Employment laws in the United States were rooted as counter measures against labor practices during the industrial revolution. Employment law is a constantly evolving set of laws promulgated to address issues relating to labor and employment. Both the employer and the employee are given rights and obligations under employment laws to ensure that workers are treated fairly, not discriminated upon, and receives benefits and wages that are legally due them. Employment laws are based on a combination of federal and state legislation and rules and court precedents. Federal employment laws are enforced by the Department of Labor.
Many cases involving employment disputes involve "wage and hour" violations. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires standard wages and overtime pay for private and public employees. States are, however, free to enact other laws to provide additional protections to employees. Under federal law, employers are required to pay a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for workers with health insurance coverage or $8.25 per hour for workers who do not have health insurance coverage. States can approve higher minimum wage and employers in those states must comply with those requirements.
The FLSA also requires employers to pay workers who render services beyond their required number of work hours. The FLSA does not limit the number of hours an employee can work per week, but does require that after 40 hours of work rendered, the employee should be compensated one-and-one-half times his regular pay. In "wage and hour" suits, the plaintiff may allege that he or she was paid below the required minimum wage or that he or she was not paid the overtime pay that was due him or her. The difficult part, on the side of the plaintiff, in suits claiming unpaid overtime pay would be defining what constitutes "overtime" work. Overtime is any work done beyond the regular 40-work hours per week. Numerous cases, however, have been filed seeking court determination of whether specific activities are considered "work" or not, and whether the performance of these activities would entitle workers to overtime pay. Research on case precedent regarding this issue is difficult as rulings vary from state to state. It is thus imperative to require an expert employment law attorney to conduct this extensive research.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against their current employees, former employees, or possible employees based on ethnicity, gender, race, religious, among others. Despite this prohibition, cases arising from employment discrimination remain prevalent. An employment discrimination lawsuit is highly procedural, requiring the plaintiff to fill-up forms and obtain assessment from certain agencies prior to being given the go-signal to pursue an employment discrimination case.
Moreover, another issue arising from employment law would be the interpretation of employment contracts. Most states presume that the relationship between the employer and worker is at will. There are numerous instances, however, when both employer and worker ask a court to interpret their contract. These instances often involve employers terminating their workers following the workers' filing of a compensation claim or filing a whistleblower suit. These illegal terminations are prohibited under the law, but employers are ready to defend their action, thus a plaintiff should hire an employment law attorney to counter employers' arguments.