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Is your employer breaking the law over your rights?

Employee rights are in a fragile place these days. That makes it very important to understand exactly what rights you do have and to insist that employers observe them.

Could your employer be in violation of your rights? These are some of the common ways that employee rights are abused or ignored:

1. Paying you as an independent contractor

Some employers try to get around the laws regarding employee taxation and benefits by incorrectly classifying employees as "independent contractors." In reality, if your employer exerts a significant amount of control over how you do you work, where you do it and when you do it, you're probably an employee. If you have doubts about your status, it's time to look deeper into the issue.

2. Punishing you for complaining online

You do have to watch what you say online. A lot of employers will enforce morality clauses and the like that can be violated by social media posts. However, you still have right to voice a legitimate complaint about the conditions in which you work, especially if you're trying to get a discussion going with other employees. That's a type of concerted activity that has legal protection.

3. Pushing you for free labor

Does your employer ask you to run job-related errands on your way home, off the clock? Are you ever asked to work through your lunch? If you aren't being paid, that's illegal. Your employer should (and probably does) know this.

4. Telling you not to discuss your pay and benefits

Discussing what you are paid and the other benefits you receive is one of the ways that workers can uncover unfair treatment. Many people don't realize that rules preventing you from doing so are illegal.

5. Telling you that you aren't entitled to overtime

Overtime isn't a choice -- it's mandated for any employee that isn't in "exempt" status. Those include executives, outside salesmen and a few other types of employees -- but the average employee is entitled.

If your rights as an employee are being violated at work, it's time to take a stand -- there are legal options available to help.

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