What is United States Labor Law?

Charity Delich

United States labor law includes a series of rules and regulations governing everything from working conditions and wages to child labor practices, unions, and employment discrimination. By and large, the goal of labor regulations is to even out the playing field between employees and their employers. Labor laws are primarily comprised of state and federal statutes, although local laws may also apply in some cases. As a general rule, states are precluded from obstructing any labor laws made by the federal government. Judicial decisions as well as administrative agency judgments also play a role in forming labor laws.

The historic use of child labor is now considered illegal.
The historic use of child labor is now considered illegal.

United States labor law offers a number of rights to employees. One noteworthy area is that of unions. Labor laws generally give employees the right to form a union and to take action in order to meet the needs of their union. For instance, unionized employees may have the right to picket, strike, or seek an injunction against an employer.

Overtime pay is covered by United States labor law.
Overtime pay is covered by United States labor law.

Labor laws also govern minor employees. In general, a person must be at least 16 years old to work in a non-farm job. If the job has been deemed hazardous, then an employee ordinarily must be at least 18 years of age.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal.

Another key area governed by United States labor law is wages. Under a federal law called the Fair Labor Standards Act, minimum wages and overtime payment requirements are set for employees who work in government as well as in private sectors. Precisely which employers are subject to minimum wage and overtime laws is dictated by statute. States can also set minimum wage laws. If a state minimum wage law exists, then an employee is entitled to receive the greater of the two minimum wages.

Workplace safety and health makes up another notable area of United States labor law. Employers are generally required to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which mandates providing employees with working conditions that are devoid of known, serious hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is a government agency charged with enforcing the Act, ensures compliance through workplace inspections.

Employment discrimination is also regulated by United States labor law. Generally, laws prohibit employers from engaging in discriminatory employment practices, which occur when an employer negatively singles out an employee or job applicant on the basis of race, gender, age, or ethnicity. Religion, disability, and sexual orientation are other categories that may be subject to discrimination. Discriminatory practices can exist in areas such as hiring, job assignment, promotion, and compensation as well as in employment termination or harassment.

Unequal treatment on the basis of race, disability, sex, creed, age, or ethnicity is considered a civil rights violation in the United States.
Unequal treatment on the basis of race, disability, sex, creed, age, or ethnicity is considered a civil rights violation in the United States.

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Discussion Comments

lomack

I am trying to find out if an employer can fire an employee for refusing to work seven days a week, open to close for the months of April through November (working 62-64 hrs per week) or if I choose not to return under those conditions can I lose my unemployment. I live in N.J.

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