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
- Issues with Employment Law
- Certification in Employment Law
- Hiring an Employment Lawyer
- Employment Law Resources
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- State Bar of Arizona Board of Legal Specialization: Arizona lawyers can become certified in workers' compensation law. To be certified, the lawyer must show 50 to 70 percent of their practice is in workers' comp, meet experience requirements and pass a written exam.
- State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization: California lawyers may be certified in workers' compensation law by the State Bar upon showing they have practiced for at least five years, dedicated at least 25 percent of their practice to workers' comp, passed a test and met other requirements.
- Connecticut Bar Association: The Connecticut Bar Association may certify attorneys in workers' compensation. Attorneys must show they dedicate at least 25 percent of their practice to workers' comp, have practiced for at least five years, meet education standards, pass an exam and fit other requirements.
- Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and Education: Florida lawyers can earn certification in labor and employment law and in workers' compensation law. They must meet experience and education requirements, and pass a written test.
- Minnesota State Bar Association: Attorneys in Minnesota may seek certification in labor and employment law. Certified lawyers must have shown substantial involvement, pass a test, meet certain experience requirements and fulfill certain other requirements.
- New Jersey Board on Attorney Certification: New Jersey attorneys may become certified in workers' compensation law. To be certified, a lawyer must show substantial involvement, provide references, have sufficient experience and pass an exam.
- New Mexico Board of Legal Specialization: New Mexico lawyers can become certified in both employment and labor law and in workers' compensation. They must meet requirements of involvement and experience in the practice, and must pass a test.
- North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization: Lawyers in North Carolina may become certified in workers' compensation law. They must have sufficient experience and education, and pass an exam.
- Ohio State Bar Association: Ohio lawyers may seek certification in both labor and employment law and worker' compensation law. To be certified, attorneys must meet experience and involvement requirements and pass a test, among other standards.
- Supreme Court of South Carolina Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization: South Carolina attorneys can become certified in employment and labor law. Lawyers seeking certification must show substantial involvement and experience, provide references and pass a written test.
- Texas Board of Legal Specialization: Texas lawyers may be certified as specialists in labor and employment law and in workers' compensation law. Attorneys must show substantial involvement, sufficient experience, provide references and pass a written test.
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.
National Labor Relations Board: The NLRB is a federal agency that investigates unfair labor practices. It also conducts labor union elections.