Employment law, also known as labor law, is meant to offer protection to both employers’ and workers’ rights. Many laws fall under the umbrella of employment law since it encompasses federal laws, state laws, and court opinions and because Americans have been working to create fair and safe working conditions for centuries, labor law has a long and detailed history.
Included in employment law are regulations protecting wages, hours worked, health and safety standards, health benefits, retirement standards, and workers’ compensation. It’s important for both employees and employers to understand what is included in the United States’ employment law.
The US Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) established the minimum wage law, child labor laws, and pay for overtime hours. This federal law, which was established in 1938, is just one of the laws that protect employees’ rights. Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal for employers to discriminate based on race, national origin, religion, or sex. In 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was established to allow employees to take unpaid time off for family reasons, such as the birth or adoption of a child or the need to care for an ill family member.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970 includes protections for employees who believe they may be experiencing retaliation from an employer. Employees have the right to complain about any conditions that appear unsafe, and if their employers retaliate against them for these complaints, it is a violation of the whistleblower protection provisions, which is administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
State laws also factor into employment law. In most states, employment is assumed to be “at will,” meaning the employee can terminate employment at any time. However, this does not hold in court if it’s an instance of wrongful termination. This might be the case if the termination was due to the employee’s sexual orientation, age, race, or if the employment contract is in the employee’s favor. Will employment is fairly common and it’s important for employees to know the details of their contracts with employers.
How does employment law protect employees?
Employment law prevents employment discrimination and protects employees. In the 19th century, workers began to unionize in an effort to use collective bargaining to gain better working conditions and pay. Millions of Americans today belong to labor unions, which work to negotiate for the same rights and benefits Americans have always desired. Unions fight for workplace safety and OSHA-standard conditions. Employees have the right to complain to their unions about unsafe conditions without fear of their employers’ retaliation.
Beyond protecting current employees, employment law also protects potential and new employees. During the hiring process, public and private employers cannot discriminate against job applicants. If an applicant is denied due to something like age discrimination, that applicant can hire an employment lawyer to take a case against the employer. State governments and the federal government explicitly protect applicants during the hiring process, so a denied applicant would be well within his or her right to seek legal advice.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 protects applicants and employees with disabilities. Employers are unable to discriminate against people with disabilities and legally, they must make reasonable accommodations for these employees. If an employee with a disability believes their rights are not being met, they are also protected from retaliation under this act if they choose to enforce their rights.
The ADA states that employees who are currently disabled, have a history of impairment, or whom the employer believes to be impaired are protected by the act. This last category is important because this means employers who discriminate against employees whom they believe to be disabled, even if the employer is incorrect, are protected by the ADA.
Employment law is designed to provide both employers and employees with clear laws and regulations in regards to every aspect of work. Understanding how you’re protected as an employee and how you must operate as an employer is crucial to the success of the employer-employee relationship.
What does an employment lawyer do?
An employment lawyer can work with an employee or an employer. Because the employer-employee relationship is governed by many different laws, employment attorneys are often needed. These attorneys help employers comply with the laws that surround hiring and terminating employees, which can help prevent wrongful discharge and potential lawsuits. Hiring a lawyer can help save employers from accidentally violating a worker’s rights, which, of course, benefits both the employer and the employee.
Employment lawyers are needed to defend employees when their employers have broken the law. If an employee has been denied overtime pay or a promotion due to race, he or she will turn to an employment attorney for help. If a serious health condition has developed due to the working conditions, an employee may hire an attorney to assist in receiving compensation. Legislation is designed to favor the employee if he or she has been discriminated against, and working with a skilled attorney will ensure the employee is receiving treatment to the letter of the law.
Because there are many laws that factor into employment law, an employment lawyer will often make this the sole focus of his or her practice. There are entire law firms devoted to the work of employment law and litigation. It’s important that employers and employees hire attorneys who are experienced in employment law and understand the nuances of it. This is not a small area of law and lawyers must stay informed on every aspect of it. As laws surrounding the workforce have continued to be implemented, the need for skilled and knowledgeable lawyers has increased.
How can employees and employers stay on the right side of the law?
There are many things employees and employers can do to make sure they are following the letter of the law when it comes to employment. Employers who intend to have their employees sign an employment contract should make sure the contract is reviewed by an employment lawyer, and any employee who signs a contract should also have it reviewed. This helps protect the interests of both parties and prevents any future dismissal for illegal reasons. Employers, in particular, want to make sure they have clearly outlined the nature of the employer-employee relationship in the contract as this is the document that will best protect their future choices.
Employment law has a long history in the United States and anyone who is currently or previously employed should stay informed on what rights are protected by the law. Working with an employment lawyer when needed can help both employees and employers stay on the right side of the law. Federal employment law can be complicated and everyone should work to understand their rights.