By Nick Branch
In tough times it is the job seekers who are hurt the hardest. Not a day goes by when we don’t hear a story of someone we know, or someone in the news for the hardship they are enduring whilst unemployed. Being unemployed makes job seekers vulnerable, and it is at these times that a sound knowledge of employment law can be most valuable.
Get help with employment law
Our labor laws have a fine and distinguished heritage. To the uninitiated however they can appear as a confusing mixture of federal and state law which govern workers rights but also afford rights to job seekers as well. Job seekers in America are some of the most protected in the world when it comes to discrimination. For example federal statutes include:
- The Civil Rights Act 1964,
- the Pregnancy Discrimination Act 1978,
- the Equal Pay Act 1963, and
- the Age Discrimination Act 1967
All of the above statutes outlaw discrimination for employees and job seekers on the basis of:
- pregnancy status
All too often job seekers forget that they too are protected by US labor laws and may simply need help with employment law to enforce their rights. Remember, these laws cover you in the job interview, so be aware of them next time you are called up.
As and when the wait for a job is over, workers must enter employment with their eyes open. In a hard labor market employers may attempt any number of moves to pull one over on their new employees. Knowing your rights, and getting help with employment law if you don’t, is vital:
- The first thing you will consider with any new job is the pay and benefits on offer. Both state and federal laws set out the minimum wage every worker is entitled to receive.
- Many businesses make mistakes when paying their employees, either by not paying overtime, by paying a lower rate or by making too many deductions.
- In terms of benefits, most state and federal laws say that certain key benefits should be provided, these include leave for family and medical reasons.
- Other benefits that you may have heard of, including medical and dental insurance, life insurance and employee pensions are extras that employers may choose to include but they are not required to by law.
Safety in the workplace
We have a strong history here in the USA of protecting employees in the workplace from danger and hazards.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act 1970 (OSHA) is the leading law in this area, providing millions of workers with the right to work in a safe environment.
Under the OSHA workers are entitled to review copies of standards, rules and regulations, which the employer should provide. They should also have access to relevant employee information and medical records. The law also protects a worker’s identity if they choose to lodge a complaint with the OSHA over an aspect of safety in the workplace.
In troubled economic times the rights of employees in termination situations become of paramount importance, and getting help with employment law can make a real difference:
- Employees in America have few innate rights not to be terminated if they are employed ‘at will’, that is without a contract.
- This does not however give an employer free reign to fire someone for a discriminatory reason, but if an employee is fired for any other reason they are likely not to have a legal case against their employer.
- If an employee is employed under a contract, or has been given some employment security, either expressly or by implication then they can only be fired for a justified reason such as neglect of duty, dishonesty, unfaithfulness or theft.
- If your employer cannot give you a good reason you may have a case for unfair dismissal, and should seek help with employment law from an experienced attorney.
Nick Branch received his LLB from the University of the West of England in 2004, he then went on to work as a director of two property-related businesses. Nick is now studying to become a doctor on the fast-track graduate entry medicine course at King's College London and is a regular writer for Contact Law on law topics.