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Facts - Books - News    U.S. Facts Of Law:


Labor Law

Labor law in the U.S. is provided by various state and federal statutes.  U.S. law establishes the framework for worker's rights and overrides most state laws regulating workers.  Federal employees are also regulated by U.S. statute but are provided with more limited rights than workers in the private sector.  Employees of State and Local governments are not protected under the Federal labor laws.  This is also true of agricultural and some other worker groups.  These groups are protected solely by state and local labor laws.

Minimum wage and overtime for workers is established by federal statute but most states provide expanded rights in this area.  Federal law also sets the standards for safety in the workplace but states may establish stricter safety laws beyond those of the federal government.

Protection from unreasonable termination of employment is provided by statutes from both federal and state law.  Federal law preempts state law with regards to discrimination in the employee pension and benefits areas.  However, states are allowed to pass legislation against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, age and national origin where the state statue offers more protection than the federal statute.

Regulation of Unions And Labor Groups

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 gave non-governmental employees the right to choose if they wanted to be represented by a union or not.  The National Labor Relations Board was created to hold those elections.  The Act, which is also called the "the Wagner Act", prevents employers from discriminating against employees who belong to unions or to retaliate against employees for participating in concerted activities to create a union.  Employers also may not refuse to participate in collective bargaining with employee unions.

in 1947 Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act which changed the National Labor Relations Board election procedures, placed more limitations on unions and removed some of the restrictions on employers.  It gave jurisdiction to the federal courts for enforcing collective bargaining agreements, regulated pension and benefit plans created by unions and prohibited the "closed shop" and regional strikes and secondary boycotts by unions.  It also gave states the authority to pass "right to work laws".

Restrictions on unions were further tightened with the passage of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959.  The Act provided standards for union internal proceedings, judiciary standards for union funds and federal oversight of union officer elections.

With the exception of the U.S. Postal Service, the National Labor Relations Board does not regulate government employees.  Such employees are provided more limited protections under the Federal Labor Relations Act.  Some federal employees have even been excluded by Congress from enjoying these protections.  Employees of state and local governments are not provided with the right to create or engage in union activities under federal statute.  Federal workers are even further restricted in their rights to engage in union activities.

State and local government employees are provided with some protections under state statutes.  Most states forbid employees from striking and some make it against the law for the government to enter into a union collective bargaining agreement.

While some states have laws covering farm works, federal statute does not provide protections to agricultural or domestic workers.  Railroad and airline employees are also not covered by the National Labor Relations Act.  Railroad workers are instead covered by the Railway Labor act of 1926 and the Act was amended in 1926 to include airline employees.  This legislation is more strict regarding employee's rights to strike and provides for more federal supervision in collective bargaining negotiations.

Then in 1932 Congress passed the Norris-LaGuardia Act preventing federal courts from issuing certain injunctions in labor disputes.  The federal courts were using their injunction powers to prevent unions from conducting many of their normal functions calling for strikes.  This also led to the abolition of ending strikes through the use of anti-trust laws.  Some states have adopted similar legislation.

 

Regulation of Wages, Benefits And Working Conditions

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 as amended in 1974 created minimum wage and overtime right for private sector and governmental employees with a few exceptions.  States may pass similar legislation providing workers with better minimum wage and overtime rules.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1933 provides workers with twelve weeks of unpaid medical leave and continues medical coverage when an employee is attending to certain medical conditions of a close relative.  Some states also provide greater protections with this regard.

Employer pension and health care plans are regulated by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.  The legislation federal legislation overrides state law regarding plan coverage and plan administration.  It also overrides state law with regard to discrimination against employees preventing them from participating in or obtaining benefits from these plans.

Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970 creating safety standards in the workplace.  The law also protects employee whistleblowers who report unsafe working conditions and gives workers the right to refuse to work in certain unsafe conditions.  Some of the standards created by the Act have been challenged in court by some industry groups.  Some states have passed similar legislation providing wider reaching safeguards for workers.

Employment Discrimination And Whistleblowers

Although the U.S. Congress passed legislation barring racial employment discrimination as long ago as 1867, Supreme Court decisions in civil rights cases made the law ineffective.  During the Second World War legislation was passed prohibiting defense contractors from practicing racial employment discrimination.  Then, in 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed barring private employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race, religion, gender and national origin.  The Act was further amended in 1972 to include governmental employees and amended again in 1981 to include discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.  The Act was amended one more time in 1991 to reverse a number of Supreme Court decisions that had weakened the law.

With the Age Discrimination in Employment at of 1967 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Congress gave protection against discrimination to employees over the age of forty.   Certain protections against discrimination based on an employee's immigration status was also provided by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

States are encouraged by the Civil Rights Act to enact state legislation against worker discrimination.  Some states have passed legislation offering greater protections against employee discrimination than that offered by the federal statutes.  Some states are leading the way in providing protections against sexual orientation or marital status worker discrimination.

Job Security

Employees working without a written employment agreement are considered "at will" employees who can have their employment terminated without notice and without reason at the discretion of their employer.  These employees are extended the rights provided by federal and state laws prohibiting certain employer actions such as racial discrimination, retaliation against whistleblower or such action would otherwise be prohibited by law.  Some states have taken the position that "at will" employees also have implied contract rights to fair treatment by employers under the state's common law.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988, known as the WARN Act, requires that private sector employers provide sixty days notice to employees of large scale layoffs and plant closures in most cases.  Some states have passed similar legislation requiring more stringent notification requirements.

State and federal government employees are provided job protections under civil service systems.  In some instances, government employees have acquired "property rights" in their job entitling them to additional job protection under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

 

 

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Facts of Law about employee labor laws

Facts of Law - Employee Labor Law