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Federal Laws You Ought to Know as an Employee

— March 30, 2020

Currently, as an employee, you are well protected legally by federal law. You need to know the maximum benefits you deserve from your employer.

Historically, employees had no laws governing work-related benefits and safety, and their fate was in the hands of their employers. These days though, there are about 180 federal laws that are administered and enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor to protect workers. So, as an employee, you need to understand your rights and responsibilities under these laws. But do you know these laws that protect you? Well, in this article, we will take you through some of the federal laws you ought to know as an employee.

Health coverage law

According to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare of 2010, as a full-time employee in that, you work for more than 30 hours in a week, you have a right to health insurance coverage by your employer. To achieve this, the Affordable Care Act came up with employer shared responsibility payment, where if you are an employee in a company with 50 or more full-time employees, you are supposed to have a minimal level insurance coverage. Yes, if your business does not offer you this insurance cover, they may be penalized according to law.

Minimum wage law

As an employee, you have a right to a minimum wage of 7.25 U.S. dollar per hour, as stated by the Fair Labor Standards Act. However, this rate changes from state to state, with the District of Columbia having the highest rate of 14 U.S dollars per hour as of January 2020 [Editor’s note: that will likely increase to $15/hour in mid-2020]. Also, as a non-exempt employee or rather, non-salaried, you are entitled to payment for overtime where for every extra hour you work above the standard 40 hours in a week, you get one-and-a-half times your hourly pay rate.

Workplace safety law

Person with bandage on palm of hand; image by Brian Patrick Tagalog, via
Person with bandage on palm of hand; image by Brian Patrick Tagalog, via

As per the Occupational Safety and Health act of 1970, as an employee, you have a right to a safe workplace environment. In other words, your employer should protect you from risk and hazards at your place of work. In fact, in the event you get injured while carrying out work-related duties, you are entitled to compensation from the state you work or live for medical expenses, loss of wages, and payment for disabilities, retraining, and rehabilitation costs through the workers’ compensation program. However, if you suffer injuries due to an employer’s negligence, you can seek help from a workplace injury lawyer to file for compensation.

For example, if you are a federal employee, then the federal Employees’ Compensation Act compensates for death or injury in the line of duty.

Unemployment compensation law

You can lose your job through uncontrollable reasons such as a layoff or closing down of a company. As an employee, you are entitled to unemployment benefits from the state. But, to get the benefit, you need to meet certain criteria like having worked for a specific period, or you are actively searching for a job. The state will offer you this benefit temporarily to act as financial assistance until you find another job or for a specific period.

Family and Medical Leave Act

In 1993, President Bill Clinton passed the Family and Medical Leave Act. Through the law, as an employee, you are entitled to up to 12 weeks paid leave in case of childbirth, adoption, or severe illness that affects you or your family members like a spouse, child, or parent. However, it only applies for businesses which, within a 75-mile radius, have a minimum of 50 employees. Also, as an employee, you are entitled to this benefit if you have worked in that business for at least 12 months for not less than 1,250 hours.


The company you are working for can decide to lay off people or close. If you are a supervisor, manager, salaried worker or, non-exempt worker, you are entitled to 60 days of advanced notice according to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act of 1988. This is to ensure you as the employee, and your family gets time to prepare for the transition through seeking employment or taking time to train so that you can be able to gain the skills to compete in the job market. 

Whistle-blower protection law

There is a federal law that protects you as a whistle-blower; that is if you report your employer for violating the law. For instance, if you file a complaint that your employer is using unlawful manufacturing processes, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act will protect you. However, the main body that protects the whistle-blower is OSHA Whistle-blower Protection Program. As an employee, within 30 days after the said incident, inform the OSHA Whistle-blower Protection Program for protection.

Social Security law

President Franklin.D.Roosevelt passed the social security law during his administration in 1935. Now, as a retired employee or a physically disabled person, you are entitled to monthly financial benefits. The financial benefits are from the payroll tax-as of 2020, you as an employee and your employer contribute 7.65% of your income each. However, if you are self-employed, the tax burden is doubled, and you pay both the employer and the employee portion hence paying 15.3% of your income. As of January 2020, in America each month, about 64 million people receive social security benefits.

Employment discrimination law

As an employee, you are protected by the employment discrimination law under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to this federal, you should not suffer discrimination against factors like age, color, sex, religion, national origin, and disability during promotions, training, hiring, disciplinary actions, and compensation at your workplace.


Currently, as an employee, you are well protected legally by federal law. You need to know the maximum benefits you deserve from your employer. Let’s just say, you ought to know your rights and seek legal help if the rights are infringed. 

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