Employment Law Overview

Employment law, also known as labor law, “encompasses the massive compilation of statutory laws, administrative rulings, and legal precedents which cover all facets of the employer/employee relationship.”  There are many aspects to employment law, and there are laws that pertain to all areas of employment.

One subset of employment law is employment discrimination law.  Employment discrimination law deals with the laws that “protect employees from discrimination on the basis of age, race or nationality, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or religion.”  The sources of employment discrimination law are both federal and state laws.  Employment discrimination law prohibits discrimination in hiring and firing, promoting, transferring, compensating, recruiting workers, training, pay, and testing, to name a few.  Some of the sources of employment discrimination law are the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.  The Fifth Amendment states that the government cannot deprive citizens of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, and it has an implicit guarantee that citizens receive equal protection under the laws.  The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from violating a citizen’s rights to due process and equal protection.  The federal government also established several acts to prohibit discrimination in the workplace, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of age by employers, and the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits unions or employers from paying employees different wages due to their sex.

There are other areas, to which employment law pertains.  The federal government has established acts governing minimum wage, health and safety conditions in the workplace, and retirement standards.  For instance, the federal government passed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), managed by the Wage and Hour Division, which established the standards for minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor.  The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), also administered by the Wage and Hour Division, provides for twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for eligible employees, who give birth, who adopt a child, or who have a serious illness.  Another act passed by the federal government is the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA).  The main purpose of OSHA is to ensure that work environments are safe for workers.  OSHA does this by setting the safety and health standards and performing inspections.  The four major categories of standards set by OSHA are “general industry (29 CFR 1910); construction (29 CFR 1926); maritime (shipyards, marine terminals, longshoring—29 CFR 1915-19); and agriculture (29 CFR 1928).”  This act gives employees the power to file a complaint with OSHA about the safety and health conditions in their workplace.  Another act established by the federal government is the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).  ERISA “sets uniform minimum standards to ensure that employee benefit plans are established and maintained in a fair and financially sound manner. In addition, employers have an obligation to provide promised benefits and satisfy ERISA’s requirements for managing and administering private retirement and welfare plans.”


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