4 Basic Employment Laws Every Employee Should Know
Employment lawyers are well versed in the numerous and varied employment laws. An employment law attorney usually handles cases involving these laws on a daily basis. Employment lawyers usually have several years of prior experience dealing with employment issues such as workplace harassment and workplace retaliation, gender discrimination or hostile work environments, so it’s familiar territory.
However, most employees are not as knowledgeable as employment lawyers when it comes to knowing their rights. In fact, many employees are surprised when employment lawyers inform them of the rights they have as workers. We have collected a few of the basic laws most employment lawyers agree every employee should know about. Take a look and find out some of the ways the law of the land protects workers:
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
One of the earliest laws geared towards employers and their workers is the Fair Labor Standards Act. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed this act into law in 1938. It addressed poor working conditions, mostly in factory settings. As a result, this law significantly improved working conditions for millions of Americans.
The law further prohibited employers from hiring employees younger than 14 years of age. It also prevented those under the age of 18 from working in jobs considered dangerous, such as coal mining. Prior to 1900, employers often preferred to use children as a labor source. Factory owners viewed them as more manageable, cheaper, and less likely to strike. The law allowed children to stop working in factories from dawn to dusk and encouraged compulsory free education for all children.
The FLSA also sets minimum standards for employee wages, and it limited the number of hours a worker could work in a seven-day week. When President Roosevelt signed the law, he set the minimum wage to $0.25 per hour, and he set the working week to no more than 44 hours. Since that time, lawmakers have amended the act numerous times to increase the minimum wage. In 1940, lawmakers amended the law by shortening the work week from 44 hours to the current 40 hours per week.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
President Nixon signed OSHA into law in 1970, responding to the rising number of employment related deaths in the late 1960s. Lawmakers designed the act to introduce important safety standards for many businesses. Since the signing of the OSHA, the number of employee-related accidents has dropped dramatically.
For example, industries with heavy machinery have standards of working and requirements for protective gear for workers. Even white collar employees benefit from this act, under ergonomic standards for seating and desks. OSHA also provides that employers educate their employees about hazards in the workplace, and how employees can take preventive steps to minimize the risk of accidents. The act also initiated standards on filing, documenting, and posting workplace hazards, injuries, and complaints.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964
This important piece of legislation is one of the most well known by employment lawyers and their clients. This law is the foundation of basic civil rights for all Americans, and it was grounds for many future workplace laws.
The law, in its most basic form, abolishes segregation in all public places. It also made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of religion, race, or gender. For example, businesses could not deny a person a service based on skin color. These provisions also prohibited employers from hiring, promoting, or firing employees based on their race, religion, or gender. The act gave every American equal protection and access to law, including the right of all Americans to vote.
Since the law’s inception, lawmakers have added onto these basic protections to reinforce workplace protections against discrimination. In 1967, lawmakers added the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, prohibiting discrimination against those over the age of 40. Lawmakers amended the act again in 1972 to create the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC regulates and enforces civil rights and defines what constitutes discrimination. Further additions to the act covered pregnant women (Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978) and disabled workers (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990).
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
President Clinton signed the Family Medical Leave Act into law in 1993. The Federal Government passed the act to protect employees who need time off from work to take care of a serious medical condition. It also allows for time for parents to bond with a new child. If an immediate family member also has a serious health condition, you can also request leave under the FMLA. Employees can be eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave while keeping their health benefits.
Reports of employer threats to fire or discipline an employee based on a request for leave have been on the rise in recent years. Employees should be mindful of this important law to make sure that they can enforce them if they have any issues with their employer due to a long-term injury or illness.
Employment Lawyers Help You Protect Your Rights
With a little knowledge on their side, employees can help protect their rights and the rights of co-workers. Of course, if an employee has difficulty in enforcing their rights, they might want to speak with competent employment lawyers. If you’re in Los Angeles, contact the the Law Offices of Cathe Caraway-Howard for more information about your rights under these important employment safeguards.