Current statistics indicate that the majority of Americans today are working longer and harder than ever before. Over 85% of American men work more than 40 hours per week, and over 66% of women do as well. What does this mean for the physical and emotional well-being of our workers in this country? It’s no secret that working long hours on a continual basis can be taxing on the body, eventually leading to physical problems or mental exhaustion. This doesn’t even factor into the equation the effects it can have on relationship maintenance as well as raising children while working full-time.
Therefore, it is absolutely vital that laws regarding a safe and productive workplace be enforced in this country to provide workers with the kind of resources and backing they need to keep healthy and safe on the job. What are some of the areas these laws cover? While federal, state, and local laws can vary widely from place to place, there are a few basic areas that these laws should provide protection in and we will discuss these below.
One of the most heavily discussed areas of workplace laws is probably policies having to do with protecting employees from discrimination. The fact of the matter is that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was set forth in 1964 to keep employers from being able to discriminate based on race, religion, color, sex, or nationality. Additionally, this now covers those of different sexual orientations as well. In addition to minority groups, the Americans with Disabilities Act also provides protection for disabled employees, who according to these laws cannot be discriminated against due to their disabilities.
There are similar statutes in place to protect employees from discrimination based on pregnancy, age, genetics, and the status of their citizenship to name a few. Not only can places of employment not refuse to hire someone based on these factors, but they also cannot fire someone based on any of these factors as well.
Hour and Wage Related Laws
Many laws are in place to ensure that employees receive a fair amount of pay for the work they do. In addition to minimum wage laws, there are laws governing overtime pay, child labor, and detailed bookkeeping to ensure accurate information of hours worked is kept on all employees.
For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act does not place a cap on how many hours employees are allowed to work, but it requires those working overtime to be paid time and a half for the amount of time worked over 40 hours in a single week. With the exception of farm workers and some employees in specific professional fields, most workers are entitled to overtime pay that is much higher than the average wage, and this may be determined on a daily basis or a weekly basis. Employees may also be required to take a certain number of short breaks in a given work period, as well as a specific number of vacation days to ensure that their health and safety on the job is protected.
Laws Regarding Employee Contracts
Employment contracts cover rights for both the employer and the employees that may not be covered under Federal or State laws regarding employment. These types of contracts lay out the terms and conditions surrounding the employee/employer relationship, and cover the following things:
* How long the employment will last
* Duties required to be performed by the employee
* Benefits that will be provided to the employee
* Grounds for termination by the employer
* Methods for resolving disputes
Many hard working Americans today are employed without signing a contract of this nature, leaving them open to quitting their job or being fired without warning or for no reason whatsoever. If an employee contract is being used, it must meet three main requirements:
1) It must outline steps to take if the employee feels discrimination has occurred
2) It cannot require the employee to waive his or her rights in the future
3) It must be in compliance with federal and state laws surrounding employment
Laws Regarding Severance Pay
In many cases, severance pay is not required to be given to an employee who quits or is fired. The employer will be required to provide the employee what is owed to him, plus any vacation time accrued, but in most cased anything further than that is not required.
In cases where severance pay is offered, this is generally a separate contract entered into between the employer and the employee, such as with Union workers. At times, severance can also be used as an incentive for an employee to either quit or retire from his job. Generally speaking, the employee is required to sign a release form that states the employer is free from liability in the future, and this means that the former employee cannot claim discrimination occurred down the line.
Jeremy Goldstein holds a law degree from New York University School of Law as well as degrees from the University of Chicago and Cornell University. He currently serves as a partner at Jeremy L. Goldstein and Associates, LLC. His firm specializes in supporting laws surrounding work conditions, corporate governance matters, as well as executive compensation issues.
Jeremy Goldstein has been involved in some of the largest landmark cases over the last ten years, including cases involving Cingular Wireless, Duke Energy, Bank of America, Chevron Texaco, and many other high profile transactions.
Mr. Goldstein also serves as chair of the Mergers and Acquisitions Subcommittee, a branch of the American Bar Association. In this arena, he writes and performs public speaking on a number of important issues affecting employer and employee relationships in our modern day. Goldstein is also a member of several professional advisory boards and actively participates in charity events dedicated to helping individuals with mental illnesses throughout the country. He continues to lend his professional expertise to better the work environment for employees all across America, as well as making sure the arrangement between employer and employee is mutually beneficial, fair, and productive for all involved.