Workers’ rights or employee rights are legal rights and human right relating to labour relations in the workplace. These rights have been codified in international and national labour and employment law. In essence, these rights affect working conditions in the workplace. They also protect the interests of employees as well as the employers.
There is a difference between employee rights and job protection rights. Job protection ensures that employers do not dismiss employees unfairly. Employees can also claim compensation for unfair dismissal. However, employee rights ensure that employees have the freedom to engage in and pursue, job related activities.
For an overview, we shall henceforth focus on employee rights and ensure that they are enforced at the workplace. Employers are legally bound to ensure equality in the workplace. This requires them to ensure that men and women are placed in similar positions and assigned to similar jobs. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC ensures that men and women are fairly represented in all aspects of the organisation. Adequate representation at the workplace therefore requires employers to have a healthy workplace climate. For this, employers must be conscious of their responsibilities towards employees, and they cannot treat them unfairly without recourse to the law.
When it comes to the workplace, there are two basic areas where employee rights protect employees – harassment and discrimination. Harassment refers to behaviour that makes a person feel uncomfortable such as racial, sexist or otherwise discriminatory behaviour. Also, discrimination may include age, sex, pregnancy, ethnicity, race or religion discrimination. If any employee feels like he/she has been subjected to any form of harassment or discrimination, then the first step is to file a complaint with the concerned organisation.
In order to ensure that the interests of employees are protected, the employment laws and regulations state that an employer must take reasonable steps to ensure that any forms of discrimination do not take place. The two procedures that an employee can follow to file a complaint include approaching an attorney who is knowledgeable on the provisions of employment law or approaching the equal opportunity ombudsman. The equal opportunity ombudsman is the body that resolves conflicts between an employer and employees over issues such as discrimination or harassment.
As per the EEOC, every year, numerous workers file discrimination cases with the EEOC. In fact, the number of complaints filed has increased dramatically over the years. This has been attributed to the fact that more employers are taking proactive measures to prevent discrimination. Apart from instituting policies that prevent discrimination, many employers also make use of mediation or arbitration in case of serious workplace problems. However, even in these circumstances, employee rights may be adequately protected if proper channels are followed.
There are certain employees who may be subjected to racial discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace. These measures are taken in response to rising instances of racial or sexual harassment in the workforce that have been uncovered through investigations or from complaints by employees. In addition, some organizations may not allow their employees to participate in certain activities that may be seen as promoting any form of racial discrimination or sexual harassment. Similarly, companies may refuse to hire employees who belong to a particular religious group. However, despite the presence of various measures to protect employees’ rights, employers are expected to take reasonable steps to avoid situations that could lead to legal action against them. Employers who violate the rights of their employees can face severe repercussions, including fines and in some cases suspension or termination of their business operations.
Apart from the aforementioned measures taken by employers to protect their employees’ rights, there are other measures that can be taken by an employer to ensure compliance with employee rights. For instance, an employer should post guidelines for its employees to avoid discriminatory acts and conduct. Such posters should give details of how such acts or conduct violates the company’s harassment policy or other employment rules. Equally important is providing information on the procedures to follow if employees feel that they have been subjected to any form of racial discrimination or sexual harassment. This is necessary as any violation of employee rights can have a significant impact on the success of any work procedure. It is also advisable for employers to provide information about their rights to their employees and to make sure that these are clearly understood by employees.