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Feb. 5 2010 - 2:41 pm | 35 views | 1 recommendation | 1 comment

Know your rights: Raises, bonuses and severance, oh my

Knowing your rights means knowing what you’re not entitled to, as well as what you are.

Raises and bonuses? Nobody owes you one, Jack. No matter how long you’ve worked, or how well, or if you worked Christmas, or the weekends or nights. The law requires employers to pay minimum wage, and to pay overtime, and that’s it. Raises and bonuses are agreed to by the employer and the employee.

Severance? Nobody owes you that either. You get what you can negotiate with your boss.

The exception is a union contract. A union contract is a legally binding document that specifies wages, benefits and working conditions. The union negotiates it, and it applies to all the workers in the union.

The information in this post was pulled from the “Workers’ Rights Manual” published by Arise Chicago.


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    Knowing your employers’ prior track record with lawsuits, or settlements of same, is useful re-con. Severance is often possible, but rare to negotiate effectively without the advice of a good labor attorney, and much more difficult after you have left the building for good and have not already established a record, paper and otherwise, that would substantiate your claim.

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    I'm a freelance journalist based in Chicago. I've written for a lot of places no one's ever heard of, a few places they have, and I share the philosophy of Dr. Samuel Johnson, who said, "No man but a a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." The sentiment jives nicely with the beat I've assigned myself: organized labor and workers rights in the City of Big Shoulders (and other places, too, as the mood strikes). We're dealing in news here, people. If you want my opinion, buy me a drink.

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