Employment Law

What is Employment Law And Why Is It Important?

Employment law is the collection of laws and rules that regulate the rights of employees and employers in the employee-employer relationship. Employment law is significantly important because the majority of Americans spend more time at their job than at home. It is therefore critically important that your rights are protected at the job. An individual should, for example, be able to come to work and just work – without fear of discrimination or harassment. Employment laws say when an employer can hire employees and when the employees can work. The laws cover what an employer must pay the employee for their work. They create minimum requirements for working conditions for employees. While the majority of employers are law abiding, some are not and that is where employment law and employment lawyers become relevant.

Following Employment Law

When an employer wants to hire someone, there’s a lot they have to know. There are minimum wage laws that require the employer to pay a certain amount. There are laws that prohibit the employer from discriminating against applicants or employees based on certain characteristics. Employers must provide a safe working environment. In some cases, they must provide health insurance options. Employers must collect and submit payroll taxes on behalf of the employee.

Employers often don’t even know what they don’t know. With so many regulations to comply with, employers are often overwhelmed. U.S. labor laws have developed throughout American history. They’re not all in one place. Employers turn to lawyers to help them follow the law.

At the same time, employees want labor laws enforced. They may need help from an employment lawyer to understand what the laws are and whether their employer has violated the law. They might turn to an employment lawyer to help them enforce the law when their employer hasn’t followed it.

Major Employment Laws In The United States

Some of the most notable employment law in the United States includes the following:

Minimum Wage Laws

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 sets a federal minimum wage. Many states also have minimum wage laws. States can’t make a lower minimum wage, but they can make the minimum wage higher than federal law requires. Different types of employees might have special considerations. For example, employers who have employees that earn tips may be able to rely on tips to make up some of the employee’s minimum pay.

Overtime Pay

Employees have the right to overtime pay. The Fair Labor Standards Act says that an employer must pay time and half for any hours that an hourly employee works over 40 hours per week. While there’s no maximum number of hours that an employee can work in a week, the employer must pay overtime for each hour that an employee works over 40 hours in a week. There’s no right to overtime for working on a Saturday or Sunday if the employee’s total hours stay under 40. There’s also no limit to the number of days that an employee can work in a week.

Family And Medical Leave

The United States has no requirement for paid medical leave. However, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1963 says that large employers must offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave. An employee can use family leave after the birth of a child or after an adoption. They can use it for their own health problem or to care for a spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition.

Collective Bargaining

Employees have a right to organize collective bargaining with an employer. The Clayton Act of 1914, the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 all regulate collective bargaining. If more than 50 percent of a workforce wants to organize, a company must negotiate in good faith.

Safe Working Conditions

Employees have a right to safe working conditions. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) protects employees from foreseeable hazards at work including chemicals, extreme temperatures, noise, sanitation problems and conditions that are likely to cause injuries. Employers can’t retaliate against an employee for exercising their rights under OSHA.

Employers Can’t Discriminate Based On Protected Characteristics

Employers must be careful to avoid discrimination against employees. They may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents an employer from discriminating based on these qualifications in both the hiring process and when making a decision about a dismissal. There are some exceptions that employment lawyers should be aware of. For example, casting directors are able to make decisions that are consistent with their creative vision.

Employers also can’t discriminate on the basis of age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 says that employers can’t discriminate against older employees when it’s time to decide promotions, compensation and termination of employment. Similarly, employers can’t discriminate against people with disabilities. The employee must be able to fulfill the essential duties of the job, but they can have reasonable accommodations.

Civil Rights Considerations

Employees have First Amendment rights. However, employers have a right to go about their business without interference from employees. For example, in Pickering v Board of Education(1968), a school wrongfully terminated a teacher for criticizing the school board. However, in Connick v. Myers (1983), the court said that it was okay to fire a disgruntled employee for circulating a questionnaire on management practices.

Civil rights also protect an employee’s right to privacy. Employees have a right to privacy in their own handbags and even in private telephone conversations. However, there’s no right to privacy on employer-owned electronic devices.

Following The Law In The Workplace

Companies of all sizes must follow employment law. They depend on employment lawyers to tell them what they need to do in order to comply with the law. In addition, employment lawyers assist clients with pursuing enforcement or a remedy when there’s a violation of the law.