10 Things That Are Illegal for Your Boss To Do

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10 Things That Are Illegal for Your Boss To Do

10 Things That Are Illegal for Your Boss To Do

Navigating the workplace can be challenging, especially when it comes to understanding your rights as an employee. Employers have a significant amount of power and influence, but there are clear legal boundaries they must adhere to. Here, we explore ten critical actions that are illegal for your boss to engage in, providing you with the knowledge to protect yourself and seek justice when necessary.

1. Discrimination

Discrimination in the workplace based on race, gender, age, religion, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation is prohibited under various federal laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Employers must treat all employees fairly and equally. Discriminatory practices can include unfair hiring, firing, promotion, or pay based on these protected characteristics.

For more information on workplace discrimination, visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

2. Wage Theft

Wage theft occurs when employers fail to pay employees their due wages, including overtime pay and minimum wage. This can include forcing employees to work off the clock, denying overtime pay, and withholding tips. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the standards for minimum wage and overtime pay. Employers who violate these standards can face legal consequences.

Learn more about wage theft and how to report it at the U.S. Department of Labor.

3. Retaliation

Retaliation against an employee for engaging in legally protected activities, such as filing a complaint of discrimination, participating in an investigation, or whistleblowing, is illegal. Employers are prohibited from taking adverse actions like demotion, termination, or harassment against employees who assert their rights under laws enforced by the EEOC.

For detailed information on retaliation and your rights, check the EEOC Retaliation Facts.

4. Violation of Workplace Safety Standards

Employers are required to provide a safe working environment under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). This includes ensuring that the workplace is free from recognized hazards that could cause serious injury or death. Employers must comply with OSHA standards and regulations, and employees have the right to report unsafe working conditions without fear of retaliation.

Explore OSHA standards and how to report violations at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

5. Misclassification of Employees

Misclassifying employees as independent contractors to avoid providing benefits and protections such as overtime pay, health insurance, and unemployment insurance is illegal. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) have guidelines to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor.

For guidelines on proper worker classification, visit the IRS Independent Contractor (Self-Employed) or Employee? page.

6. Denial of Family and Medical Leave

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for specified family and medical reasons. This includes personal or family illness, pregnancy, adoption, or the foster care placement of a child. Employers cannot deny this leave or retaliate against employees for taking it.

Find out more about your rights under the FMLA at the U.S. Department of Labor FMLA page.

7. Invasion of Privacy

Employers must respect the privacy rights of their employees. This includes personal space, personal possessions, and personal communications. While employers have some rights to monitor communications and activities to a certain extent, invasive actions like unauthorized searches or surveillance that violate privacy laws can be illegal.

For privacy laws related to the workplace, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

8. Unfair Labor Practices

Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employees have the right to engage in collective bargaining and other concerted activities for mutual aid and protection. Employers cannot interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of these rights. Unfair labor practices include threatening employees with adverse consequences if they join a union or participate in union activities.

For more details on your rights under the NLRA, visit the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

9. Failure to Accommodate Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer. This can include making physical workplace modifications, adjusting work schedules, or providing specialized equipment. Denying reasonable accommodations or discriminating against employees with disabilities is illegal.

Learn about reasonable accommodations and your rights under the ADA at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

10. Breach of Employment Contract

If you have an employment contract, your employer must adhere to its terms. This includes agreements on job duties, compensation, benefits, and duration of employment. Breaching this contract by failing to provide agreed-upon benefits or by wrongfully terminating employment can lead to legal action. Employees can seek recourse through the court system to enforce the terms of their contracts.

For guidance on employment contracts and legal recourse, you can visit the American Bar Association.


Understanding your rights in the workplace is crucial to maintaining a fair and safe working environment. If you believe your boss is engaging in any of these illegal activities, it’s essential to take action. Document any incidents, report violations to the appropriate agencies, and seek legal counsel if necessary. Protecting your rights not only benefits you but also contributes to a healthier, more equitable workplace for all.

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