While it’s true women have cracked the glass ceiling, don’t run over to dust up the shards just yet.
Women have come far in the workplace, but there’s still a lot left to do. Part of doing this is being educated about current laws so you can use them to make sure you — and your coworkers — are being treated fairly.
Regardless of your industry, women should know 7 labor laws in place that protect them in the workforce.
1. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
This act was passed near the end of the Great Depression to improve working conditions. This act set a maximum hour work week, a minimum wage, overtime pay and banned child labor. Though it’s not specific to gender, preventing child labor changed the lives of mothers throughout the nation for the better.
Since its passing in 1938, the FLSA has been amended more than twenty times. The act now requires a 40-hour maximum work week and an increased minimum wage. It covers the difference between part-time and full-time workers and salary vs. hourly paid workers.
2. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
The well-known Civil Rights Act recognized every human being as equal. Title VII of this act specifically prohibits discrimination by employers based on race, color, sex, religion or national origin.
This law mandates that employers cannot treat people differently based on those categories during hiring, while employed and through the exit process. With this act, women cannot legally be discriminated against simply because of their gender.
3. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
Unfortunately, many businesses prior to this act simply laid off or fired women when they were pregnant — it often saved them healthcare costs associated with pregnancy and the price of temporary help while women were gone. This amendment to the Civil Rights Act prohibits this behavior. Companies can no longer discriminate against hiring or continued employment based on pregnancy.
4. Equal Pay Act of 1963
That there is an Equal Pay Act may come as a bit of a surprise to some women who still earn about 80 cents per dollar that men earn. This act requires companies to pay women the same amount they would pay men for doing the same job, but it seems clear that’s a goal still on the horizon.
Considering the wage gap in the U.S., there’s still work to be done. However, this act was a big step towards making sure men and women are paid equally.
5. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
This act is important for all women, but especially mothers,to know and understand. Under COBRA, employers are required to continue health benefits to workers for a limited period of time if they lose their job.
This applies if the employee is fired, is transitioning to a different job or has a family death or other outstanding situation. For mothers, keeping their health benefits can be extremely important especially during a tumultuous time, like a career transition.
6. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act protects eligible families who need to take time off work for medical conditions or to take care of a newborn child. This law passed in 1993.
Any company with 50 or more employees is required to follow this act, which gives up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave to people with severe medical problems and for mothers or fathers to bond with their newborn or adopted child. The employee still receives health benefits they have with their employer during this time and will be guaranteed the same position they had before they left.
7. The Whistleblower Protection Act
The Whistleblower Protection Act protects workers who speak out about inappropriate or unsafe working conditions against retaliation and allows them to file a federal lawsuit.
This is an important women’s labor law because it makes it more likely that women will report any sexual abuse or discrimination they may experience in the workplace. This act encourages women to come forward by promising them protection from retaliation and a percentage of money recovered or damages won in the case of a lawsuit.
Knowing your rights as a female employee can make or break your survival in the workplace. It ensures you will be treated fairly, what you can expect from the laws in place and where those laws fall short. Understanding and knowing these labor laws can be a very helpful tool during your time in the workforce.
Related reading: How to tell if you’re being discriminated against in your job search.
About this guest author:
Sarah Landrum is a leading millennial career expert and the founder of Punched Clocks, a career and happiness blog for young professionals. Follow Sarah on social media @SarahLandrum for more advice on creating a career you love!