Unit 7: Employment Law
This unit will introduce you to employment law, also known as labor law, regulations that are typically designed to protect the employee from the employer. For example, though a number of Constitutional amendments give equal rights to all races, religions, and genders, issues pertaining to diversity still plague the workforce. Employment law looks at these issues.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 4 hours.
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
- distinguish between employment-at-will and contractual employment;
- identify and discuss laws that generally regulate the employer-employee relationship; and
- describe the process of and rights under collective bargaining.
7.1: Employment at Will
Read this section, which deals with the predominant approach to employment in the United States, the employment-at-will doctrine. While this legal doctrine holds that an employee can be discharged for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all, you will soon see that there are limits to the reasons for which an employer can terminate an employee. For instance, an employer cannot terminate an employee for refusing to break the law or for reporting an employer for breaking the law (whistleblowing).
7.2: Wage Law
Read this information from the Department of Labor on the minimum wage. In the United States, the federal government has set minimum wages that most employers are required to pay to their employees. In addition, some states have minimum wage laws that require employers within the state to pay higher minimum wages. This page provides answers to common questions about these laws.
Read this article. Prevailing wage laws require that certain government contracts can only be entered into if employees will paid a predetermined "prevailing wage" in the local area affected by the contract. What are the potential benefits and drawbacks to such a requirement? How should workers' rights to be fairly compensated be weighed against employers' wishes to manage costs?
Read the introductory materials for Chapter 12. The employment-at-will doctrine, which is prevalent in the United States, makes it relatively easy for an employer to fire an employee for any reason. However, specific federal and state laws protect employees from being fired for reasons that government and society have determined to be wrongful discrimination. In the past sixty years or so, laws have been passed in the United States that protect against discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religious practice, and disability, to name some of the most prominent examples. These laws change over time. As an example, review the Abercrombie & Fitch "look policy". In 2015, the courts held that the clothing company violated discrimination laws by refusing to hire a Muslim woman because she wore a hijab.
7.4: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Watch this video for an overview of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, including its history and functions. Pay attention to the issues that led to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the issues OSHA has dealt with over its history.
7.5: Collective Bargaining
Workers have the right select a union to negotiate on their behalf. Explore this page, which describes how a bargaining unit is formed. Also note that, in addition to electing a union, there is another way in which workers can gain union representation. Union representation is formalized when an employer voluntarily recognizes the union as the workers' representative.
Read this article on collective bargaining. Note the interplay of private negotiation and agreement with federal and state law. Public policy takes a strong interest in how companies interact with their workers. While union membership and impact has declined over the past few decades, federal and state law still play a strong role in regulating the relationships between labor and management.
Explore these FAQs on the right of collective bargaining in the United States. With collective bargaining, employees have the right to organize into unions to represent themselves in negotiations with their employers. Note, in particular, how the National Labor Relations Act protects this right.
Explore this page for more information on on whistleblowing and retaliation procedures.
Unit 7 Assessment
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Take this assessment to see how well you understood this unit.
- This assessment does not count towards your grade. It is just for practice!
- You will see the correct answers when you submit your answers. Use this to help you study for the final exam!
- You can take this assessment as many times as you want, whenever you want.