Work laws, also referred to as employment laws, are the rules and regulations that govern the rights of employees in the workplace. These laws govern many aspects of employment, including:
- Health and medical leave;
- Workplace privacy;
- Anti-discrimination; and
- Employer rights.
Additionally, work laws can govern broader issues including general workplace fairness policies and unions. The main purpose of work laws is to protect all individuals who are part of the workforce, which may include:
- Establishing protections for employees in workplace disputes against:
- their employers; or
- their company;
- Ensuring that businesses do not discriminate against prospective job candidates or current employees in the interviewing, hiring, promoting, or terminating process;
- Granting certain rights to individuals who are self-employed or are considered to be independent contractors;
- Ensuring that volunteers or interns do not suffer from:
- Many other topics that can affect employment rights.
It is important to note that every stay may have different work laws. This means that the rights that are available in one state may not provide protections in another state.
It is also important to note that certain issues may be governed by both federal and state employment laws, such as pregnancy leave.
What Are Some Different Types of Employment?
Under the federal laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), there are several different ways to classify employees. These laws divide workers into two main categories of employment, employees and independent contractors.
The groups that fall into these categories are further broken down into the various different types of employment. Examples of different categories of employment that a worker’s job may be classified as may include:
- Full time or part time employment;
- Seasonal or temporary employment;
- Independent contractors;
- Consultants; and
- Temporary workers;
- It is important to note that this category of employment is distinct from that of a worker who is considered to be a temporary employee.
Knowing the category of employment that a worker falls under is important not only for the employer but also the employee themselves. This is due to the fact that the category of employment a worker secures will determine:
- What types of benefits they are eligible to receive, for example, pension and benefits;
- What rights they have as a worker;
- Whether they qualify for certain perks; and
- What sort of tasks the employer will legally be obligated to do, for example, withholding income taxes.
What are Some Common Types of Work Laws?
There are some work laws that can be very broad, for example, the general requirement that employment arrangements be created with good faith and fair dealing. Other work laws may be very specific and govern specific issues, for example, the length of time allowed for maternity leave.
Common types of work laws address legal issues including:
- Wage and hour claims, especially overtime disputes;
- Wrongful termination;
- Fair business practices; and
- Various other claims involving matters such as employment benefits and vacation.
Violations of work laws are commonly handled through the intervention of state employment boards or agencies. In cases of intentional or serious violations, a private lawsuit may be necessary to help the victims obtain monetary compensation for losses.
What are Common Types of Work Law Disputes?
Common labor law disputes include:
- Collective bargaining negotiation with union employees;
- Discrimination and harassment;
- Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave;
- Wrongful termination; and
- Worker’s compensation.
How Do Work Laws Apply to Employee Classifications?
As noted above, work laws govern interactions between employees and employers. The two main categories of employees are at-will employees and contingent workers, such as contract workers.
The majority of state laws provide that employment is at-will. This means that employers are permitted to terminate employees from a position for any reason, as long as that reason is not illegal.
What About Employment Contracts?
Work laws in every state also regulate employment contracts. This includes the clauses employers or employees may find within their employment contracts.
The employer of an at-will employee may terminate that employee at any time, with or without notice. In the majority of cases, the employment contract will specify that the employee is an at-will employee.
If, however, the employee’s contract is silent on the issue of the employee’s status and the employee is terminated without reason, the employee may argue that the termination was wrongful. The terminated employee may argue that, pursuant to the contract, they could only be terminated for good cause.
Employee contracts are agreements between employers and employees that outline the basic responsibilities of the employees. When an employee signs an employment contract, it is deemed to be binding.
There are many different types of employment contracts that employees may be required to sign, including:
- A confidentiality agreement: This type of agreement provides that the employee will not share any proprietary information regarding the company;
- A non-compete agreement: This type of agreement provides that the employee agrees that, for a specified period of time after the employment ends, they will not work for a competing company or take away the company’s customers;
- An arbitration agreement: This type of agreement that the employee agrees to arbitrate any disputes that arise with the employer rather than going to court; and
- A termination agreement: This type of agreement provides that the employer may terminate the employee for any reason.
Employees should always take the time to carefully review an employment contract before signing. Additionally, it may be helpful to seek the assistance of an attorney who can review the contract and advise the potential employee on any issues that may need to be considered before signing the contract.
What are Labor Lawyers?
Labor lawyers may also be called employment lawyers. Typically, individuals refer to lawyers who are involved in cases related to union disputes to be labor lawyers.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is the administrative agency that hears disputes between employers and unions. The NLRB determines which union will represent a group of employees.
The NLRB provides procedures and regulations for the formation of unions. It has a General Counsel that investigates employer or union claims of unfair bargaining in addition to creating procedures and rules for collective bargaining.
NLRB attorneys act on behalf of the General Counsel and perform functions, including:
- Investigate charges of unfair labor practices;
- Resolve and litigate cases;
- Conduct elections to determine union representation preferences; and
- Act as hearing officers in contested representation cases.
What if I Need Help Filing a Claim Involving Work Laws?
Lawsuits for claims that involve work laws will often result in a damages award. This award will assist the plaintiff in recovering their losses, such as wages.
It may be helpful for an individual to consult with the human resources (HR) department if they suspect they may have a legal claim.
The HR department can typically point an employee in the right direction as they seek out legal recourse. Alternatively, an employee may wish to hire a professional for assistance with their legal matters.
Should I Hire a Lawyer if I Need Help Filing a Work Law Claim?
Work laws may vary widely by state. It may be helpful to hire a workplace attorney if you need help filing a legal claim.
Your attorney can advise you on the work laws in your state and how they may apply to your case. Your lawyer can inform you of the possible legal avenues to pursue as well as what you can do to help ensure that your claim is successful.