What is Employment Rights Law?

K. Testa

Employment rights law is a broad area of the law that deals primarily with an individual’s legal rights in the workplace. Some examples of legal issues that may arise are wage disputes, working conditions, and discrimination. In the U.S., for instance, there are many different federal and local laws that address workplace rights. Disputes are usually considered civil matters and are often handled by filing administrative complaints. In some cases, however, it is necessary to resolve the matter in a local court. An employment law attorney can usually offer advice or assistance with a claim regarding one of these legal matters.

Discriminatory actions can strain employee relations and create a hostile workplace.
Discriminatory actions can strain employee relations and create a hostile workplace.

Frequently, employment rights law addresses cases of employee wages or fair pay. For example, an employee may complain that he has not been paid sufficiently for time that he has worked, or that his employer has failed to pay him in a timely manner. Complaints might also arise if there are issues with employee benefits, such as life insurance or health coverage. Workers’ compensation claims and unemployment insurance benefits are two additional areas of employment rights law that are often addressed in these cases.

Another segment of employment rights law deals with policies related to working hours — including breaks, overtime, and employee leave time. Hiring and termination practices might also be included in these types of policies. Employment rights law also usually addresses workplace health and safety regulations. In general, employers are responsible for ensuring that their businesses adhere to all relevant national and local laws regarding workplace conditions.

Discrimination is also a common issue in employment rights law. An employee might feel discriminated against by his or her employer, or by a co-worker, based on his or her age, gender, race, or other protected characteristic. Individuals can face discrimination in hiring or termination practices as well. Discriminatory actions can strain employee relations and create a hostile workplace. Employees who are able to document such actions can usually file discrimination cases against the offenders.

Employment rights laws might differ according to a worker’s classification. For instance, someone working as an independent contractor may have rights and responsibilities that differ from those of an employee on a company’s regular payroll. Government workers also may be subject to employment laws that vary from those that apply to the rest of the population.

Although employments rights law varies by jurisdiction, there are numerous national and local statutes that address employee rights in the workplace. Many cases can be resolved with an administrative complaint system. Depending on the complexity of someone’s case, he or she may wish to hire an employment rights attorney. In other situations, people can file complaints on their own behalf. Unless there is some criminal aspect to the case, such as workplace violence, the parties might be able to resolve the issue without having to attend any court proceedings.

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