Employee Rights 101: What Employment Law Covers

Employee Rights 101: What Employment Law Covers
Employee Rights 101: What Employment Law Covers

Employee rights and legal protections are so comprehensive that it is often difficult to understand the full extent of how Washington, D.C., employment law protects workers. Here’s everything you need to know about what employment law covers and how it applies to workers.

What Is Employment Law?

In June 1963, United States President John F. Kennedy endorsed civil rights legislation to take on racial inequality with the help of labor and civil rights organizations. From the legislation that was passed in 1964 came the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The office now oversees all complaints of workplace discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, genetics or sexual orientation. The laws are so diverse, however, as they detail all components of the workplace, including hiring, harassment, wages, advancements and firings.

While most workers are covered, there are some exceptions to the rules, which makes their navigation difficult. Employment law strictly governs the affiliation between employers and employees. It also sets principles for what can and cannot be done in the workplace. While both the employers and workers have clear rights and responsibilities, it’s up to the EEOC to enforce them when complaints are filed. The EEOC also must investigate a worker’s claims and hold employers legally and financially accountable when violations of the law occur in the workplace.

Employers also use employment law standards to define practice and procedures to promote a safe work environment, avert discrimination, prevent disruptive behaviors and support worker’s labor rights. EEOC advocacy is also used to handle disputes between managers and workers. Some employment laws have state oversight, while some discriminatory workplace practices are federally mandated. If you are not an experienced employment lawyer, it can be challenging to identify which laws to apply such as when using Title VII and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Title VII

Title VII is a federal statute included in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on race, religion, nationality or sexuality and applies to any aspect of the hiring and firing processes.

The Fair Labor Standards Act

The FLSA is a federal employment law that occurred during the Great Depression. It was put into place to regulate unfair wages, extended work hours and unsafe working conditions. It should be noted that before the FLSA, the minimum wage was 25 cents. While the federal minimum wage in 2019 is $7.25, employees in some states get as much as $12 per hour, which is why it is a smart idea to consult with an experienced employment law attorney when filing a wage dispute claim since it affects the amount due.

Employment laws tend to involve child labor, civil rights, employee benefits, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), immigration, labor laws, minimum wages, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), workers’ compensation, discrimination and wrongful termination. It is so varied that business owners often consult and hire attorneys to oversee these issues. It also ensures the labor and employment laws are correctly in place and adhered to by executives and managers. Human resource (HR) departments also provide onboarding and compliance training to help explain these workplace rights and responsibilities to workers.

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