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Summary of employment laws


Whether you hire your own employees or independent contractors, you will need to have a solid understanding of federal and state labor laws covering everything from benefits and wages to discrimination and harassment.

Employment law governs the rights and duties between employers and workers. These rules are primarily designed to keep workers safe and make sure they are treated fairly, although laws are in place to protect employers’ interests as well. A particular employment relationship may also be governed by contract.

American labor laws trace back to public outcry against the oppressive practices of the industrial revolution. In the 60s and 70s, Congress acted to prohibit discrimination and unsafe work conditions. Current issues involve employee healthcare and equal pay for both the men and women.

Many of the employment disputes that result in litigation deal with “wage and hour” violations. Federal law establishes baseline rules with respect to these issues, and then states are free to pass laws providing additional protections.

Wage and hour laws also regulate overtime pay. The federal government does not place limits on the number of hours adults may work per week, but after 40 hours time, one must be paid. Rules exist to control the hours and working conditions for workers under age 18.

Discrimination in the workplace is another basis for many employment law cases. The constitution makes it clear that it is illegal to treat workers differently based on ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender, age, or disability.

These and other laws have made it possible for work to occur since there are lines that should not be crossed and therefore conditions are kept fair and equal for all.


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