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Labor and Employment Basics

Whether you are an employee or an employer, having a firm understanding of the basics of labor and employment law is essential to understanding your rights and ensuring that you are complying with the applicable state and federal laws.

Basic Labor and Employment Issues

Labor and employment basics include the following topics that apply to most issues in this legal area:

Most workers and employers need to be cognizant of these basic issues since they typically apply to everyone engaged in full-time employment. For example, no employer, unless it is a religious organization, can refuse to hire or promote someone based upon their age, race, gender, religion, creed, national origin, color, or disability. Everyone should have an equal opportunity to work, although there are certain exceptions, such as convicted felons or undocumented immigrants. If an employee or job applicant has a recognized disability, the employer generally must reasonably accommodate that person's ability to perform the job.

If you are injured on the job, you are entitled to certain benefits. Under workers’ compensation laws, you do not have to prove that your employer was negligent in causing your injury or disprove your own responsibility before being eligible for benefits. Your employer also cannot penalize or fire you for bringing an harassment or discrimination complaint or workers’ compensation claim.

Employers must be careful when hiring immigrants or migrants for any type of work; they have a legal obligation to check the immigration status of anyone who is hired, or face civil and criminal law violations.

As a worker you are entitled to be paid a minimum hourly wage unless you are in the service industry and collect tips or commissions. Other wage laws may also apply, including the right to collect overtime and work-related expenses.

Other Basic Employment Laws

A variety of other labor and employment laws may apply to you as well. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies only to employers with at least 50 employees; government agencies; or private and public schools. To be eligible for FMLA benefits, the employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months or 1,250 workable hours in a 12-month period. If other conditions are met, you can request up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period.

Employers must also meet basic reporting and record-keeping requirements under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Employers need to post, provide, or otherwise make accessible certain documents so that workers receive notice about their rights regarding health and retirement benefits, overtime and minimum wage mandates, termination of employment, safety, reporting of harassment in the workplace, hiring and testing.

With a sound understanding of the basics of labor and employment laws by all employees and employers, a cohesive and efficient workplace for all is attainable.