Maybe you’re just curious. Or maybe you’re the cautious type of soul who likes to think ahead and prevent a wrong before it happens. But the best bet is that you are reading this book because you already have a work-related problem:

• You were not hired for a job and you have good reason to suspect it was because of your race. Or your disability.

• Your employer promoted a less-qualified person to fill a position you were promised.

• You want to know your legal rights if you consistently work overtime. Or if you want to take a leave to care for a sick parent. Or if you are called to serve on a jury.

• You have just been laid off and you’re wondering if you have the right to get your job back. Or to get unemployment payments in the meantime. Or whether your employer owes you severance pay.

• You want to help evaluate a new job you’ve been offered. Or you want to find out your legal rights as a jobseeker.

This book will help you understand the legal rights that apply to your situation. It explains federal workplace laws—such as those guaranteeing your rights to be paid fairly and on time and to work free from discrimination. It also explains the twists state law may place on your workplace rights—regulating, for example, both your right to smoke and your right to work in a smoke-free place, or whether or not you are entitled to time off work to vote or to care for a sick child.

Tackling a potential workplace problem can feel difficult, so heed that noble adage: Simplify, simplify. Better still: Simplify. Proceed to the chapters that discuss the substance of your problem and skip the rest for now.

Also, be aware that there are many public and private agencies, groups, and organizations that specialize in workplace issues, and many of them provide free—or low-cost—counseling, support, or referrals. You will find information on these organizations peppered throughout the book and a comprehensive listing in the appendix.

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