Employee Rights Center

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The delineation and defense of employee rights is a key aspect of employment law, which in defining employee rights generally implies corresponding employer obligations.

As technology, such as computer-based telecommuting, email and chat services, GPS tracking and social norms evolve, entirely new domains of interactions between employer and employee are created or reshaped, often requiring a review or creation of new legislation to balance novel employer and employee rights.

Globalization has added another layer of complexity and challenge to the tasks of defining and defending employee rights. Large multinational corporations may be unable or unwilling to uniformly apply the strongest or same employee-rights codes to their various overseas operations. As a result, employee rights, e.g., to reasonable work hours or access to adequate work-site sanitation facilities, may be utterly disregarded in one locale, yet rigorously enforced in another.

Expats, as mobile as many of the corporations that hire them, may find themselves stuck outside the protective employee rights umbrella that shield them back home, or, more positively, suddenly offered protections and rights-rooted benefits unavailable in their homeland. For example, in Qatar, expat employees need work only 6 hours per day during the entire declared holy days of Ramadan.

Employee rights are defined and protected by laws put in place to protect against discrimination, other forms of inequity, invasiveness (e.g., privacy infringement), obstruction (e.g., anti-union policies and penalties), negligence and abuse. With respect to discrimination, irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender or disabilities, all employees have the right to do their jobs without having to face discrimination from employers or other employees.

Various U.S. laws and agencies, including the "Equal Employment Opportunity Commission" or 'EEOC', as well as the "Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act or "VEVRAA", cover disabled workers. The CRC or Civil Rights Center enforces those laws, barring all disability-based discrimination. Instead of denying employment based on a disability, an employer is required to look at alternative options such as utilizing the "One-Stop employment and training system" established by the WIA.

There are also compensation rights recognized for employees, such as minimum wage and maximum work-hours legislation, which varies by state. For example, according to U.S. Department of Labor data, five states have no minimum-wage legislation whatsoever and rights-Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and South Carolina. On the other hand, fifteen states, including California and Connecticut, have set minimum-wage rates above the federal standard.

If an employer is covered by the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), then, employees are entitled to overtime pay, irrespective of whether the company is large or small.

Depending on the state, employees are entitled to breaks and meal breaks. However, most states ensure just the small breaks and not meal breaks. If covered, that company in that state must provide a meal break if the employee works more than 5 or 6 hours. For rest breaks, after every 4 hours of work, an employee must be given a 10 minute break.

One modern, complicating factor is the rise of global corporations and the challenges of enforcing employee rights when manufacturing is located in one country, e.g., Apple computers-in China, while incorporation, administration and legal jurisdictions are situated elsewhere.

Likewise, an expat employee should endeavor to be well-informed about his or her rights in an overseas workplace and not assume the same rights and level of enforcement will exist there.
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