Employment Law: Here’s What You Need to Know

Employment law is the area of the law that focuses primarily on the relationship between employers and employees. This encompasses the responsibilities, rights and obligations between the two parties. Typically, this area of the law focuses on pay, discrimination, safety in the workplace, discrimination and issues pertaining to workman compensation. Generally as a practicing attorney who practice employment will center their work around either employers or employees to make sure workers are treated fairly.

Types of Employment Law

There are several practice areas that employment law attorneys choose to focus on. Some areas of employment law are more in-depth than others, so generally attorneys who choose to practice in these areas will focus solely on that area of the law. For example, lawyers who deal mostly with labor relations laws, tend to stay in that arena. Labor relations attorneys mainly practice within the confines of the Labor Relations Act, which is a law that was created by the Congress of the United States to govern relationships between employer, labor unions whose business involves interstate commerce.

One of the most interesting things about labor law, as it pertains to the National Labor Relations Act, is that not many people who live and work in the United States actually know that it exists. Even fewer workers know, or even understand the rights that are guaranteed to them through the act or that there is a board that governs, investigates and makes binding rulings on petitions and other issues brought before it. Generally employers who have a unionized labor force will hire an employment attorney who practices in this area.

One of the reasons employers use this type of attorneys is to help them with contract negotiations. Because the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) places no specific obligation on the employer or the labor union to agree to the other’s proposal, contract negotiations, even in established units, can be lengthy. Some contracts can be negotiated in as little as a year, while others can take as long as five years or more. The Act only mandates that both parties have to bargain in good faith.

It is important to note that although employees work under the terms and conditions of the contract negotiated, the actual agreements are between the employer and the Labor organization. There are provisions under the NLRA which provide protections for employees. For example, under the NLRA, employees may file unfair labor practice charges against a labor organization or their employer.

Employment Laws Pertaining to Civil Rights

When it comes to employment attorneys who specialize in civil rights laws, it is important to remember that there are several areas of law specific to this specialization. Civil rights laws primarily center around Title VII of the civil rights act of 1964. This article states that employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on their sex, religion, color, creed race of national origin. These laws were also expanded to provide protections for disabled persons and are enforced at the federal level by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). The state of Texas is the only state that has a workforce commission which plays an active role in the enforcement of these laws at the state level.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee or potential employee because of a disability. The law protects people who have disabilities that are apparent and those that are not apparent. Some examples of the types of disabilities the law provides people with protections for genetic, physical, and mental disabilities. Violations of the law include actions taken by employer such as:

  • Refusing to hire a duly qualified applicant for a position because the person is disabled
  •  Discontinuing the employment of an employee who has become disabled
  • Refusing to reasonably accommodate employees and job applicants with disabilities.

The Age Discrimination Act

The Age Discrimination Act makes it against the law for employers to discriminate against an employee because of their age. This act specifically applies to employees and candidates who are 40 years old and older. Age discrimination is defined as less favorable treatment of an employee because of their age. It should be noted that age discrimination can occur in situations where both the employer and the employee are over the age of 40.

Worker’s Compensation Laws

Lawyers who specialize in the area of Worker’s compensation generally work with employees. They handle cases which involve workplace injuries, and illness that manifest as the result of conditions in the workplace. These conditions could have developed over time, or workplace conditions could have been brought about due to an accident, such as chemical exposure. Employers can choose to opt out of Workman’s Compensation insurance; however, it is with the understanding that they are not privy to the legal protections against lawsuits and punitive damages.

Laws Pertaining to Workplace Safety

Employers must provide a healthy and safe environment for their employees to work in. These protections include hazards that are obvious, as well as those that are not. Employees are also protected from infectious diseases, recurring injuries and a host of other conditions. Some hazards employees are protected from include, but are not limited to:

  • Mechanical dangers
  • Electrical dangers
  • Slip and fall dangers
  • Toxic chemical exposure
  • Unsanitary conditions
  • Excessively loud or sustained noises

Seek Understanding Before You Act

Employment law is convoluted and is often confusing for both employers and employees. Employers often violate the law mainly because they don’t have a complete understanding of the law. Employees on the other hand, often aren’t aware of the protections they have under the laws. People should be careful not to be too hasty when it comes to dealing with employment law. Whether an individual or an entity is involved, it is important for people to seek the advice of an attorney who specializes in these matters.