Violations of Law in the Workplace

by Kristin Swain
Understanding employment law helps you to accurately identify legal violations in the workplace.

Understanding employment law helps you to accurately identify legal violations in the workplace.

Legal violations do happen in the workplace. Employees may observe suspicous workplace behaviors, such as working overtime without pay or watching a member of management pay for personal items with company funds. Before you start accusing your boss of corporate espionage, make sure that the behavior you see as suspicious really is an illegal practice. Document each instance of law violation and gather any supporting evidence that you can obtain before bringing your findings to the attention of your supervisor, labor union representative or human resources.


Harassment can take many different forms in the workplace, including bullying and sexual harassment. The difference between just being given a hard time and harassment is very clear. Harassment is any behavior that is both unprofessional and unwanted that causes you, the employee, discomfort in the workplace. A coworker who makes unwanted sexual advances or touches you inappropriately, after being asked to stop, is committing sexual harassment. Coworkers who push you, yell at you or even attack you are committing harassment. If you feel like you or another coworker is being harassed on the job, document the instances and report the harassment to human resources and your supervisor immediately.


Discrimination becomes a legal matter in the workplace when it violates your civil rights. State law determines what behaviors constitute discrimination in your jurisdiction. Common types of discrimination include age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion and disability among others. Before you make a complaint or file charges concerning workplace discrimination, gather evidence to support your claim. Make sure that what you're experiencing really is discrimination and not a simple disagreement. If the unwanted behavior attacks you personally, addressing something not work related, such as ethnicity, and continues after you have requested that it stop, it could be considered discrimination.

Unethical Practices

Some unethical business practices that occur in the workplace are just bad business and others are actual legal violations. This is where knowledge of employee law comes in handy. Understanding your rights as an employee helps to identify instances of illegal practices. Common instances include not paying workers for overtime hours, not paying workers for time worked outside of a scheduled shift, even when the hours aren't overtime, paycheck garnishment and disregard of OSHA workplace safety regulations. If any of these unethical, illegal business practices occur, report the instance immediately to your supervisor or union representative.

Union Agreements

Each worker's union represented in the workplace has a separate union contract signed with the employer. Any violations on behalf of the employer constitute a legal violation which can lead to an employee strike, renegotiation of the contract or fines. A copy of your labor union's contract should be made available to you for review if you feel like some of the conditions are not being met. When you observe your employer in violation of your union agreement, speak directly to your on-site union representative who works with you to resolve employer issues. This person arranges a meeting between your employer and the union to discuss and resolve the issues.

About the Author

Residing in Los Angeles, Kristin Swain has been a professional writer since 2008. Her experience includes finance, travel, marketing and television. Swain holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Georgia State University.

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