Employees face situations in the workplace that can leave them wondering if their rights were violated by an employer. For anyone who is employed by another entity, whether a small business or a large corporation, it is critical to have a basic understanding of employee workplace rights and to understand that company policy is not the same as federal and state employment laws designed to protect workers. Employees deal with situations where they are wrongfully terminated or discriminated against, but the employer may try to claim that it falls under their corporate policy.Employment LawThere are numerous laws and regulations that govern aspects of the employee-employer relationship. Some of the major employment laws that come to mind are those governing occupational safety and health, wage and hour regulations, family and medical leave, and discrimination. Individual states also have specific laws governing these and other areas of employment that may differ from or supersede federal law as well.Company PolicyCorporate policy varies from employer to employer and may include a handbook and human resources policies, as well as informal rules that are part of the workplace culture. Company policies may be very specific to the industry and worksite and can cover a range of daily work activities, as well as wages and benefits. It is important to know that company policy, whether written or unwritten, cannot violate federal and state employment laws. Employment discrimination law prohibits discrimination and retaliation based on protected characteristics that include race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, physical disability, and age. Therefore, a company that chose to hire, promote, or fire someone based on these characteristics may be violating employment law. Because these cases can be challenging to prove, it is recommended to have the counsel of an experienced Philadelphia employment lawyer.A worker may have legal recourse if their company policy or procedures are violating their rights as employees. Company policies can have the effect whether unintended or deliberate, of denying a worker rights to which they are entitled. A company may have policies regarding medical leave and request access to a worker’s medical information that can violate established health privacy laws. A company could also have language in an employment contract that is not consistent with employment law but the worker signs it regardless, fearing job loss or other consequences. Human resources departments have a wide range of responsibilities and abilities to enact company policies in the workplace, but for the average employee, knowing what is legal and what is prohibited is not always obvious.
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