Employment law is very important for our society, as it protects the workforce as well as businesses from illegal activities and dangers. Because of the vastness of the labor market, employment law has become a much-needed area, particularly for the public. Employment law encompasses such topics as discrimination, retaliation, safety, and working conditions, among many other areas.
National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), a federal law established in 1935 by President F.D. Roosevelt, gives workers the right to form or join unions, complain about pay and working conditions, and also protects businesses from coercive actions by unions, among other things. The NLRA established the National Labor Relations Board, the agency that receives complaints by workers and businesses related to purported violations of the NLRA, and investigates these complaints to decide if they have any merit.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, established in 1964, established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to enforce the rights of those discriminated against on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Title VII has since been modified to include protections for pregnant women, those with disabilities, those discriminated against based on age, as well as those discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Importantly, Title VII provides protections for workers against employer retaliation, an aspect of the law that has seen enormous growth of litigation over the last decade.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, or FMLA, was established by President Bill Clinton to “balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of workers.” The Act allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks off each year to attend to serious personal or family emergencies dealing with illness, death, pregnancy, adoption, and foster care. This Act was created due to growing concerns about workplace demands keeping parents from spending critical time with their newborn children in the weeks and months following child birth. This Act expressly prohibits retaliation or interference related to employees exercising their FMLA rights.
Occupational Safety and Health Act
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that enforces safety and health regulations in the workplace. They handle complaints from workers alleging violations of safety and may do unannounced inspections of work sites to ensure they are in compliance with laws. The Act protects workers from retaliation or adverse action as a result of reporting a violation.
There are also various whistleblower protections, some of them falling under the federal laws already mentioned. The False Claims Act, established in 1870, places penalties on those who defraud the government while providing it with supplies or doing contractual work, with whistleblowers given a portion (typically 15-25 percent) of whatever money is saved at the conclusion of a trial or settlement. The qui tam provision of this law allows those not employed by the government to assist the government in a prosecution and to collect a portion of the proceeds.
Whistleblowing takes an enormous amount of courage and often causes a severe emotional strain toward those who take part in it, as they are likely to encounter hostility from organizations that want to maintain the status quo or cover up wrongdoing, especially where profits are concerned.
These are just some of the employment law protections in place for workers. We aim to provide access and links to the best legal resources and law firms to protect the rights of the American workforce and businesses. We also have a web page on mandatory arbitration agreements, given that they have become so commonly used by employers today. Many people feel they prevent employees from exercising their basic rights.