There is often a power dynamics between an employer and an employee. Their interest converges in the matters relating to the business, but it can certainly diverge at times. The employer can take unfair advantage, discriminate, or even sexually harass the employees. The employee can also wrongfully accuse, steal, or even vandalize the business. There have been many cases in the news where a company has to pay an employee a lot of money in damages. To mitigate this behavior, the Government has put some laws in place to protect the interests of both, the employer and the employee so that the power dynamics can stay balanced. They ensure that that employee working in the workplace are treated fairly and given the expected safety. These laws can also protect and safeguard the interest of an employer. These laws are called Employment laws or Labor Laws.
Employment Law can be defined as;
“Employment Laws oversee the duties and rights that occur between employers and the workers they employ.”
Here are some employment law issues, their types, and solutions:
Minimum and fair wage issue:
There are a few issues that might arise in the realm of minimum wages. All Employers are by law required to pay their employees a minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour as of 2009 and there is a debate that is happening to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Amazon has been very actively lobbying for this increase in the minimum wage after they increased their own minimum wage.
1-However, there is an issue that arises when a certain employee is paid in tips, is the employer also required to pay them a minimum wage? The answer to this question is Yes, an employee is guaranteed a minimum wage. However, a complication may arise if your tips reach a certain threshold where the employer can pay you $2.13 per hour if your tips exceed $30 per month. The tips, however, when combined with the $2.13 or more wage must equal the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
2– Youth minimum wage allows an employer to pay employees a lower minimum wage of $4.25 when they are under the age of twenty for the first 90 days of Employment. However, an employer is not allowed to replace an employee with a higher wage with someone with a youth minimum wage.
3-Employees who are not exempt (Executives, Learned Professionals, Creative Professionals) are required by Federal Law to receive overtime pay if work exceeds 40 hours in a workweek. This overtime is 1.5x of the regular wage and must be paid in wages.
Employees are entitled to a safe workplace that is free from any known danger. This right is safeguarded by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration which sets the safety standards and trains the employers and employees for a safer workplace. The rights granted by OSHA are:
- Given the necessary training in layman terms on the hazards of their workplace, ways to avoid, and the OSHA standard of procedure and laws.
- To obtain the record of all the work-related illnesses and injuries on the job site.
- File a complaint with OSHA and request an inspection anonymously.
- Take part in the requested OSHA inspection.
- To be given copies of tests measuring workplace hazards.
- To be protected from retaliation or discrimination for safety whistleblowing
OSHA also obligates the employer to the following:
- Provide a safe working environment free from safety hazards.
- Find Health and Safety Hazards
- Eliminate any hazards that exist
- If Hazards are not eliminated the equip the employee with adequate safeguards and gear
- Notify the employees of the hazard and train them
- Post a list of OSHA injuries and citations with an OSHA poster in a place where employees can see it
- Maintain a record of work-related injuries.
Employees are safeguarded by Law from any discrimination which arises from anything aside from the quality of work or nature of an employee’s personality. Here are the things that employers cannot discriminate:
- No employer by law is allowed to refuse to hire. Discipline, fire, deny training, fail to promote, Payless, or demote and Harass an employee on the basis of Race, National Origin, Gender, and Religion. This Probation occurs under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 making it illegal for an employer to be hostile in any way with an employer on the above-mentioned basis.
- Employers are forbidden to adopt testing practices in which a specific group tends to score badly.
- The protections offered by Title VII also extends towards white and male employees. This sort of discrimination is known as reverse discrimination.
- Women often have to struggle to balance a career and family life simultaneously. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964 protects women in a fashion that no employer can decide Hiring, Firing, or promotions, taking her pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions into consideration.
- Women are often paid lower wages for the same work her male colleague does. To safeguard against this, the Federal Equal Pay Act requires an Employer that is already subjected to the Fair Labor Standard Act which is the Federal Wage and Hour Law to provide equal pay to both males and females who perform the same amount and quality of work. An Employer is however exempt if this difference in pay stems from a difference in Seniority, merit, or anything unrelated to gender.
- There have been cases of age discrimination as well. The ADEA or Age Discrimination Employment Act prohibits employees, with at least twenty employees, from discrimination against employees who are over the age of forty. In case an employee is fired, Forced to retire, replaced by a younger employee, he/she has the right to go to court and state a claim under age discrimination in Employment Act.
- Employees who have been proven themselves disabled are protected under The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) against any discrimination from Employers that have more than fifteen employees. The Employee is also entitled to reasonable accommodation for a disability which may include things like a Modified Work Schedule, work duties, Unpaid time off, or any special devices which will help them perform in their job duties.
- A few states and local counties and municipalities have also enacted some additional anti-discrimination laws which protect against discrimination of Sexual Orientation and Marital status.
There are certain circumstances where firing someone can fall under the definition of wrongful termination and would be illegal in the eyes of the law. The condition for wrongful termination would be met when the termination would violate the contract between the Employer and Employee or the Law of the land. An example of a violation of the law would be to terminate someone because of their religious beliefs, political affiliation, race, gender, etc. Here are a few examples of wrongful termination.
- An “At-will employee” means that an Employer can just walk up to you on a fine morning and tell you to pack your stuff because you are fired, without any prior notice. All states except Montana follow the at-will employee setup. However, there have been cases where this can be constituted in the realm of wrongful employment in cases where the employment contract states that one cannot be fired unless there is a good cause behind the termination. There are also some other protections afforded to an at-will employee like they cannot be fired for safety or wage whistle-blowing.
- An employer cannot do any sort of discriminatory firing. This means firing someone on prejudice against a race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, and age. Discriminatory firing falls under Title VII of the civil rights act of 1964 and is illegal on a federal level. Employees fired under this condition may file a lawsuit of termination on a discriminatory basis in a timely manner for further legal action.
- Employers cannot fire or discipline an employee for participation in activities that are protected. Such activity may include wage or safety whistle-blowing, taking medical leave, or informing an employer about harassment and discrimination. There are many states that protect an employee from termination for taking time off for voting, serving in the military or national guard, or to sit in a jury.
- An Employee cannot be fired unless they have violated the terms of their employment contract. An Employment contract can specify that failure to perform can warrant a termination so one cannot be fired on any other basis.
A labor union constitutes an elected body governing an organization of workers that can bargain and negotiate their labor contract with their employers.
- These Unions negotiate items of employment which include Pay and benefits, working conditions, Complaint Procedure, Hiring and firing guidelines, and help with unfair labor practices.
- Anyone can start a union by contacting the FLRA office and filing a petition.
- The National Labor Relations Board handles Unions in most non-government and private sector organizations. They, however, do not handle forms of employment discrimination which include Race, Sex, workplace safety, Overtime Pay, and Family and medical leave.
These were some of the key employment law issues. However, if you think that you may have been treated in violation of any of these laws or you need help with employment law issues, you should contact an employment lawyer to see if you are liable for any compensation.
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