People often confuse "unfair" with "unlawful" in the working world. If an employer does something you think is a terrible practice, it doesn't necessarily make it illegal. Here are some common misconceptions about employee rights:
You can't be fired without good cause.
If you work in a state with at-will employment, an employer can fire you for just about anything. Unless you can prove that the firing is actually discriminatory, you're on your own.
You can't have your pay cut.
Your employer may cut your pay at any time unless:
- you're a member of a labor union
- are part of a collective-bargaining agreement
- have an employment contract
You're entitled to unemployment if you're fired.
People tend to think that getting unemployment pay depends on whether you quit your job or were fired. In fact, in some states if you are fired for misconduct you may not be eligible to collect unemployment.
Your desk and your office are personal property.
You might consider those four cubicle walls demarcations of your personal realm, but they're not. While it's not exactly nice, an employer can even come in and snoop in your desk if he wants. This goes for all email you send out using your company computer or email address.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.