I have recently had the honor and privilege of associating with a group of smart, organized and uplifting women who work and volunteer with the 9to5 National Association of Working Women’s Atlanta Chapter.  The “Know Your Rights” workshop was our third in a four-part leadership series that helps women better understand how they can make a difference in their community and in the workplace.  Located in the I.B.E.W. Local 613 building, 9to5 works alongside a number of organizations that I have grown up with in a politically active union family.  This certainly added to my interest in participating in the workshop series and learning more about an organization dedicated to empowering women in the workforce.

The “Know Your Rights” workshop included valuable resources that are also available online and a few well organized interactive group exercises and discussions.  We learned more about fair labor standards, discrimination, job safety, sexual harassment, unemployment, workers compensation and more.  These are topics that everyone employed or seeking employment should be familiar with.  Most people do not know where to turn or what to do when they think that their rights have been violated by management or a fellow employee; just as some employers are not familiar with these laws unless they have educated themselves or had past experiences.  Knowing more about employer/employee eligibility, filing or responding to a complaint, and the alternatives that could allow an issue to be addressed directly within the workplace, are all tools that can help someone get a job, keep a job and move into leadership roles.

Coming from a family of attorneys specializing in labor relations and workers compensation, I have, at times, had a better understanding of my rights in the workplace than some of my co-workers.  I have always made myself familiar with personnel guidelines in my workplace.  However, while I have given advice to friends, family and co-workers over the years on guidelines and their employment rights, I have not always taken my own advice.  Like many people, there have been times when I have weighed my options and tried to avoid losing a job, the potential for advancement, or fail to be hired in the future.  I don’t know too many women, or men for that matter, who have not experienced some form of discrimination or had their rights infringed on, in the workplace or when in a position of potential employment.  Participating in this workshop has helped me to learn more about these laws and resources, and 9to5’s leadership series has given me more motivation and focus as I continue to seek employment in a challenging employment environment.  I encourage everyone to KNOW YOUR RIGHTS.

Marla Bexley-Lovell


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