Adrian L. Barton of Barton Law helps employers and employees alike with challenges concerning the often complicated – and sometimes frustrating – world of employment law.
Many client cases are headed for litigation, but Ms. Barton also helps employers and employees avoid court by taking preventative measures such as establishing guidelines for employee handbooks and participating in mediation.
So what is employment law? If you don’t know the answer, keep reading. “Employment Law” includes many laws that have been enacted in the past 80 years concerning the employee and employer. Sometimes employees and employers disagree over the interpretation of these laws, and the matter winds up in court.
Claims of wrongful termination, sexual harassment, employment discrimination, workplace safety, taxes, wages, and worker’s compensation are just a handful of the many lawsuits that may arise.
Some lawsuits, however, are frivolous and totally without merit. Let’s hope, if you are an employer, you’re involved in one of these. If not, courts can find you have violated one, or many, employment laws enacted to protect an employee’s rights in the workplace.
State contract law may inform the rights and duties of both parties, if the employee and employer relationship was entered into with a valid contract. Without such contracts, the law presumes that employment relationships are at will, and that both parties are free to terminate the relationship at any time, and for any reason so long as that reason is not illegal.
Employment laws are primarily written to keep workers safe and to protect their rights in the workplace. In the early 20th century, laws were passed to outlaw child labor, create a standard work week, establish a minimum wage, and compensate injured workers.
More recent laws were enacted to prohibit discrimination and unsafe work conditions, while other issues involve equal pay for equal work for women and men, and employee health care. Employment laws also protect a worker’s right to unionize, engage in collective bargaining, and to be protected from discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, religion, age, or disability.
Basic rights in the workplace include the right to fair compensation, privacy, and freedom from discrimination; certain anti-discrimination laws even protect job applicants during the hiring process. An employer may not conduct a background or credit check on employees or job applicants without notifying the individual in writing and receiving permission to do so.
The right to privacy in the workplace is protected in most states and applies to employees’ personal possessions, including briefcases or handbags, private mail addressed to the employee, lockers accessible only by the employee, voicemail messages, and telephone conversations. Employees have limited privacy, however, in their voice mail and usage of their employer’s computer systems, and Internet service.
An employee has the right to be free from discrimination and harassment; the right to be free from retaliation for whistle blowing; the right to a safe workplace free of potential safety hazards such as toxic substances and dangerous conditions; and the right to fair wages for work performed.
At Will is a U.S. labor law term used for employment relationships in which an employee can be terminated by an employer for any reason, without just cause, and without warning, so long as the reason for termination is not illegal. And, unless stated otherwise in an employment contract, the employee is equally free to quit at will, cease to work, or strike. Ms. Barton and her former colleagues have co-authored a resource guide and numerous articles for employers with the goal of helping them develop effective policies that promote fairness in the workplace, and comply with Arizona state law.
Federal laws prohibit workplace discrimination, which is defined as any workplace action, including hiring, promoting, demoting, and firing, and is based on a prejudice of any kind resulting in the unfair treatment of an individual employee or a group of employees.
Originally drafted in 1932, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is intended to protect workers against certain unfair practices or work regulations. The FLSA is one of the most important federal labor laws for employers to understand because it sets out a wide array of regulations for dealing with employees.
Known as an employment contract, this agreement is a covenant established between an employee and an employer normally covering all relevant aspects of the terms of employment, including the date of hire, general responsibilities, and commitments of both parties. These contracts may include, but are not limited to, non-disclosure agreements, confidentiality agreements, and non-compete agreements.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against a person with a qualified disability, which is defined as a physical or mental impairment limiting one or more major life activities. If a disabled individual can perform the essential functions with or without reasonable accommodation, that person cannot be discriminated against based on their disability.
This applies to employers of 50 persons or more and preserves qualified employees’ positions for the duration of the leave and allows for up to a 12-week leave of absence for qualified medical purposes. To qualify for a leave, this law stipulates the employee must have worked for the employer for 12 months and for 1,250 hours in the 12-month period preceding the leave. A qualified medical purpose may include the employee’s serious health condition, the serious health condition of a family member of the employee, the birth of a child to the employee, or the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care.
The Age Discrimination Employment Act only applies to workers 40 years of age and older and prevents employers from giving preferential treatment to younger workers to the detriment of older workers. This law, however does not prevent an employer from favoring an older worker over a younger worker.