A Labor Law Primer for Employees

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on February 27, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Labor law isn't a neat package of rules and regulations that is easy to reference. Rules protecting employees and employers are scattered in different laws and regulated by different agencies.

That means it can be hard to figure out what kinds of protections are available to employees. In many situations, it won't be your employer telling you.

When it comes to enforcing rights, it's good to know what you're entitled to. Don't waste time playing detective; we've covered most of the basics.

The Right to Fair Pay

Be honest: If they didn’t pay you, how long would you stay at your job? For most people the answer is “not long.” But that pay is guaranteed to a certain extent.

The Fair Labor Standards Act mandates the federal minimum wage, which applies to the majority of workers. Not only does it dictate minimum hourly pay, it also lays out the 40-hour work week for hourly employees and specifies the terms of overtime pay.

The other big piece of legislation that deals with pay is the Equal Pay Act. Ladies, that’s something we should all be thankful for.

Anti-Discrimination Laws

Of all the labor laws out there, anti-discrimination regulations are the category that’s most spread out over a variety of laws. A majority of those rules come from the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Civil Rights Act.

Those laws protect employees from discrimination based on a number of factors. Things like race, ethnicity, and age can’t be a factor when it comes to employment.

For employees with disabilities, employers must make reasonable accommodations to allow those employees to continue working. Overall, it makes the workplace more inclusive for everyone.

Health and Safety Regulations

Keeping workers safe is an important concern. To ensure workplace safety, there are laws that work to protect employees from companies looking to cut corners.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act sets a baseline for employees safety in the workplace. That includes mitigating risks and minimizing harm from hazardous materials or conditions.

The Family Medical Leave Act, make it possible for workers to take time off to care for sick relatives and COBRA provides a health care safety net for workers who were fired.

Unfortunately, having all those laws doesn’t guarantee an employee will comply with the rules. If your rights as an employee have been infringed, it’s up to you to enforce them.

But you don’t have to go it alone. Get a lawyer on your side before you take on the boss.

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