What are my work place rights?

What are my work place rights?

What are my work place rights?

Americans can thank Dr. Martin Luther King for his work and efforts in securing their work place rights.  Dr. King raised awareness and put political pressure on members of Congress to protect individuals from discrimination and provide equal work place rights.

Dr. King speaking with the President

Dr. King speaking with the President

During the early sixties, there were four landmark pieces of legislation that were passed:

  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965
  • Fair Housing Act

In regards to work place rights, the Civil Rights Act created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce federal laws prohibiting race and sex discrimination in employment.

Here is a quick look at the Act and an employee’s work place rights:

What is the law?

The ultimate purpose of Title VII of the Act is to “eliminate discriminatory practices in employment.”  NC Dept. of Corr. v. Gibson, 308 N.C. 131 (1983).  Initially the Civil Rights Act bans discrimination on account of race, religion, sex or national origin.

Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the work place

Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the work place

The Act has been supplemented by additional acts, and an employer cannot discriminate based on:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex (which also includes sexual harassment)
  • National Origin
  • Pregnancy (enacted by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act)
  • Age (enacted by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act)
  • Disability (enacted by the Americans with Disability Act)

(Note: there are other federal laws the provide work place rights, such as protection from retaliation due to whistleblowing, protection for filing a workers’ compensation claim, etc.  These laws are not addressed in this article.)

Title VII also prohibits discrimination against an individual because of his or her association with another individual of a particular race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, such as by an interracial marriage.

Who is protected?

The EEOC enforces federal anti-discrimination laws against employers that have more than 15 or more employees.  The EEOC enforces that Age Discrimination in Employment Act against employers that have 20 or more employees.

If my work place rights have been violated, what can I do?

First, before heading to the courthouse, check to see if your employer has a complaint or grievance policy.  In certain cases, it is mandatory that an employee first go through the employer’s administrative process before filing a lawsuit.

As a practical matter, an employee should document every conversation or email.  Employment disputes are heavily fact oriented, and it not uncommon for there to be a dispute over the facts.

Contact the EEOC or consult an attorney?

Although Dr. King has passed, his dream of ensuring equal rights for all employees lives on.  The law is constantly changing. (e.g. North Carolina Legislation on HB2).  If you believe that your work place rights have been violated, you can contact the EEOC and request that they investigate the claim, or contact my office in order to address whether your rights have been violated.

Can I sue my coworker and my employer?

Can I sue my coworker and my employer?


Can I sue my coworker and my employer?

“Can I sue my worker and my employer?” If you were injured at work because of a coworker, you may be able to sue your coworker and employer.  Please feel free to give me a call to discuss because you may have a claim.

Typically, injuries on the job are exclusively governed by the North Carolina Workers Compensation Act.  To initiate a claim, an employee notifies their employer of the injury by accident, and in accepted cases, benefits are provided under the Act.  Generally speaking, an employee is unable to file suit, or sue, directly against their coworker.

For instance, a coworker and an employee are on a construction site.  They are carrying some lumber across the job site.  The coworker loses his grip and ends up dropping his end of the boards.  The employee jars his back when the boards bang on the ground.  The employee is able to file a claim under the Worker’s Compensation Act, but cannot sue his coworker.

To learn more about how Brian Elston Law can help you with Workers Compensation, click here »

So, can I sue my coworker and my employer?

There is an exception.  If an employee is injured due to the willfully, recklessly wantonly negligent, or intentional act of a coworker, an employee can sue their employer and coworker.

For instance, the facts in Pleasant v. Johnson are instructive.  In Johnson, an employee was on a construction site.  A coworker was driving the company’s work truck.  The coworker thought it would be funny to scare the plaintiff, so he drove the truck to see how close he could get to employee without striking him.  The coworker misjudged the distance and ended up hitting employee.  The employee was able to file a claim under the Workers’ Compensation Act and file a claim directly against the coworker because of his actions.  In other words, an employee can sue their employer and the coworker.

Please feel free to call to schedule an appointment if you were injured at work.

Brian Elston Law is devoted to helping the injured and their families. We are personal injury lawyers in Asheville, North Carolina. To learn more, call now or check out more information:

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