5 things most companies are allowed to do even though they seem illegal

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Do you ever see your boss do something and think, “That doesn’t seem right,” or “That can’t be legal!”?

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t.

To help you figure out whether some of your employer’s sketchy, annoying, or unethical actions are legal, we talked with employment lawyers from The Ottinger Firm.

They say laws vary from state to state, but offered a general overview of seemingly illegal actions that are actually legal in many places:

Most companies can put video cameras up in the office.

Ottinger lawyers say employers are typically allowed to put up video cameras around the office so long as they can justify them with business reasons, such as a concern for security.

But don't worry too much because the law firm says many states don't allow employers to put cameras up in either employee or customer restrooms or changing rooms. In addition, employers are generally prohibited from putting up cameras to keep an eye on specific employees.

Most companies can phone you when you're sick.

Whether you're actually sick or just playing hooky, you probably don't want to hear from your boss.

Unfortunately, in most states there's nothing prohibiting your employer from checking up on an employee who calls in sick -- so long as the worker is physically able to answer the call.

Most companies can track your internet history.

You might want to close out of Facebook -- and Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit.

Employers are generally allowed to track their employees' web searches and communications that take place on their network or on one of their laptops or smartphones that they provided, according to Ottinger.

If you're concerned about security, you can be comforted by the fact that most states have limitations on an employers' right to look at files that are password protected by one of your online accounts, even if you use it at work or on a work device.

Most companies can refuse to give you a reference letter.

If your boss doesn't like you, then you might want to skip out on asking for a recommendation letter.

Ottinger says your employer has no obligation to give you any kind of reference, which could lead to some embarrassing or tension-filled situations if you're not on good terms with your boss.

Most companies can refuse to offer you a pension.

Hearing about generous pension plans can make your mouth water.

But private employers are not required to provide retirement benefits or contribution plans, according to Ottinger.

If your employer does choose to provide a retirement plan, then it must comply with the requirements and standards mandated under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

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