Employment Laws

Employment lawswere put into place to ensure workers earned a minimum wage, had a standard work week, and were compensated when injured. They also eliminated child labor. Unsafe work conditions, overtime pay, and equal pay for women and men were added to the list. Each state has the option of adding additional protective measures to these laws.

Employment laws are in place to protect employees and ensure their safety and fair treatment. There are employment laws for employers, too, to ensure their interests are protected.

Legal issues involved in employment law include:

  • Discrimination
  • Wrongful termination
  • Workplace safety
  • Wages and taxation

To comply with these employment laws, all employers are required to post notices in an accessible location and must maintain a basic set of payroll records.

What Does "At Will" Presumption Mean?

"At will" presumption means that the law, in just about every state, makes the presumption that the relationship between an employer and employee is "at will." This means either the employer or the employee can end the employment for any reason because it is "at will."

The presumption can be changed in the event that both the employer and employee enter into a contract for employment or when promises or oral stipulations are agreed to regarding how the employment relationship will end.

In contract cases, the terms of employment are laid out covering areas such as the length of employment, compensation, reasons an employee can be terminated, and disciplinary procedures. In the case of a dispute between the employer and employee working with an employment contract, it is usually left up to the courts to determine how the contract stipulations are interpreted.

There are exceptions to employers' ability to terminate employees "at will."

  • An employee cannot be fired for any discriminatory reason, such as sexual harassment.
  • Employees cannot be fired for contacting authorities about a violation of the law by the employer.
  • An employer cannot retaliate against an employee for filing a worker's compensation claim.
  • Some states do not allow an employee to be fired in bad faith because an employer does not want to pay benefits or an earned bonus.

What Rights Do Employees Have in the Workplace?

Employees on the job, as well as prospective job applicants, have rights in the workplace. For job applicants, the employer cannot eliminate a potential employee for discrimination based on gender, race, age, religion, or national origin. When applying for a position, unless the employer notifies a candidate in writing of the need for a background or credit check and receives permission from the candidate, the employer cannot run either.

Employees have the right to work in an environment free of discrimination and in a position with fair compensation. An employee's rights to privacy encompass personal belongings, storage lockers, voicemail messages, telephone conversations, and private mail that is addressed to the employee.

Limited rights are afforded to employees regarding any type of privacy when using the company's computer system, which includes email messages via the internet.

What Should Managers Know About Employment Law?

It is to every manager's benefit to be knowledgeable about federal and state laws.

  • The Civil Acts Right of 1964, title VII, prohibits sexual harassment and discrimination in hiring and firing.
  • The minimum wage law is set by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), although states have the option of setting a higher one.
  • FLSA sets the limits for the type of work and number of hours for teenagers.
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) covers eligible employees who need time off for illness or caregiving.
  • USERRA (the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act) prohibits discrimination against those volunteers or those called to active military duty.
  • The Equal Pay Act prohibits employers from paying female employees less money if they have the same skill set and the same responsibilities as male employees.
  • OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Act) requires a business to be hazard-free.
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) ensures that a job or promotion can't be denied due to pregnancy, abortion, or childbirth.
  • The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) makes it illegal to employ or hire illegal aliens.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects employees and applicants over the age of 40 from discrimination in the workplace.

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