What is Employment Law?

Employment law is the area of law dealing with the relationships between employees and their employers with the exception of workers’ compensation issues. It includes all aspects of the employment relationship whether public sector or private. These issues include employment discrimination, occupational safety and health, wage and hour, sexual harassment and racial harassment, disability discrimination, employee benefits such as insurance and pensions, contract and other “tort” type claims that arise form the workplace setting.

employment law is different than labor law. Labor law focuses on the election of a union as a representative for employees. The National Labor Relations Board is charged with the enforcement of the laws that govern the collective bargaining relationship, the organizing of unions, and the enforcement of collective bargaining rights.

employment rights

Employment law covers all rights and obligations within the employer-employee relationship– whether current employees, job applicants, or former employees. Because of the complexity of employment relationships and the wide variety of situations that can arise, employment law involves legal issues as diverse as discrimination, wrongful termination, wages and taxation, and workplace safety. Many of these issues are governed by applicable federal and state law. But, where the employment relationship is based on a valid contract entered into by the employer and the employee, state contract law alone may dictate the rights and duties of the parties.

Employee Rights in the Workplace

All employees have basic rights in the workplace — including the right to privacy, fair compensation, and freedom from discrimination. A job applicant also has certain rights even prior to being hired as an employee. Those rights include the right to be free from discrimination based on age, gender, race, national origin, or religion during the hiring process. For example, a prospective employer cannot ask a job applicant certain family-related questions during the hiring process.