Employment Law

The U.S. has enacted many federal and state laws to protect workers’ rights in the workplace. These laws cover a range of topics. Examples include prohibiting employment discrimination and setting a minimum wage.

Navigating the various state and federal employment laws can be overwhelming. You should talk to an employment law attorney in your state if you need help with an employment issue. They can help you understand if your employer has violated your employee rights and what you can do about it.

Workplace Discrimination

Workplace discrimination can create a hostile work environment. The federal government has passed several anti-discrimination laws. These laws prohibit your employer from discriminating against you based on certain characteristics. These laws also apply to job applicants. Following are some of the significant laws:

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces these federal laws. State laws often supplement federal workplace discrimination laws. These laws often fill in where federal legislation falls short.

Wage and Hour Disputes

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the federal minimum wage. It also regulates work hours and child labor. Under the FLSA, you’re either a nonexempt or an exempt employee. If you’re exempt, your employer likely pays you a salary and doesn’t have to pay you overtime. If you’re nonexempt, you’re likely paid hourly. In that case, your boss must pay you at least the minimum wage. You’re also entitled to overtime pay.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take an extended leave of absence. The leave must be for one of the following covered reasons:

  • A serious health problem for you or your parent, spouse, or child
  • The adoption of a child or foster child
  • The birth of a child
  • Certain needs associated with an active-duty military spouse, child, or parent

FMLA leave is unpaid. You must also qualify. Qualification is based on the number of hours you have worked and other factors. If you take FMLA leave, your employer must give you the same or similar job when you return.

Workplace Safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Act sets workplace health and safety standards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) administers the law. Your employer must comply with OSHA’s standards. Your employer also has a general duty to provide a safe work environment.


The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects the right of employees to form a union. It also protects your right to collective bargaining. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) administers the NLRA. State labor laws may give you more protections beyond the NLRA.

Employee Benefits

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) sets requirements for employee benefits. Employee benefits include retirement and health programs. These requirements protect you if you participate in these plans.

ERISA does the following:

  • Requires plans to give participants certain information about plan features
  • Sets minimum standards for participation, vesting, and benefit accrual
  • Sets requirements for the people who control plan assets
  • Requires plans to have a grievance and appeals process for participants

Workers’ Compensation

The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) oversees workers’ compensation programs. These programs help you and your family if you get hurt at work. These benefits include the following:

  • Wage replacement benefits
  • Medical treatment
  • Vocational rehabilitation

Whistleblower Protections

Most federal statutes include whistleblower protection. That means your employer can’t retaliate against you for reporting a violation of labor and employment laws. For example, you’re protected against wrongful termination if you report unsafe working conditions.

Contact an Employment Lawyer for Help

Many state and federal laws govern the employment relationship. Your employer must comply with these laws. You should contact an employment lawyer if you’re dealing with employment law issues. They can explain your legal rights and help you file a complaint against your employer.

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