Virtually any issue related to a person’s employment is governed by a mix of state and federal law. Federal employment law often affords workers greater protections than state law alone. Additionally, employment law encompasses a number of different areas of concern, for example a labor dispute may involve questions of constitutionality as well as contract law. Understanding the different areas of employment law is useful for someone seeking to resolve an employment dispute.
Wage and Hour
One key area of labor law is known as Wage and Hour, which refers to how much an employee is required to be paid and when. Most states have a minimum wage requirement, or adopt the federal minimum wage requirements. Minimum wage is the lowest amount by law that an employer is permitted to pay an employee. Although higher salary can be negotiated, employers are not required to pay a higher wage. They are not required to offer paid vacation, incentive plans, or insurance options.
Wage and hour laws also affect when an employer is required to pay. These are frequently referred to as “pay day” laws. An employer cannot hang onto an employee’s check for several weeks. If regular payday is Friday, then they are required to pay their workers on Friday. If an employer does provide insurance or a 401K plan, wage and hour questions tend to overlap with another sub-area of employment law called “Benefits”. Benefits are governed by federal statutes like The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).
Workers’ Compensation Law
The second main area of employment law is worker’s compensation, often referred to as “worker’s comp.” Worker’s comp refers to the compensation an employer is required to provide to an employee who is injured on the job. State laws dictate when an employee is entitled to benefits, as well as the duration and the amount of those benefits. Although some federal laws apply, most workers’ comp issues are governed by states. Overlap typically arises over concerns regarding workplace conditions. Employers are required to provide a safe working environment. If an employer fails to provide adequate safety measures (such as equipment, exits, procedures, training), the employer can be fined by the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in addition to being required to compensate an employee for any injuries suffered.
Discrimination in the Workplace
A third main area of labor law concerns discrimination. This covers hiring, firing, and workplace harassment. Virtually every state has some set of discrimination laws that mirror or supplement federal ones. For the most part, federal workplace discrimination laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency. The two main areas of prohibited discrimination are race-based and gender-based, although some states have laws that protect additional categories of persons. For example, California prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. An employee cannot be denied or terminated from a job based on their membership in a protected class. In spite of all of the protections that the law provides against discrimination, proving a hostile work environment or wrongful discharge claim is difficult without proper legal representation.
Anyone with an labor law concern should retain a reputable employment law attorney to help them navigate through the maze of relevant legal issues and administrative rules. To learn more, review the articles in this section on hiring, firing, job discrimination, sexual harassment, wage and hour, workers compensation, retirement and benefits, and more. Refer to the links at the top of this page.