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Most people think they know what rights they have at work—but they're wrong frequently. Workplace law isn't always intuitive, and just because something is unkind doesn't mean it's illegal.
Check out these common myths concerning workplace rights, and test your own knowledge of what your boss can and cannot do.
1. Myth: It's illegal for an interviewer to ask about your religion, national origin, marital status, number of children, etc.
Fact: In most states, the act of asking these questions itself is not illegal. What is illegal is basing a hiring decision on the answers to these questions. So since an employer can't factor in your answers, there's no point in asking them, and smart interviewers don't go near these topics. (Note that it is illegal to ask about disabilities, however.)
2. Myth: It's illegal for employers to provide a detailed reference, or any information beyond confirming job title and dates of employment.
Fact: It's legal for an employer to give a detailed reference, including negative information, as long as it's factually accurate. That said, some companies do have policies against giving references, but these policies are easily worked around; most reference-checkers don't have difficulties obtaining references, no matter what the official policies say.
3. Myth: If your boss bullies you, you can sue under "hostile workplace" laws.
Fact: Bullying or being a jerk is bad management, but it's not illegal. The exception: If your boss is being a jerk to you because of your race, gender, religion, or other protected class, then you do have legal protection. But 99 percent of jerky bosses act like jerks just because they are, and that is legal.
4. Myth: Employers are required to provide paid time off.
Fact: No state or federal law requires paid vacation time. A very small number of jurisdictions require paid sick leave, but the majority of Americans live in places not covered by those laws....