Employee and Employer Rights

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HR professionals must help create a work environment that honors fairness, protects individual privacy, treats all workers with dignity and respect, while at the same time allowing the business to succeed. Rights generally do not exist in the abstract.

Instead, rights are powers, privileges, or interests derived from law, nature, or tradition. Of course, defining a right presents considerable potential for disagreement. For example, does an employee have a right to privacy of communication in personal matters when using the employer’s computer on company time? Moreover, legal rights may or may not correspond to certain moral rights, which opens “rights” up to controversy and lawsuits.

Statutory rights are the result of specific laws or statutes passed by federal, state, or local governments. Various laws have granted employees certain rights at work, such as equal employment opportunity, collective bargaining, and workplace safety. These laws and their interpretations have also been the subjects of a considerable number of court cases because employers also have rights.

Rights are offset by responsibilities, which are obligations to perform certain tasks and duties. Employment is a reciprocal relationship in that both the employer and the employee have rights and obligations.

When individuals become employees, they take on both employment rights and responsibilities. Those obligations can be spelled out formally in a written employment contract or more likely in an employer handbook and policies disseminated to employees.
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