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Employment law

workers' rights

There is no single definition or definitive list of workers’ rights. The International Labor Organization (ILO) identifies what it calls “fundamental principles and rights at work” that all ILO Members have an obligation to respect and promote, which are:

• freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;

• elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor;

• effective abolition of child labor; and

• elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

The ILO has adopted—and supervises the application of—international labor conventions in each of these areas. Other important ILO standards deal with conditions of work, including occupational safety and health, wages, and hours of work, but these standards are not considered fundamental or core conventions.

United States trade law adds acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health to that list, calling them “internationally recognized labor rights.”

In the United States, federal law provides minimum standards or rights for workers regarding occupational safety and health, wages, family and medical leave, and hours of work. And many states have laws that protect workers as well. When state laws provide workers with greater protections than the applicable federal law the state law is not preempted or superseded by the federal law and workers are entitled to those greater rights and protections.

In Texas, workers' rights are governed by a combination of federal law and state statutes. Federally, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) ensures safe and healthful working conditions. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees with unpaid, job-protected leave for family and medical reasons. Texas complements these with its own regulations, such as the Texas Minimum Wage Act, which mirrors federal standards, and the Texas Workers' Compensation Act, which provides compensation for on-the-job injuries. Texas is also a 'right-to-work' state, meaning that union membership cannot be required as a condition of employment. While Texas does not have state-specific laws regarding collective bargaining, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects the right to organize and bargain collectively at the federal level. If Texas laws provide greater protections than federal laws, workers in Texas are entitled to these greater protections.

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Fair Labor Standards and Overtime Pay
While no amount of money may be worth losing your work-life balance, if you work beyond a standard 40-hour work week, your employer is legally obligated to pay you an overtime pay rate of at least one-and-a-half times your normal hourly rate.