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Breadth of employment law issues presents special challenges

Everyone has rights. They are spelled out in some detail in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They have been clarified over more than 200 years of U.S. legal history and continue to be refined every day through ongoing legal actions in California and the rest of the country.

The scope of the rights that individuals enjoy is as varied as the facets that tend to make up each person's life. But the element of life that may be more important than any other is that having to do with people's work lives, so it should not be a surprise that the topic list related to employee rights is one that is wide ranging.

Issues can crop up at any number of points where employment is concerned. It can start during the interview process. Applicants for jobs have certain rights. For example, employers can't ask certain questions. The general rule is that if the questions don't deal directly with the qualifications for the job in question and how you might face certain challenges in the workplace, they are off limits.

Once you have a job, you have a right to be treated fairly and with dignity. Harassment and discrimination in any of the various forms possible -- based on race, religion, sex or sexual orientation, age or disability -- are illegal.

Work you have done is work you have a right to be paid for. If you work overtime, you need to know if you are eligible for extra pay. There are also many state and federal laws that set minimum benefits to cover leaves required to take care of family emergencies or disabling illnesses or conditions. Their applications can vary broadly depending on your situation.

If you feel your rights have been violated; if you lost a job wrongly or fear you might; or if you become embroiled in an employment-related trial; act to protect your rights by consulting an attorney with demonstrated skill and experience.