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Some common workplace rights don't actually exist

The rights you have in the workplace can be a gray area, and the information you might get from family and friends isn't always correct. For example, you don't always have a right to free speech in the workplace, and you can be fired for saying certain things. In most cases, individuals who work for private companies are only protected when it comes to speech that is protected under another type of law — for example, what you say might be protected under a whistleblower law.

Surely you're protected when you speak out against what you perceive as wrong-doing in the workplace, right? Not always. You can lose your job for speaking out against actions that aren't covered by specific laws. If you speak out against discrimination, illegal financial activity or health concerns, then these might be covered under federal or state laws.

You should never have to work in a hostile environment, right? It depends on what you call a hostile environment. If your boss is just generally unpleasant, requires a lot from you and doesn't give much in return, that can feel hostile, but it's not illegal. What is illegal is to harass someone based on gender, age, race or other protected traits.

You might also think you have a right to privacy in your workplace. While you certainly have some privacy rights — you should be able to use the restroom without your boss looking on, for example — your work emails and Internet use are fair game. Your boss can look at that information anytime he or she wants.

As an employee in any company, you do have some rights. Understanding those rights is critical before you make any claims or file a civil action. Working with an employment law attorney helps you understand whether your rights were violated and what you can do about it.

Source: Glassdoor, "10 Workplace Rights You Think You Have — But Don't," accessed May 20, 2016

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