What are Statutory Rights?

Anna B. Smith

Statutory rights are an individual’s legal rights, given to him or her by the local and national ruling government. These are generally designed to protect citizens. They are typically enforced by local law enforcement, and their violation usually carries a penalty of legal prosecution and punishment.

Violation of an individual's statutory rights may result in prosecution and punishment.
Violation of an individual's statutory rights may result in prosecution and punishment.

These rights are created by the ruling government of a country through legislation. For example, the statutory rights of the United States are created by the judicial branch of the federal government. They are often based on cultural customs. This means that certain rights bestowed by one country may not be recognized by another.

Statutory rights of an employee include protection from unfair dismissal and from discrimination in the work place.
Statutory rights of an employee include protection from unfair dismissal and from discrimination in the work place.

Statutory rights often apply to aspects of life in which citizens must enter into a contractual agreements with one another. For instance, they are commonly referenced in sales transactions. In this situation, a seller has the right to sell items that he or she owns, but not things that do not belong to him or her. Therefore, an individual who sells something stolen cannot legally transfer ownership to the purchaser, so a car thief cannot legally sell a stolen vehicle.

Conversely, purchasers may reject items that they deem unsatisfactory based on their statutory rights. A purchaser has the right to buy and receive the items he or she expects based on the seller’s descriptions. The goods should also be satisfactory to the purchaser. If the goods sold do not meet these expectations, the buyer can reject them and request a refund from the seller, or repair of the item at no additional charge.

Many businesses post signs that state "this transaction does not affect your statutory rights." With this, the seller is informing buyers that they are not waiving their right to receive quality products simply because they have paid for them. In other words, purchasers still have the ability to exercise their right to a refund for an unsatisfactory item after they have completed a sales transaction.

In many countries, employees and employers also enjoy protection under statutory rights. Employees have the right to be paid for the work they perform. They also have protection from unfair dismissal and from discrimination in the work place. Employers have the right to require employees to complete the work they have agreed to in a written contract.

These rights may also be referred to as civil rights. The term is typically used in reference to the specific violation of statutory rights through discrimination. Discrimination may be based upon race, gender, sexual preference, or other categories defined by local law.

A thief cannot legally sell a stolen vehicle.
A thief cannot legally sell a stolen vehicle.

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Discussion Comments


One of the most important things that I think I have ever done as a teacher is to encourage my students to know their statutory rights.

You would really be surprised at the amount of people, adults and children alike, that just do not have a clue as to what their rights actually are.

Now that is a real problem, my friends. If we do not know what our rights actually are, how can we fight people who try to take them from us?

We should not be led around like horses by a bridle. No, we should absolutely have a firm grasp of what we are granted according to our government, and we should expect to receive no less.


You know what is a real and absolute shame? I am a grown woman and I am an educated woman. But, I would be hard pressed to really speak intelligently on the statutory rights of my own country.

The fact is that many of us are living day to day and just accepting whatever comes our way. I know that I rarely question whether something is my right or not.

If I’m told that I can’t do something, being the good girl that I am, I usually just stop doing it.

Recently, however, I have found myself questioning this approach more and more. I suppose this is coming from a gradual growth of distrust for our government here in the States.

I love my country – I really do – but it doesn’t seem like there are any black and white - concrete - rules in place. I know that we are supposed to be treated equally, but it really doesn’t take a genius to look around and see that that is not happening.


@anamur-- Good question! That's been a popular controversy for a long time, especially about illegal immigrants in the US. Everyone in the US, whether they are a citizen or not, legal or not, have statutory rights. This is granted by the US Constitution.

In the Constitution, it says that all persons in the US jurisdiction (US territory) have equal protection of law. Some people have the misconception that illegal immigrants don't have the same rights as legal residents or citizens. Some even say that they don't have any rights, but this is not correct.

Plus, all statutory law has to abide by fundamental rights, so a statutory law cannot take someone's fundamental rights from them. The most basic fundamental rights in the US are the freedoms of speech, religion, assembly and to bear arms. Everyone has these rights in addition to statutory rights.


"These are generally designed to protect citizens." Does this mean that non-citizens and illegal immigrants in the US don't have statutory rights?

Can you please expand on this a little bit?


I know that in Britain, statutory rights for consumers are very comprehensive. It is even more powerful than any contract that a buyer and seller make with one another, it always applies for any purchase regardless of whether the parties want it to or not. It also protects the rights of the buyer more so than the seller. I can always have something changed, replaced or fixed there no matter what.

I've recently moved to the US and I don't know much about consumer rights and statutory laws here. I'm also confused about the rights that are given to consumers if a product is broken and what happens when the guarantee certificate runs out.

I actually had a problem with this recently. I bought a hair curler a long time back but never tried it in that time period. When I did finally use it, it had a problem with the heat settings which has nothing to do with me. I took it back to the store and they asked me to send it to the manufacturer even though I asked for it to be replaced. The manufacturer was unwilling to change it because my guarantee period had run out.

What are my statutory rights in this situation? Shouldn't the store be required to replace it for me?

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