Labor law is the legislation that has to do with employment. It specifies the rights and responsibilities of employer and employee. These laws differ slightly from state to state and from region to region in the U.S.
It is a tool that helps to promote the empowerment and protection of the working class. It regulates the relationship between employee and employer both individually and collectively. Naturally, there will always be an inequality of power between an employer and employee; labor laws help to correct this inequality.
Left to some employers, they can just dismiss a worker without good reason or abuse them verbally or emotionally on the job. But thankfully, there are regulations set up to protect workers and ensure that due process is followed in the hiring and firing process. In addition, the employee gets to have a say (through negotiation) in the terms and conditions under which they will work.
Fundamentals of Labor Law
This aspect of the law is a very broad one; in fact people spend years specializing in it. What this means is that we cannot do justice to it in one article. However, we will share the fundamentals. This will help you have an idea of what your rights are if you are an employee and your responsibilities if you are an employer.
The basics are covered under the following broad headings:-
- Productive Work and Commensurate Earnings- This covers what the minimum wage should be, payment of wages regularly and on time, compensation for overtime, weekend, holiday and night work.
- Working Hours – This determines working hours that is decent, maximum working hours, and limit for overtime hours, paid holidays/annual leave and other holidays to compensate for working on public holidays.
- Job Security – This provides for an employment letter to be given at the beginning of one’s employment. This written statement will contain the terms and conditions of the employment (whether it is fixed term, short term or permanent), duration of probation, severance pay, requirement notice for termination and other terms of employment. You can visit https://www.usa.gov/ for more information.
- Work, Life Balance – This covers family responsibilities such as parental and paternity leave and options for flex-time. There is also the provision for maternity protection which covers salary during maternity leave, exemption from strenuous tasks, and protection from unjust dismissal, the right to come back to the same job and a right breast feeding and nursing breaks.
- Safety In The Workplace – This spells out the responsibility of the employer to provide protective equipment in the workplace, ensure a healthy and safe workspace, provide safety training and labor inspection especially as it concerns health issues and occupational safety.
- Employment And Accidents or Sickness – This covers sick leave with pay, free medical care for employees, job security in the event of sickness, what happens if an employee is injure in the line of duty, disability or survivor’s benefit.
- Social Security – This includes retirement pension scheme, benefits for invalids, unemployment benefits and survivor’s benefit.
- Equity In The Workplace – This covers gender equality which is expressed in receiving equal pay for the same value of work done, laws prohibiting sexual harassment, right of choice (freedom to choose an occupation), equal treatment for everyone in the workplace.
- Child Labor – This stipulates the minimum age for the workforce and the minimum age for certain jobs (like hazardous jobs).
- Forced Labor – This includes the right of the worker to quit a job and the maximum hours for overtime.
- Trade Union – This gives the workers right to be part of trade/workers’ union, bargain collectively and go on strike. Click here to learn more about trade unionism.
Understanding Labor Laws in Your Area
The above is like a summary of federal labor laws. Like we stated earlier, these regulations vary slightly from state to state. As an employee or employer of labor, you need to know both the federal laws and your state laws. This will help you know when your rights are being infringed or when you are running afoul of the law.
The Differences Between Federal, State And Local Labor Laws
Every state in America is regarded as a sovereign state but is under one country. The founding fathers of America categorized every law by jurisdiction so as to put checks and balances in place for all tiers of government. This therefore means that the jurisdictional power is there to determine the body/tier of government that can make laws and enforce them.
Individual states have rights to make certain regulations for residents and visitors in the city while some matters are the exclusive reserve of the federal government. That is why there are slight differences in legislations across states.
On the local level also, counties, municipalities, townships, cities and villages are empowered to make and enforce regulations specific to them. Many local governments have laws and court systems that take care of issues that have to do with local safety processes, rental laws and the likes.
Bear in mind that federal law takes precedence over state laws and local while the state takes precedence over local. However, there are instances where both the federal and state courts have jurisdiction over an issue. In this instance, the people involved in the dispute can decide which court will handle the issue.
This issue of state jurisdiction also applies to regulations that have to do with employment. States often determine what their minimum wage will be, child labor, paid rest/leave and some other issues that are peculiar to the state.
It is for this reason that you are advised to find an attorney who is licensed to practise in the state where you reside if you have any issues there. For example, you will need employment attorneys in Los Angeles especially if you are new to the area. This is because there are labor laws and regulations that are unique to the city.
Know Your Right As An Employee
Many employees do not know their rights and that is why a good number of people work under unfavourable conditions and even suffer injustice in the workplace. Below is a summary of your right as an employee:-
- You have a right not to be discrimated against or harassed because of your race, religion, sex (this includes your gender identity, sexual orientation or pregnancy), age, disability, nationality, genetic information which include your medical history or that of your family.
- You have a right to reasonable accommodation – This means that exceptions can be made for you in the way that things are usually done in the office/workplace based on your religious belief or medical condition if it is required by the law.
- You have a right to equal pay for equal value.
- You have a right to expect confidentiality from your employer on any information given concerning medical or genetic issues.
- You have a right to report discrimination or take part in lawsuit against discrimination or investigate it. So an employer has no right to punish you for threatening to file a lawsuit against discrimination or for doing so.
Bear in mind that the above is based on federal regulations against discrimination. There are other laws in the federal, state and local levels that may apply. That is why we strongly advise that you acquaint yourself with the employment laws of the state whey you work or run your business.
Check out this site for more information: https://www.bbntimes.com/
We have shared some basics about labor laws in America in general. Like we mentioned in the course of this write up, this subject is too vast to cover in a single article. That is why you need the help of legal professionals to navigate this terrain.
From the details that we have shared, you can deduce whether you are being treated as stipulated by law as an employee or your rights are being infringed by your employer. Thankfully, there are legal means of getting what’s due you.
Do not fail to consult an employment attorney in the event of an infringement on your fundamental human right as an employer.