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    Know Your Rights

Everyone in the United States has the right to live and work without violence or abuse. U.S. labor law protects you as a worker, even if you are undocumented. The best protection for every worker is to know what your rights are.

As a worker, you have the right to:

  • work in a safe environment, free from violence, exploitation, and dangerous working conditions.
  • organize with other workers to improve your working conditions, wihtout discrimination or retaliation from your employer.
  • get money for medical bills and lost work time if you are hurt at work.
  • to be free from harassment and sexual abuse.


Your right to fair pay:

  • You must be paid at least the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for all the hours you work at your job.
  • If you work for tips, your employer must pay you at least $2.13 an hour, and your tips plus your base wage must add up to $7.25 an hour. If your tips are not enough to add up to the minimum wage, your employer must make up the difference.
  • Most workers, including some who are paid a salary, are entitled to overtime pay when you work more than 40 hours in a week.  Overtime is 1 1/2 times your regular wage, for every hour you work over 40 hours in one week.

Your right to a safe workplace:

  • You have a right to drinkable water, especially on hot days.
  • You have a right to get training and equipment you need to do your job safely.
  • You have a right to know what chemicals and hazardous materials are used in your workplace, and how they might affect your health.
  • You have the right to make suggestions for improving the safety of your job.
  • You have the right to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the government agency in charge of workplace safety.
  • You have a right to make a complaint to OSHA without your employer knowing, either on your own or using an attorney.

Steps to take when you are injured at work:

Get medical treatment as soon as possible.

    Notify your employer immediately that you have been injured. To qualify for workers' compensation in Tennessee, you must tell your employer within 30 days of your injury.
  • Keep your own records of the accident, the conditions that might have caused it, who witnessed the accident, and all your doctors' appointments related to the injury.

  • Consult at attorney if needed, or contact Workers Interfaith Network's Memphis Workers' Center for assistance. 

Your right to work free from discrimination and harassment:

Federal law protects workers and job applicants from certain kinds of discrimination. It is against the law for your employer to treat you differently when you are hired, fired, paid, or disciplined because of your:

  • disability
  • pregnancy
  • gender (including sexual harassment)
  • race or color
  • national origin or accent
  • age

Sexual harassment is against the law. Sexual harassment includes physcial conduct, verbal harassment, inappropriate visual displays, or treating someone differently because you have resisted a co-workers' sexual advances.

Your right to organize with your co-workers:

You have the right to organize with your co-workers to protest and improve working conditions, without being harassed or fired by your boss. 

Tennessee is a “right to work” state. This means you cannot be required to join a union or pay dues, but it does NOT mean that you can’t have a union.  

The importance of keeping records

One way to fight for your rights is to keep your own detailed records. Many times, if you can't provie something happened with your own records, then you can't win your case.

Some of the things you'll want to document are:

  • the days and hours you work
  • the addresses of places where you work
  • your boss's and supervisor's full name, address, phone number, and license plate number
  • if you work for a sub-contractor, know the name of the company that pays him or her, and get the company's phone number.
  • Keep your pay stubs, personnel policies, contracts, union cards, and copies of all papers off letter that you send or receive related to your work. If you are paid in cash, or if you suspect you are not being paid for all of your hours, keep a log of how many hours you work and what you are actually paid. Keep these papers at home, not at work.

If there is a specific incident of unsafe conditions, harassment, discrimination or an injury, be sure to write down the following details:

  • date, time, and where the incident happened
  • conversations you had with supervisors or co-workers about the incident
  • names of any witnesses, along with their phone numbers
  • records of phone calls you made to government agencies, support services, lawyers, and insurance agents.

WIN's Can Help You Uphold Your Rights

If you have experienced a violation of your rights and you live in the Memphis area, contact WIN's Workers' Center at (901) 332-3570.

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