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Your Rights At Work

This article was produced by LARCC in cooperation with CLS, GHLA, NHLAA, and SLS.

Your Rights At Work

Video: How to Recover Unpaid Wages

Video: Your Rights Under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Video: Workers' Rights: Wages

Click on a topic to learn about your rights if you:

Can I take time off to care for myself or a family member?

Maybe. You may be able to take time off to care for a child, parent, spouse, or yourself. It depends on how many employees your company has and the hours you’ve worked. Ask your employer and see our booklet Taking Time Off From Work.

Will I get paid for the time off?

You may be eligible for paid sick time if:

  • your company does not offer any other time off, like vacation time.
  • your company has more than 50 employees.
  • you are a service worker (but NOT if you work in manufacturing or the YMCA).

Find out more about paid sick time from the Department of Labor, 860-263-6790.

How do I ask for time off to care for myself or a family member?

  • Tell your employer why you need the time off 30 days before or as early as you can.
  • You don’t have to ask for the time off in writing, but it’s better if you do.
  • After you ask for time off, your employer should explain your rights and tell you what information and documentation to provide.

If you’ve been disciplined or fired…

Can my employer discipline or fire me?

Employers can fire you if they don’t like your personality or work style.

Employers can discipline you if you violated a company rule or policy.

Employers can’t discipline or fire you because of discrimination.

If you think it was discrimination, you should immediately file a complaint with the

  • CT Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) 1-800-477-5737, and
  • U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) 1-800-669-4000.

There are time limits, so file your complaint right away. You do not need a lawyer to file a complaint.

See our booklet, When You Can Be Fired From Your Job.

If you’re being discriminated against…

How do I know if my employer is discriminating against me?

It may be discrimination if you are

  • fired, denied a job, pay increase or promotion, or
  • verbally or physically harassed

because of your

  • race, color, ancestry, national origin,
  • religion, marital status, sexual orientation,
  • age, sex, gender identity or expression, or
  • pregnancy or disability (physical or mental)

Here are some examples of discrimination at work:

  • You are Latina with no discipline problems and you’re fired for the same thing a white co-worker got only a warning for.
  • Your boss made offensive comments about you or people of your race, color, religion, age, etc.
  • Your boss made unwanted sexual jokes or remarks, or flirted or touched you without your consent.
  • You are pregnant with good evaluations and were fired for poor performance while a coworker with worse evaluations did not get fired.

What can I do if I think my employer is discriminating against me?

  • Talk to your union representative or a supervisor you trust--even if he or she is not your supervisor.
  • Write down what happened
    • What was the unfair treatment?
    • Who did it?
    • When did it happen?
  • Ask to have the written statement put in your personnel file.
  • You have the right to have someone with you at a meeting where you think you will be disciplined or fired.
  • Get copies of any documents related to the discrimination.

If you think you’ve been discriminated against you should immediately file a complaint with the

  • CT Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) 1-800-477-5737, and
  • U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) 1-800-669-4000.

There are time limits, so file your complaint right away. You do not need a lawyer to file a complaint.

If you’re a temporary worker…

Am I a temporary worker?

If you work for a temporary agency, full or part time, or were hired by a company for a limited amount of time (as holiday help, for example), then you are a temporary worker.

Do I have the same rights as other workers?

You have some of the same rights.  You have the right to

If you’re asked to take a drug test…

Can my employer make me take a drug test?

No in most situations.

Yes, if

  • there is a reasonable belief that you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and
  • it’s affecting your ability to do your job.

Yes if you have a job where safety is very important such as:

  • bus driver,
  • forklift operator,
  • cable TV installer, or
  • licensed practical nurse.

Yes if

  • you volunteered for an employee assistance program, or
  • to follow up a prior positive test.

 …but you still have rights!

Note: The test can’t be used to discriminate. For example, it’s illegal to test only women or African Americans.

Can my employer watch me take a drug test?

No. An employer can’t watch you take a drug test. You can refuse to take the test until your employer leaves the room. An employer can be in the restroom if you are in a private stall.

What happens if the test is positive?

  • If the first test is positive, there must be a second test.
  • The first positive drug test can’t be the ONLY reason you’re fired, transferred or not promoted.
  • The second positive drug test can be the reason you’re fired, transferred, or not promoted.
  • Test results are confidential, but you are entitled to a copy of the results.

Can positive drug tests affect my right to work?

Yes.  You may lose your state license to do your job (such as school bus driver or nurse’s aide) if your drug tests are positive. You must act quickly if you want to challenge the drug test so that you can keep your license. Call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320 for help.

What happens if I’m fired for a positive drug test?

You might:

  • lose state cash assistance benefits,
  • lose future cash assistance benefits, and
  • be ineligible for Unemployment Compensation benefits.

Your personnel file and medical records…

What’s in my personnel file?

A personnel file has information about your:

  • hiring and promotion.
  • evaluations, discipline, and termination.
  • emails or faxes may also be in your personnel file.

Letters of recommendation and references are not part of your personnel file.

Who can look at my personnel file?

You and your employer can look at your personnel file.

 Most other people don’t have the right to see your file unless you give written permission. Usually, the only information an employer can give without your consent is

  • when you worked,
  • how much you made, and
  • your title or position.

But, your employer may share your file with others, such as:

  • a payroll services company,
  • a law enforcement agency,
  • if there is a medical emergency, or
  • if ordered by a court.

Can I get a copy of my personnel file?

You have a right to get a copy of your filetwo times per year. You may have to ask for it in writing. Employers may charge a reasonable amount for a copy. If your employer won’t let you see your file, you can file a complaint with the Department of Labor, 860-263-6000.

What’s in my medical records?

Medical records are papers and reports from doctors, psychiatrists, or psychologists that relate to your work. Some of the reasons an employer may keep medical records are to document:

  • an injury for a workers compensation claim,
  • why you were absent from work, or
  • why you need a medical leave.

Can I get a copy of my medical records?

Yes, but not from your employer. With your permission, a doctor can ask your employer for a copy. You can ask the doctor for the information in your file. Your employer may charge a reasonable fee for the copies.

What if I disagree with what’s in my personnel file or medical records?

  • You can ask your employer to take out or correct the information in your file.
  • If your employer won’t change the information, you have a right to put a written statement in your file.
  • Your employer must keep your statement in the file.

This booklet was produced by the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut in cooperation with Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and Statewide Legal Services. The information in this booklet is based on laws in Connecticut as of 10/2012. We hope that the information is helpful. It is not intended as legal advice for an individual situation. Please call Statewide Legal Services or contact an attorney for additional help.

For more information, contact:

Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).

For people over 60, click here to get help from legal aid.

Not from Connecticut?

Most of the information on this web site is for Connecticut residents only.
Visit LawHelp.org to find a legal services program and/or a legal information web site in your area.