7 Signs Your Manager Isn't Just a Bad Boss — They're Crossing the Line Legally

Stressed Woman at Work

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
April 15, 2024 at 11:17PM UTC
If you're working for a bad boss, it may be obvious. You're constantly stressed out, unable to appease this boss, damned if you do, damned if you don't. You may have to deal with their micromanaging and distrust issues on a daily basis, or you can never catch a break, always taking their incessant calls and responding to their nonstop emails even during your off hours and on your vacations.  Maybe you even face workplace discrimination in some form.
Whatever the case, your boss' bad behavior can quickly cross the legal line. And here's how to tell when it does move from unfair to illegal.

1. Your employer is not paying you for overtime.

Federal and state laws require most employers to pay you overtime. In fact, most states have labor laws that mandate that your employer pay you a rate of 1.5 times your regular rate of pay for all hours over 40 hours in any given workweek.

2. Your employer doesn't give you at least 12 weeks of maternity leave.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mandates that employers give you at least 12 weeks off following a serious life and/or family event. This includes the birth and care of a child, as well as the adoption of a child — without fear of losing your job.

3. Your employer pays your less-qualified male coworker more on the basis of their gender.

There are federal and state laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against you by paying you unfair wages on the basis of your gender (as well as on the basis of your race, religion, age, national origin and more). 

4. Your employer doesn't let you take PTO on the basis of your gender.

Of course, your vacation time is a privilege and not a right; your employer does not legally have to give you paid time off, nor do they have to allow you to take it whenever you want. That said, if specific protected groups at your workplace do not receive vacation time — as in, your employer denies vacation time to a protected class (such as by gender, race, etc.), then they are breaking anti-discrimination laws.

5. Your employer doesn't give you a nursing break.

Breaks are not mandatory. Unless you are a minor, your employer does not legally have to give you any break times. That said, if you are a breastfeeding mother, your employer does indeed have to give you a break to nurse your baby, according to federal healthcare laws.

6. Your employer sexually harasses you.

The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) defines workplace sexual harassment as "unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with the performance of a person's job or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment." If your employer makes an unwelcome sexual advances toward or you or acts in a sexual nature that interferes with your job performance or makes you uncomfortable, they are crossing the line legally.

7. Your employer won't promote you because of your race.

"Race discrimination involves treating someone (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because he/she is of a certain race or because of personal characteristics associated with race (such as hair texture, skin color or certain facial features)," according to the EEOC. If you're passed up for a promotion because of your race — and you have evidence to prove that — your employer is perpetuating illegal practices in the workplace.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.

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