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Most employee benefits are not protected by law

While federal and state laws in Missouri and elsewhere do specify that employees are legally entitled to certain benefits like unemployment and workers' compensation, no employees are specifically entitled to benefits from their company.

Providing employees with benefits like paid holidays, sick pay, vacation time, disability and life or health insurance has always been at the discretion of the employer. Many workers are surprised to learn that there are no federal statutes requiring an employer to provide employees with meal or rest breaks.

Missouri is not one of the states that require companies to provide rest or meal breaks to its employees, although some states do have these provisions in place.

The federal and state government regulate some voluntarily provided employee benefits in order to ensure that companies establish and maintain them in a fiscally sound way.

The Federal Employee Benefits Security Administration, which is also referred to as the Employee Benefits Administration, has some control over employee health and pension benefits. EBSA also oversees the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, known as COBRA. This federal law requires employers who voluntarily provide group health insurance benefits -- and who have 20 or more employees -- to offer a temporary extension of health insurance benefits to their employees and/or their employees' beneficiaries under certain circumstances.

If, however, a company does provide benefits to its employees, those workers are legally entitled to them while they are employed. But even then, the company has the upper hand, as they may restrict or otherwise limit or terminate these voluntarily provided benefits.

While this may appear to be discouraging to American workers, they are not without recourse. Companies that offer employee benefits that deny some workers those benefits for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons may get assistance through their state's Labor Department or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Engaging the services of an employment law attorney may be beneficial to workers in these situations.

Source:, "About Employee Benefits" Nov. 17, 2014

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