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EMPLOYMENT EEO / WRONGFUL TERMINATION
Labor and employment law deals with a broad area of law that governs the rights and duties between employers and workers.
Many of the governing laws are designed to keep workers safe and ensure they are treated fairly, although laws also protect employers’ interests. Employment laws are based on federal and state constitutions, legislation, administrative rules, and court opinions. Select employment relationships may also be governed by contract.
Many of the employment disputes that result in litigation deal with “wage and hour” violations. Federal law establishes baseline rules with respect to these issues, and then states are free to pass laws providing additional protections. For example, federal law requires a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. A majority of states have approved a higher minimum wage (14 states put new minimum wages into effect on January 1, 2016), and employers in those states must comply.
Wage and hour laws also regulate overtime pay. The federal government does not place limits on the number of hours adults may work per week, but after 40 hours, employers must pay additional compensation, unless the employee falls into a category “exempt” from the law. Many disputes revolve around whether an employee is properly classified as “exempt” from the time-and-a-half overtime pay requirement under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Discrimination in the workplace is another basis for many employment law cases. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent legislation such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act make it illegal to treat workers differently based on ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender, age, or disability. Many employees seeking to pursue discrimination claims hire attorneys, as they must follow detailed procedures, such as obtaining a Right-To-Sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Employers hire attorneys to defend against these lawsuits and to ensure compliance with appropriate laws before disciplinary action or termination occurs.
Current “hot” issues in labor and employment law include sexual orientation and gender discrimination, race and national origin discrimination, and the exercise of religion in the workplace.Wage and hour disputes and disagreement over whether an individual is properly categorized as an “employee” versus an “independent contractor” are also an important part of an employment lawyer’s workload.
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