach into other areas. For instance, last year, the state of Nevada legalized adult marijuana consumption. The law allows those aged 21 or older to legally possess up to one ounce or 1/8 ounce of THC equivalent of concentrates. That protects marijuana users who have a small amount of the substance with them at work. According to criminal attorney Nicholas Woolridge, since Ballot Question 2 passed last November, the majority of low-level marijuana offenses “haven’t been taken seriously”. Although still illegal at the federal level, possession and uses are now legal in Nevada, meaning a worker cannot legally be punished for simply possessing the substance.

Worker rights create a complicated legal road. Many agencies set and promulgate rules for worker protection.

Adam Richards

About Adam Richards

Adam Richards is a semi-retired business professional originally from Bangor, Maine. He spent the majority of his career in sales and marketing where he rose to the marketing lead of a Fortune 1000 company. He then moved on to helping people as a career counselor that specifically helped bring families to self-sufficiency through finding them rewarding careers. He has now returned to Bangor for his retirement and spends his free time writing. This blog will be about everything he learned throughout his career. He'll write on career, workplace, education and technology issues as well as on trends, changes, and advice for the Maine job market and its employers.