Workplace Rights

Weekly (11/14/10)

Topic of the Week  Legal Eagle--Enforcing Your Rights at Work

DO know your rights.
DO stick to the facts.
DO be discreet.
DON'T get emotional.

You don't need to be difficult, obnoxious or a jerk to get into trouble at work. Sometimes trouble follows you despite your best efforts to avoid it. Which reminds me of an elderly woman in Des Moines, IO who used a handgun to ward off a man who'd bashed in the front door of her home. Beatrice Turner said the man pounded on her door, thinking that it was someone else's place. She told him he had the wrong address. He clearly didn't believer her and eventually he broke into her house. The 89-year old fired a single shot at the man. Neighbors called police, and the intruder was arrested.

Ms. Turner appeared to be a classic victim, but she was able to turn the tables after firing a single shot. And anyone who is facing legal problems at work can often do the same thing. I've included three Do's and one Don't for staying out of trouble. For more, check out Barbara Kate Repa's book, "Your Rights in the Workplace" (Nolo, 2007).

DO know your rights. Have you ever read your company's handbook? Have you glanced at the legal books in either your local library or bookstore? Do you pay attention when there is a workplace lawsuit in either your industry or community? Do you read mailings from your union? Chances are that you answered, "No," "No," "No" and "Heck, no."

DO stick to the facts. Even people I've met who weren't born in New Jersey embellish. Okay, that was a cheap shot but Jersey still contains many of the best storytellers I've ever met. But when you are in a legal jam, it's important to focus on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Embellishments have a funny way of coming back to haunt you at a later date because they can reflect badly on your creditability. Your case is your case, don't try to put a bow on it.

DO be discreet. If you're in a legal scrap with your company the tendency is to talk about it with your coworkers, customers, vendors, heck the guy in front of you in the line at Starbucks. Because you're upset, and you want validation for your concerns. But you need to be careful, because we all know how the walls at most companies have ears. Discretion is not only the better part of valor, it's also a key to surviving a legal fight with your employer.

DON'T get emotional. If you're like most people for every time that your emotions bail you out of a difficult situation, there are many more times where they dig you in deeper. That's why it's so important to keep your cool at all times. I'm not saying that you shouldn't or can't blow off steam. You just need to do it away from your boss and coworkers.

Use these tips and you won't be firing blanks if you get into legal problems with your company, your aim with your legal claim will be true.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

Thought of the Week

"We may need to solve problems not by removing the cause but by designing the way forward even if the cause remains in place. "

–Edward de Bono

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