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Employment Law

Most states are "at-will" employment states, meaning employees can be hired and fired with any or no reason. However, there are laws that protect workers from discrimination and harassment, and protect an employee's right to receive health care and take care of family members.

Federal laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act create standards for how employers must pay employees, and which employees must be paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours per week. The Family Medical Leave Act ensures that if an employee must receive health care or take care of an ailing family member, they have a job when they return. States may have additional protections for workers.

Despite these laws, some employers are accused of engaging in unfair and illegal practices. Employment lawyers practice in civil court. These attorneys seek to enforce laws protecting workers and fight for compensation for workers who have been injured financially by illegal actions of employers. Attorneys that practice employment law also represent the employers when defending against such actions.

Employment Law Resources

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Issues with Employment Law

  • Discrimination:Federal laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, disability, genetic  information, color or age. Additionally, many states prohibit discrimination on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Discrimination can exist in hiring, firing, promotion and pay practices.

    Find a discrimination lawyer.

  • Workers' Compensation:Workers' compensation is a state program that provides payments to employees who are injured on the job. Every state has some kind of workers' comp program. Attorneys who practice in workers' compensation often help employees get their fair share.

    Find a workers' compensation lawyer.

  • Wrongful Termination:While a state may be an "at-will" employment state, there are still often exceptions and other reasons that a person cannot be fired. Additionally, if a a worker has an employment contract, the contract will usually contain a clause requiring cause for firing.

    Find a wrongful termination lawyer.

  • Sexual Harassment:Federal law prohibits sexual harassment. The key for sexual harassment is whether the employer has created or allowed a hostile work environment. If can come in the form of physical assault, unwanted advances or touching, threats of firing or demotion, or promises of promotion for sex, and crude jokes and comments.

    Find a sexual harassment lawyer.

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Certification in Employment Law

Eleven states have programs by which lawyers can become certified as specialists in employment law or workers' compensation. A certified attorney has earned the ability to call himself or herself a "specialist" in his or her area of practice.

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Hiring an Employment Lawyer

An employment lawyer may practice exclusively in labor employment law, or may be a general civil attorney. If an attorney has been certified in employment law or in workers' compensation, it means an independent organization or agency has deemed that lawyer worthy of calling himself or herself a specialist in that field.

The National Employment Lawyers Association is a nationwide organization of attorneys who represent plaintiffs in employment law. Their members have access to continuing legal education and publications that keep them up to date on employment law matters.

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Employment Law Resources

National Labor Relations Board: The NLRB is a federal agency that investigates unfair labor practices. It also conducts labor union elections.