The overwhelming majority of adults in this country work well over 40 hours per week on a regular basis. In fact, statistics currently show that the average American works over 1,700 hours per year. Spending this much time working can have huge implications on an employee’s mental and physical health. It can also deeply impact their personal relationships with others as well as their ability to effectively parent their children. If employees are going to be spending this much time working, it is imperative that laws be in place to protect their rights. What types of areas do these laws cover and what rights do employees and employers have today? The information that follows will touch on some of the most common workplace laws and how they effect relationships between employers and employees.
Severance Pay Laws
In this day and age, most work place relationships do not include a severance pay policy. In some cases, such as with union workers, employees may be granted severance pay if they willingly quit a job or get fired from a job. A severance pay policy is entered into personally between the employer and employee in question, and the contract will outline what benefits the employee will receive if they quit or are fired. Generally, the employee will also be required to sign a form that states that he or she will not hold the employer responsible for anything, including any perceived discrimination, upon taking the severance pay.
Laws Regarding Overtime
Many American workers have opportunities on a regular basis to work overtime hours. As a rule, any hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week are considered overtime hours. Overtime generally pays time and a half, making this a lucrative option that hard working employees can sometimes take advantage of. There aren’t laws in place to prevent an employee from working overtime, but the laws regarding pay are in place to ensure that these individuals are paid a proper amount for the work that they perform that is in excess of what is required.
Minimum Wage Laws
Minimum wage laws have existed for some time to ensure that all employees are guaranteed a minimum amount per hour. This rate increases periodically due to inflation and other factors that influence the current cost of living in various locations. It is against the law for an employer to pay his employees less than the legally mandated minimum wage, regardless of their age, gender, or skill level.
Employee Discrimination Laws
Laws are in place to protect employees from being discriminated against due to their gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, or any disabilities that they may have. An employer may not refuse to hire someone based on any of these factors, nor can they fire someone solely based on these factors.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employees that have physical or mental disabilities cannot be discriminated against due to these factors. Not only is it against the law to fire or refuse to hire those with disabilities, but employers are also required to provide a work environment that will help these individuals succeed in the workplace. For example, wheelchair accessibility and other accommodations may need to be made by the employer to ensure the success of the disabled employee.
Wrongful Termination Laws
In most states, employment occurs “at will.” This means that it is mutually understood that the person being employed has a right to quit his job at any time. Additionally, the employer has a right to fire employees as he sees fit. No reasons have to be given from either side when this occurs.
In some cases, however, an employee and employer enter into a signed contract that the employee can only be fired for very specific reasons. If this is breached in some manner, the employee can claim damages against his employer for a breach of contract.
The “at will” status of most employment relationships can make it difficult for an employee who feels who was fired for improper reasons. It can be difficult for an employee to prove that he or she was fired for reasons of religion, gender bias, nationality, or sexual orientation when both parties naturally have the right to end the employment arrangement without specifying a reason for doing so. In these cases, the use of a lawyer who specializes in work related cases can be helpful.
OSHA Compliance Laws
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces many laws governing the safety of the workplace for employees. OSHA laws cover a wide variety of areas within the workplace, including providing safety training for workers, ensuring that all occupational hazards are removed, and performing periodic tests of the workplace to ensure the air quality and environment are safe for the health of all workers. OSHA standards are designed to protect employees from falling, protect their hearing when there are loud noises on the job, protect from chemical exposure, provide clean and cool air, and many other components that make up a healthy workplace.
Laws Regarding Equal Pay
The Equal Pay Act was established in 1963 to prevent employers from discriminating against employees based on sex. In the past, it was relatively common for women to be paid considerably less than men for performing the same tasks. Equal pay laws protect against this type of discrimination, and now in today’s culturally diverse world, it can be extended to cover pay discrimination for a variety of causes other than sex.
Jeremy Goldstein is a successful attorney with his own law practice. Prior to starting his own practice, he was a partner with the Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz law firm. After receiving degrees from New York University of Law, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago, Goldstein began his own firm to better concentrate his efforts on affecting positive change in the laws that provide safe working conditions for Americans.
Jeremy Goldstein has been involved in some of the highest profile cases that have taken place over the last decade. These cases include those involving The Dow Chemical Company, SBC Communications, Miller Brewing Company, JP Morgan Chase, and many others. Mr. Goldstein also currently serves as chair of the Mergers & Acquisition Subcommittee, a part of the American Bar Association. In the role, Jeremy Goldstein often performs public speaking affairs where he educates on topics relating to executive compensation and governance laws that affect corporations today. Mr. Goldstein continues to bring his expertise and experience to the world of employment law, helping to create successful relationships between employers and employees all across the nation.