Jul 3, 2008

Know Your Rights at Work

Young Workers: working longer and later

A March 2007 study issued by the University of North Carolina reports young people (ages 14-18) working during the school year are averaging 16 hours of work per week.

The study, which interviewed more than 900 working teenagers, found teens working long hours in unsupervised -- and sometimes dangerous -- environments, some of which violate federal laws.

"Despite federal regulations prohibiting teens under 18 from using certain types of dangerous equipment such as slicers, dough mixers, box crushers and paper balers, or serving or selling alcohol in places where it is consumed, more than half of the boys and 43 percent of the girls said they had done work that was prohibited, the study found."

Study findings and results are published here.

As service industry jobs continue to grow, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates more than 18 million new jobs created in the service industry between 2004 and 2014, young workers are exposed more and more increasingly to job scenarios that violate their rights. Young workers are often working their first job, and employers often fail to provide them with basic training or information on their rights.

In union shops it is vital for existing union members to take the lead in introducing new employees to their basic workplace rights. Fostering these relationships early on can prevent members of corporate management from furthering and environment of misunderstanding and lack in information.

"We should let [young workers] know that the union is about a sense of power," said Kevin Blair a UFCW organizer. "The boss can't just push you around. It comes down to a dignity thing." Blair thinks the corporate system is "creating people who just follow the rules and ... never speak up."

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces laws providing five basic rights for job applicants and employees. The laws apply to applicants, employees and former employees, regardless of their citizenship or work authorization status. Full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary employees are protected if they work for a covered employer. All federal government agencies and most other employers with at least 15 employees are covered by our laws. Most unions and employment agencies also are covered. If you work for one of these employers, you have the right to:

-Work free of discrimination.
-Work free of harrassment.
-Complain about Job Discrimination Without Punishment.
-Request Workplace Changes for Your Religion or Disability.
-Keep Your Medical Information Private.

Union members often have additional protections in their union contracts as highlighted here on the MyUFCW site.

For a more detailed look at the core rights enforced by the EEOC and more information on other federal workplace laws visit www.youth.eeoc.gov.

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