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What Is Employment Law (Employee-side)?

Employment law is an expansive area of law that covers the rights and responsibilities of the employer-employee relationship. Employment laws include wages, workplace safety, discrimination, and wrongful termination.

Employment lawyers specialize in representing either employers or employees. It is a conflict of interest for employment attorneys to represent both. Those representing employees may assist unions, help with discrimination suits, or negotiate employee contracts.

Employment Law Issues

State and federal laws protect employees' rights in the workplace. You need legal advice if you have employment issues involving your employer or conditions at your worksite.

  • Employment discriminationFederal law bans discrimination in the workplace based on race, religion, gender, or national origin.
  • Sexual harassment. Sexual harassment happens when an employer demands sexual favors in exchange for a job or promotion or allows a hostile work environment to continue.
  • Wage and hour. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor laws.
  • Wrongful terminationEmployers may not fire you out of retaliation for a legal complaint or protected characteristics (such as race, gender, pregnancy, etc.).
  • Workers' compensation. All states except Texas require employers to carry workers' comp insurance. In some cases, workers' comp may not apply to your injury.

Employees often must file complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before they can sue. Having an attorney review your case before making any legal claim is a good idea.

Terms to Know

  • At-will employmentAn employment relationship where there is no employment contract. Either party may end the employment relationship at any time for any reason. Some states have partial protections for at-will employees.
  • Back payDamages awarded in an employment lawsuit. Back pay is the money the employee would have earned if not fired or denied a promotion illegally.
  • Front payDamages awarded in an employment lawsuit. This represents the money an employee would have earned if given the higher-paying position they were unlawfully denied.
  • Hostile working environmentA workplace where harassment or other offensive conduct is "severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive."
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). A federal law protecting workers over 40. Employers may not make employment decisions based on a worker's age. The ADEA only applies to businesses with more than 20 employees.

Considerations When Hiring an Employment Lawyer

Federal laws may not cover small businesses. Most employment laws apply to companies with more than 15 employees. Some, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), apply to companies with more than 50 workers.

But, states have implemented laws to cover smaller businesses. For instance, California employment laws include higher minimum wages, paid sick leave, and presumptive whistleblower protections. For this reason, having a lawyer who knows your local labor laws is essential for legal action.

An employment law case may involve several legal issues. Some of these are time-limited. You must get legal help when you believe you have an employment-related legal matter.

Related Practice Areas

Talk To an Employment Lawyer

A local attorney knows the state and federal employment laws that apply to your case. Contact an experienced employment law attorney when you need legal services as soon as possible.

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