Thoughts to Keep in Mind for May Day 2015

Owen H. Laird, Esq.

Many people are unaware of the significance of May 1. May 1 is May Day, also known as International Workers Day. In many countries across the world, “Labor Day” is celebrated on May 1. These holidays came to be in the late 19th century, as labor movements grew in size and significance, and nations began to recognize the importance of both workers and workers’ rights.

Although trade unions and organized labor have waned in power and influence, workers are still struggling in the United States and abroad to improve working conditions, to earn a fair wage, and to expand their rights. Each month, newspapers across the world are full of stories about workers coming together, from fast food workers seeking to increase wages in the United States to domestic workers trying organize to protect themselves in India, from fighting for safer workplaces here in New York to ending sweatshop labor across the globe.

Many people view the employer-employee relationship as one of subservience, where the employee should be happy to accept whatever his “generous” employer is willing to offer. We at The Harman Firm do not agree; workers have fought for rights in the workplace and must be allowed to exercise those rights when they are infringed upon by indifferent employers. Employers routinely and knowingly fail to pay their employees the overtime they are entitled to by law, and even fail to pay their employees the basic minimum wage. In order to secure the wages they are due, workers must demand to be paid.

In addition to fighting to enforce overtime and minimum wage laws, workers must still fight for basic human rights in the workplace as well. Despite a popular attitude that the dark days of race and gender discrimination are behind us, people still suffer from discrimination every day. We represent those who have been discriminated against because of their race, color, religion, gender, national origin, marital status, military status, sexual orientation, age, disability, citizenship status, and partnership status.

With the stock markets at all-time highs and corporate profits ever-increasing, that businesses continue to pad their balance sheets by treating workers as a commodity to be used up, rather than individual human beings, is shameful. Employers are willing to break laws and violate their employees’ rights to cut costs and increase profits. The only way to force these businesses to treat their employees properly is to make breaking the law too expensive to be a viable option by asserting workers’ rights. The only way to make companies feel the cost of their illegal actions is to stand up and go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, go to the Department of Labor, or bring a case to court.

The sad truth is that employees with the courage to face their employers and assert their rights are often retaliated against for doing so. Rather than being intimidated, workers must understand that retaliation is also illegal and fight back against it. Even though workers are less powerful and very rarely able to engage with an employer on equal footing, governmental agencies and the judicial system provide them with a way to make their voice heard.

This May Day, if your employer is breaking the law, do something about it. The Harman Firm is prepared to provide legal assistance and counsel to employees with a wide range of employment claims, including wage-and-hour, discrimination, hostile work environments, harassment, and retaliation. If you believe that your rights have been violated, please contact us.