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Employment Law Information

Employment Law, Employee – An Overview

Employment law covers the relationships between employers and their employees, as well as their potential employees and former employees. Both federal and state laws control various aspects of the employer-employee relationship, and each side’s rights and obligations. Because of the complexity of the employment relationship, this area of law involves issues as diverse as discrimination claims and record-keeping, taxation and workplace safety.

There are also different types of employment relationships. Employment relationships can be based on a contract, or they can be “at-will.” If the employment relationship is based on a valid contract entered into by the employer and the employee, the terms of that contract will govern the relationship. By contrast, an at-will employment arrangement can be terminated at any time, with or without reason, by either the employer (as long as the reason does not constitute illegal discrimination) or the employee.

With all these factors to consider, it is clear why employment law is such a complex area. If you have an employment law concern, contact an experienced employment law attorney who can provide sound advice and skilled representation in a range of workplace-related matters.

Independent Contractors

Independent contractors perform compensated work for businesses and individuals, but they are not considered to be employees. This non-employment relationship is based on an oral or written agreement between the business and the independent contractor. This contract may provide specific standards for the work product and establish the pay rate for that work. Businesses that hire independent contractors generally do not withhold federal or state income taxes or Social Security taxes from payments to independent contractors, and they do not maintain unemployment or workers’ compensation insurance for those workers. Most independent contractors, therefore, need to make their own quarterly tax payments.

Independent contractors are usually paid by the project, rather than by the hour. Independent contractors have a higher degree of control over the way they work, and they have the ability to contract with a range of businesses. They do not, however, receive many of the legal protections that employees enjoy.

If you have legal questions as to an individual’s status as an independent contractor or employee and the legal implications of either status, please consult with an experienced employment attorney to discuss these issues.

Privacy Issues at Work

Technology is a boon to business, but it also raises complicated issues of privacy in the workplace. The vast majority of businesses use computers, and technology has enabled employers to monitor nearly every aspect of workplace communications involving employees’ computer and telephone usage. Indeed, many companies take advantage of technology to monitor their employees’ use of the Internet and e-mail. When an employee has a reasonable expectation of privacy, however, such as with a physical space like a locked office, the employee may receive privacy protection. Drug testing by an employer, on the other hand, when the testing is reasonable and not a highly offensive intrusion, is usually acceptable. To help you determine what is and is not private in the workplace, contact an employment lawyer to discuss the validity of your company’s privacy policies and procedures.

Unions

Unions exist for the sole purpose of representing the interests of workers, especially in collective bargaining with employers. Collective bargaining is the process of negotiation between the employer and the labor union representatives to determine the key conditions of employment. The result of these efforts is the collective bargaining agreement. This collective bargaining agreement is a contract that is the starting place for resolving conflicts between the employer and its employees. Collective bargaining and union organization is governed by the federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

The Hiring Process

Applicants for employment positions have rights whether or not they become employees. Under federal law, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate in its hiring process based on race, national origin, gender, pregnancy, age, disability or religion. State and local laws may specify additional protected classes based on categories such as sexual orientation. Employers must abide by anti-discrimination laws at each stage of the hiring process, from placing the ad to interviewing and the final selection of the candidate. There are few exceptions to these rules, but an employer may discriminate on some bases if a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) exists. A BFOQ can be based on a reasonable and necessary job requirement, but this is a narrow exception. If you are concerned about discrimination in hiring, contact an employment lawyer to discuss your situation.

Employment Law, Employee Resource Links

United States Department of Labor
This Web site is for the United States Department of Labor, which provides information for workers, employers and unions.

Wage and Hour Division
This page contains information regarding enforcement of federal labor laws, including minimum wage, child labor and overtime standards set out under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA).

The Contract Employee’s Handbook
This resource contains information to assist independent contractors with management of their careers.