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Employee rights in the workplace

Those employees in Missouri who are covered by the National Labor Relations Act have specific rights to unite their efforts to improve the working conditions and wages at their place of employment, regardless of whether they have a union working on their behalf. Workers who have no union also possess the right to organize a union. Employees may also decertify unions that are no longer supported by the employees.

While most private sector workers are covered by the NLRA, some individuals are specifically excluded, such as those who are:

-- employed as a domestic worker for any individual or family in their home.

-- employed by the local, state or federal government.

-- employed by a spouse or parent.

-- employed as farm laborers.

-- hold supervisory positions, although some supervisors who were discriminated against for their refusals to violate the NLRA might be covered.

-- work as independent contractors.

-- employed by a company or entity that is subject to the Railway Labor Act, like the airlines and railroads.

Employee rights also include joining a union even if the union isn't recognized by your employer, contributing to the organization of co-workers for union activities or benefits, to receive fair union representation and to refuse to do all or any of these things.

Some employees who are not represented by unions may feel that their rights are diminished or non-existent. This is untrue, as the National Labor Relations Board provides specific protection to workers engaging in "concerted activity." This means that two or more workers may take certain actions to mutually aid or protect the conditions and terms of their employment. A sole worker is also protected for acts done with other employees' authority, such as when one employee approaches the employer with workers' group complaints, tries to initiate a group actions or acts in preparation for a group action.

Some of the protected concerted activities include:

-- A single employee approaching one's employer and discussing ways to improve working conditions on behalf of other co-workers.

-- Two or more workers talking about issues related to their jobs, like concerns over safety practices or lack thereof, with each other.

-- Two or more employees speaking to their employer about raising their rate of pay.

A good source of in-depth information on workers' rights is an employment law attorney.

Source: National Labor Relations Board, "Employee Rights" Sep. 16, 2014

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