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Employment Law

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Employment law deals with workplace-related matters, including employment discrimination (workplace discrimination), wrongful termination and workplace safety. In this section you will find information on these areas, as well as on other types of unlawful discrimination. If you have recently been unfairly fired, denied employment or denied promotion, or if you have been placed in an unsafe work environment, this information should be very useful to you.

Employment law covers a broad spectrum of federal and state statutes, administrative regulations and judicial verdicts. These laws are designed to protect each individual from many kinds of unlawful activities that affect an individual's right to fair treatment in the workplace. Because these laws vary from state to state, they can be very difficult to interpret. A qualified employment lawyer can help you understand how employment laws affect you and determine if you are entitled to compensation.

Employment Law and Workplace Discrimination

Discrimination in the workplace is a serious legal issue and an important area of federal and state employment law. In the last half century, laws have been enacted to protect employees from acts of workplace discrimination that are based on race, color, sex, age, religion and national origin. In recent years, several laws pertaining to sexual orientation have been passed – some preventing discrimination, others allowing it.

While employment discrimination laws do not protect all groups in all work situations, they are fairly comprehensive. Workplace discrimination laws cover the following areas, among others:

  • Hiring
  • Termination
  • Compensation
  • Harassment
  • Job assignment

Constitutional Protections

In addition to federal and state statutes, the U.S. Constitution and some state constitutions also contain provisions aimed at protecting employees from discrimination in the workplace. The Fifth Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law, and the 14th Amendment seeks to ensure that citizens receive due process and equal protection. The inclusion of these protections in the U.S. Constitution prevents the federal and state governments from discriminating against employees and job applicants solely because they belong to a specific group.

If you feel you have suffered from this type of discrimination, an employment lawyer can help you determine what legal recourse you have.

Anti-Discrimination Laws

While employers in the private sector are not bound by these constitutional protections, many federal and state laws have been created to pick up where the Constitution leaves off. The following are some of the most important anti-discrimination laws passed at the federal level. Violation of these laws may entitle you to legal recourse and possibly compensation:

The Equal Pay Act prohibits employers and unions from making wage-related decisions based on sex. It amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1963, which applies more specifically to employers that engage in interstate commerce.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes discrimination in other areas of employment unlawful. This act, which applies to employers with more than 15 employees as well as most unions and employment agencies, forbids discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion and national origin. It covers hiring, firing, compensation and terms of employment.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 encourages employment of people with disabilities by prohibiting discrimination against them. The Rehabilitation Act applies only to federal and state agencies and to some companies receiving federal contracts.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits discrimination against physically and mentally handicapped persons.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) provides most of the protections granted in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to employees over the age of 40.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is tasked with monitoring and enforcing the Equal Pay Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and portions of the Rehabilitation Act. If you feel you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination, contact your local EEOC office and consult with an employment lawyer.

Wrongful Termination

Wrongful termination can occur when an employer unlawfully fires or lays-off an employee. While many employees work under "at-will" employment agreements, which generally allow both employer and employee to terminate the employment at any time, these agreements do not apply to certain situations.

The following are just some of the offenses that fall under the category of wrongful termination:

  • Firings related to sexual harassment
  • Violations of employment agreements
  • Retaliation for legitimate complaints against an employer (worker's compensation claims, whistle blowing, etc.)
  • Breach of good faith. These laws prevent employers from firing employees to avoid rewarding something that has been earned
  • Violations of anti-discrimination laws
  • Labor law violations
  • Constructive discharge. This refers to situations in which an employee quits for reasons he or she could reasonably be expected to quit for. When an employer does something that would make any "reasonable" employee want to resign, the employee's resignation may be considered constructive discharge
  • Violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. This act provides several protections, including guaranteed overtime pay in certain situations

Employers found guilty of wrongful termination face penalties and may be required to pay damages to cover lost wages and other financial hardship. For blatant violations, employers are sometimes required to pay punitive damages as well.

An employment lawyer can help you determine if you are eligible for compensation and can assist you with the legal process. To learn more about wrongful termination, job loss and your legal rights, contact an employment attorney.

Other Areas of Employment Law

In addition to the areas outlined above, employment law covers the following:

  • Wages and benefits
  • Family and medical leave
  • Unemployment compensation
  • Worker's compensation
  • Pensions
  • Intellectual property
  • Safety in the workplace
  • Drug testing and your rights

Did You Know?

The Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution prevent the federal and state governments from discriminating against employees and job applicants solely because they belong to a specific group.

Labor Law

Employment law deals with the relationship between employers and their employees. But it should not be confused with labor law, which seeks to balance the bargaining power of employers and employees. Cases involving trade unions and collective bargaining fall under the category of labor law.