Employee rights in the workplace are protected under several federal and state employment laws.

Problem is that not a lot of Americans are aware that they even have workplace rights.

In this economy (especially here in California), many people are just more than happy that they have a job and they tolerate abuses from employers, managers, supervisors and even colleagues.

But that should not be the case.

Employer and employee relationships are supposed to be give and take, so the employee does not have to feel indebted for the job that he is being paid for.

To help you, here are some of the most basic employee rights in the workplace:

• The right to a workplace free from discrimination and harassment

Federal laws such as Article VII of the Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Age Discrimination in employment Act (ADEA) and the Equal Pay Act all protect the rights of employees from discrimination based on sex, race, religion, national origin, disability and age.

Harassment is considered as a form of discrimination and the above laws also protect employees against it.

California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) also provide the same protections and may even give better resolutions in the state level.

• The right to a reasonably safe work environment

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers are required to provide employees from recognizable dangers such as machine and equipment dangers, toxic chemicals and substances, unsanitary conditions, and even excessive noise levels.

In California, the state has its own Division of Occupational Safety and Health, under the Department of Industrial Relations that regulates safety and health standards.

• Right to Fair Wage and Pay

The Fair Labor Standards Act sets the national minimum wage at $7.25 per hour and requires employers to pay non-exempt employees one and a half times their regular rate for overtime.

The California labor laws takes it a step further by setting the state minimum wage at $8.00 per hour and requiring employers to pay one and a half times the regular rate for hours worked after the first 8 hours and double the regular rate for hours worked after the first 12 hours.

• Right against retaliation

Most federal and state laws contain statutes that protect employees who participated in an investigation against the company or the employer from any forms of retaliation.

Even if the investigation clears the employer and the company from any liability, the employee would still remain in protection of anti-retaliation laws.

Getting Help

If you feel that one or more of your rights in the workplace has been violated, you should ask your HR department or the employer about the proper grievance system of the company.

If no actions were taken or if the case was handled poorly or unfairly, you can file a complaint or even a lawsuit to have the offenders and even the employer liable for the violations.