A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Employee and Workers’ Legal Rights

A Beginner's Guide to Understanding Employee and Workers’ Legal Rights

As an employee or worker, it is essential to understand your legal rights to ensure you are treated fairly and protected against any undesirable situations in the workplace.

In 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 86,700 nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in Michigan.

This number highlights the critical need for workers and employees to be well-informed about their rights and legal protections in the workplace. 

This beginner’s guide will provide an overview of employee and workers’ legal rights, helping you navigate the world of work with confidence and ease.

Workers vs. Employees

While both terms are commonly used interchangeably, they represent distinct legal classifications with different rights and protections.

Workers: Workers have limited rights compared to employees but still benefit from certain legal protections. The broad worker category includes employees and others who provide contract services.

Independent contractors are generally considered workers but not employees, as they are not subject to the same level of control by the employer.

Employees: Employees have the most extensive legal rights and protection. Under Michigan law, the term “employee” refers to someone who works under a contract of employment. Michigan common law courts use the “economic reality test” to determine whether an individual is an independent contractor or an employee.

Rights: If you are injured at work in the state of Michigan, for instance, a caregiver, such as a relative, may be able to help you with any essential everyday tasks that you cannot perform yourself under the Michigan workers’ comp claims for up to 56 hours per week.

Employment Contracts and Agreements

If you have a written contract, you may be able to claim unfair dismissal if you get dismissed without sufficient notice. An employment contract outlines the terms and conditions of employment, such as job duties, hours, and salary. The contract is a legally binding agreement between an employer and an employee.

It is essential to read and understand your employment contract before signing, as it will include vital information about your rights and responsibilities. Specialist commercial brokers can offer guidance on workers’ compensation insurance coverage and assist employers in comprehending their legal responsibilities.

Workers Compensation

Workers’ compensation is crucial to a safe and secure working environment.

In Michigan, employers with workers or employees who work more than 35 hours a week must carry workers’ compensation insurance. Michigan workers’ compensation aims for benefits that are at least 80 percent of the pre-injured weekly wage of the worker after tax. 

Workers’ compensation provides medical and rehabilitation benefits and salary replacement to workers that get sick or injured because of their work.

Working Hours and Overtime

Labor laws may limit employee work hours per week and mandate breaks and rest periods.

Employees and workers have a right to a minimum weekly rest period of 24 hours per week.

Depending on jurisdiction and contract terms, workers and employees may be entitled to overtime pay if they work beyond their regular hours.

According to the Michigan overtime law, all employers must pay non-exempt employees one and a half times their regular pay for all hours worked over 40 a week.

If someone usually makes $20 an hour, they must be paid $30 an hour for any time worked beyond the 40-hour week threshold.

Fair Wages and Equal Pay

Laws require employers to pay their employees a minimum wage, which varies depending on the jurisdiction. Michigan’s minimum wage is $10.10 per hour.

Equal pay laws ensure that employees performing the same job with the same experience and qualifications receive the same pay, regardless of gender, race, or other protected characteristics.

If you are an employee and have been underpaid, or your employer has not paid you correctly, or on time, you may be able to take legal action against them.

Termination and Severance

Employees are entitled to notice of termination and may be eligible for severance pay. Employers must give employees at least four weeks’ notice before firing them, with or without cause. An employer cannot terminate an employee for discriminatory reasons such as age, race, pregnancy or sex. If you believe you have been a victim of pregnancy discrimination, seeking advice from legal professionals is crucial. Consider searching for pregnancy discrimination lawyers near me for guidance. There are professionals who specialize in employment law and can provide services for navigating discrimination issues.

Health and Safety

Employees have the right to refuse work they believe to be unsafe for their health. Employers are legally responsible for providing employees with a safe and healthy work environment.

Employers must maintain clean and hazard-free workspaces, provide necessary safety equipment, and offer training on workplace safety procedures. If you slip and fall at work or get injured in a company car, you might be covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. You should also invest in the office ethics training.


Employees or workers should understand their legal rights to navigate the workplace confidently and effectively. Get familiar with the basics outlined in this guide to ensure your rights are respected and treated fairly at work.