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Labor Day 2020: Know Your Rights

Julian Dossett
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As you were prepping your grills for your Labor Day barbecue, we’ve been cracking our textbooks to do a little history lesson on everyone’s favorite September weekend.

As an American worker, you have rights.

While it may not seem like a big deal, it wasn’t always this way.

Today, we’re going to look at how we got here and what it means for you, the American worker.

Celebrating American labor

Back in the late 1800s, most Americans worked 12-hour days, seven days a week. 

Doesn’t sound like much fun. But without the labor laws in place, there was nothing stopping employers from demanding this.

The work places didn’t have much going for them either.

Most factories and farms were not sanitary and didn’t offer breaks. 

And there wasn’t a legal working age. Young kids worked alongside their parents in harsh conditions, while only making a fraction of the pay their parents did. 

Understandably, people weren’t very happy, which led to nationwide protests.

On June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a Congressional act into law that made Labor Day a legal U.S. holiday.

Labor Day is traditionally held on the first Monday of September as a celebration of American labor.

Of course, that was just the start.

What are my rights?

Things have changed quite a bit since the 1800s. 

Thanks to labor laws, if you work in America you have rights.

Some laws vary state to state, but the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ensures that workers hold certain rights across the country.

As an employee:

1. You have the right not to be harassed or discriminated against because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, or medical history. 

That means no matter where you come from, how you look, or what you believe, you must be treated equally to everyone else at work. It’s the law.

2. You have the right to receive equal pay for equal work. 

That means your boss can’t pay someone else more than you for doing the same work. 

3. You have the right to receive reasonable accommodations for medical conditions or religious beliefs, if required by law. 

The key here is if required by law.

If you ask your job to observe your rights as a member of the Church of Three-Hour Lunch Breaks then it probably won’t work.

4. You have the right to expect any medical or genetic information you share with your employer will be kept confidential.

5. You have the right to report discrimination or to oppose discrimination without being punished for doing so.

This is an important right every single American employee has. So if you see someone being treated unfairly, say something.

Of course, everything changes with time and right now we’re in an unprecedented one.

One of the big changes are expanded rights for workers due to COVID-19.

How have my rights changed for COVID-19?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was created to help out American workers and businesses affected by the pandemic. 

On April 1, the U.S. Department of Labor announced new laws to expand employee medical leave.

Here’s how your medical leave is protected under these new laws:

1. You have the right to up to 80 hours of sick leave with your full pay, if you can’t work because you’re quarantined or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

2. You have the right to up to 80 hours of sick leave with two-thirds of your pay, if you can’t work because you must care for a quarantined person or a child whose school or child care is closed due to COVID-19. 

The catch here is the new laws don’t apply to employers of health care providers or emergency responders.

There’s a few other restrictions as well, so read up before trying to take time off.

So while you’re out there grilling, remember that people before you fought for those rights, which is a more American pastime than just about anything else. And it’s up to all of us to maintain that tradition.

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