Human Resources: Employee Rights

Human Resources: Employee Rights
  • Opening Intro -

    As a small business operator, you may be so busy running your business that you forget that your employees have certain expectations and rights that go beyond their job description.


Employees are imbued with certain rights, including state and federal requirements that protect them. You need to know what those rights are and stay within the law or risk facing a legal challenge.

1. Minimum wage and overtime. Federal law determines base pay, right? Yes, but if your state has a higher minimum wage then you must pay your employees that amount or above. Not all jobs require a minimum hourly payment, while hours worked in excess of 40 per week may require overtime pay. Overtime pay is typically compensated at 1.5 times the base pay. For example, if you pay your employees $8 per hour, then you will pay them $12 per hour for each extra hour worked.

2. Breaks and vacation. Some states require employers to provide workers with a paid 10-minute break for every four hours worked. They may also be entitled to an unpaid 30-minute meal break, usually for every five hours worked. Vacation, sick time and holiday pay are typically not mandated by law. You can, of course, offer these benefits, but there is usually no requirement by the states for you to do so.

3. Employee deductions. You must withhold certain deductions from your employee paychecks including state and federal income taxes. Also, if there is a garnishment attached to an individual’s pay, then that must be withheld as well. If your employees contribute to insurance and retirement plans, those represent additional deductions. You may not, however, deduct for business expenses, medical or physical examinations, uniforms, gratuities, or for photographs.

4. Worker disability and accommodation. Employers must provide “reasonable accommodation” to disabled employees under the Americans With Disabilities Act. These accommodations may include providing an interpreter, restructuring the work site, providing a flexible work schedule, and offering workplace adaptive equipment.

5. Unsafe working conditions. Working conditions must be kept safe otherwise you risk having your business fined, even shut down. Federal OSHA and state safety rules apply. If you require your employees to work with unsafe chemicals, you may be required to warn them before you expose them to the same. Some states require employers to provide workers access to company health and safety records stretching back for five years.

6. Noncompete clauses. Most states allow employers to provide noncompete clauses in employee contracts, what essentially keeps certain people from leaving your employment and heading to your competitor with secret information. It is important that these clauses provide a short time frame, are limited in area, and clearly define the competition if to be enforceable in court.

7. Termination for cause. Not every employee will work out. Some employees must be let go for attendance problems, substandard relations with other employees, or for poor attendance. State laws protect employees from termination without cause, that is where the employer fails to provide proof that the termination was justified.

Employee Rights

Small business owners should familiarize themselves with state and federal employment laws. Problems with employees should always be documented, in factual detail, with the assumption that litigation will follow.


Your employees have certain workplace rights, what are upheld by state and federal laws. Those rights must be preserved or you risk facing legal ramifications. This article discusses several of the more notable rights that your employees have and what you must do to uphold them.

See AlsoHow to Win Employees to Change


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Categories: Small Business

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".