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By Louise Herman

There are a multitude of laws designed to protect the rights of employees in the workplace. Unfortunately, however, there is a lot of misinformation out there about employment law. As an employee, the failure to understand your rights in the workplace can have serious negative consequences. In this article, we debunk some common employment law myths. 

Myth #1: Employment Laws Don’t Apply in an At-Will Employment State

Contrary to popular belief, an employee’s at-will status does not void any state or federal employment laws. Rather, individuals who are employed in at-will states remain protected by both state and federal employment laws

Myth #2: Employees Have the Right to Free Speech at Work

The right to free speech as provided by the first amendment does not apply to employees in a private work setting. However, some employee speech is protected. For example, the National Labor Relations Act gives employees the right to discuss the conditions and terms of their employment.

Myth #3: Reasonable Accommodation Requests Must be in Writing and Use Specific Language

When requesting an accommodation for a disability, there is no requirement to make such a request in writing or to use specific words, such as “reasonable accommodation” or “Americans with Disabilities Act.” Instead, an employee is only required to make clear that he or she wants assistance for his or her disability. This request may be made verbally or in writing. 

Myth #4: An Employer Must Provide Warnings before Firing an Employee

An employer is not required to provide an employee with warnings before terminating his or her employment. However, termination or discipline must be applied in a non-discriminatory manner. 

Myth #5: An Employer Must Provide a Reason for Firing an Employee

An employer may fire an employee for any reason. In addition, an employer is not required to inform the employee of the reason for his or her termination. However, an employer may not fire an employee for an illegal reason. 

Myth #6: All Workplace Harassment and Discrimination are Illegal

Although harassment and discrimination based on certain protected traits (e.g., religion, sex, race, age, disability) are illegal, not all types of harassment and discrimination are prohibited in the workplace. However, if you feel that you’ve been harassed or discriminated against at work, you should contact an attorney for guidance. 

Myth #7: All Employees are Entitled to a 15-Minute Paid Break

Finally, many employees believe they are entitled to a 15-minute paid break period every workday. However, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act does not require that employers provide employees with such breaks. State law, on the other hand, sometimes requires that employers provide employees with breaks. For guidance on your state’s paid break requirements, please contact an experienced employment law lawyer. 

Contact Our Rhode Island Employment Law Attorney

If you believe your rights as an employee have been violated, you need an experienced employment law attorney on your side. At Herman Law Group, we will put our experience in employment law matters to work for you, doing everything possible to successfully resolve your situation. To schedule a consultation, please contact us today.

Herman Law Group is based in Providence but offers its services nationwide. We help clients throughout Rhode Island, including Bristol County, Kent County, Washington County, Providence County, Warwick, & Cranston. Additionally, the firm extends expertise in Attleboro, Boston, and across the rest of Massachusetts.

About the Author
At Herman Law Group, our focus is on safeguarding the rights and careers of employees and businesses alike. With over 35 years of successful legal practice, Louise A. Herman brings an invaluable dual perspective from representing both employees and employers. This unique insight allows us to effectively achieve successful outcomes for our clients in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and nationwide.