Working Americans have the fundamental right to safety, non-discrimination, and healthy and fair work conditions. Employment laws, also known as labor laws, are set in place to safeguard the rights of employees and lay out a blueprint to employers on the laws they need to abide by in order to run a large company or small business successfully. 

Even though labor laws can be directly traced back to the 20th century, which was started as an act to outlaw child labor, establish a minimum wage, and improve unsafe work conditions. You might be shocked to find out that not all employers follow simple employment laws, which is an unfortunate issue that we are constantly dealing with in our modern era. This article will walk you through common terms, frequently asked questions, steps in filing a claim, and when to hire an attorney. All of the provided information are valuable tools to have at your disposal in order to prepare for and obtain the justice you deserve. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What do I need to do if I was wrongfully terminated? 

A: If you believe you were wrongfully terminated, you first will need to hire an attorney. An attorney will know where you need to file your claim because where you ultimately file your claim will depend on the cause of your wrongful termination. For example, if you are wrongfully terminated due to discrimination, you will need to file your claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

Q: What law helps regulate my wages and hours? 

A: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the law that is in place to govern overtime, child labor, and minimum wage. However, The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not cover things such as vacation or sick time. 

Q: Is there a difference between at-will employment and contract employment?

A: Yes, with at-will employment, you, as the employee, can quit at any time; additionally, the employer can also fire you at any time as long as it is not based on discrimination or other illegal circumstances. On the other hand, contract work is governed by the terms in the contract itself, and this is important because there are instances where the terms clearly state that the employee can only be fired for a ligament cause.

At-Will Employment

FindLaw defines at-will employment as the right by any employer to fire an employee, without notice, at any time, without reason or cause. All states, excluding Montana, are at-will employment states; there are exceptions in some states. However, states such as Florida, Alabama, Maine, New York, and Rhode Island do not allow for any exceptions to this rule.

Strides have been made over the more recent years and are continuing to be made in order to help mitigate some of the extreme and harsh situations that arise from at-will employment. As we continue to press forward and carve out exceptions to at-will employment, it is still very challenging as a terminated employee to prove your situation falls into one of the circumstances.

Primary Federal Employment Laws

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) enforces more than 180 federal laws. Each of these laws helps mandate, protect, and regulate workplace activities for roughly 150 million workers. We have listed below some of the more common employment laws the DOL regulates. 

Fair Labor Standards Act - Even though this law was passed in 1938 and has seen extensive changes made, it is still regarded as one of the most significant laws pertaining to employment. The Fair Labor Standards Act’s sole intent is to protect employees from unfair pay. Additionally, the FLSA sets various standards on interstate commerce payment, including overtime pay, child labor, minimum wage, and more. 

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) - Even though workplace hazards in the United States date back to the 19th century, it was not until 1970 that President Nixon signed into law the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. This act is more commonly known today as the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). The overall goal of OSHA is to preserve our human resources and ensure the overall safety of men and women in the workplace.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) - FMLA is a nationwide workplace rights law that permits employees to take leaves of absence for themselves or immediate family members who are being treated in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, or other facilities and are unable to care for their own basic medical, hygienic, safety or nutritional needs. FMLA also requires certain companies to keep job positions open for employees who take time off work when their presence would significantly help an immediate family member dealing with a serious health condition. 

Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) - The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act was passed in order to provide coverage to federal civilian employees who, at some point, sustained a work-related injury. FECA pays disability and medical benefits to the injured party no matter who is at fault. 

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) - The Americans with Disabilities Act allows employees to work jobs without discrimination. Additionally, the ADA requires that employers seek reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities which include transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to public and government programs and services. 

Each of the above-listed laws has transformed our work culture and has allowed for more safety and regulations that allow for better work conditions and more opportunities for you to progress in your career. If you feel that you or a loved one has experienced discriminatory acts or unfair labor practices such but not limited to harassment, wrongful termination, wage or hour violations, or employer retaliation, you need to seek an employment law attorney as soon as possible. Our attorneys at The Cochran Firm are here to help you along every step of the way to ensure you gain the compensation you deserve. Contact The Cochran Firm today at 1-800-THE-FIRM and schedule your no-obligation free consultation.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a government entity that directly enforces the laws that make it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee for race, religion, sex, disability, etc. Most importantly, the EEOC has the authority and the ability under the law to investigate discrimination against an employee. If the EEOC finds evidence of some form of discrimination, it will attempt to settle the charge.  

In total, employers faced 61,331 charges in 2021 alone; this does not consider charges filed under the Fair Employment Practices Agencies. Even though this number dropped from 67,448 in the previous year, it is still an alarming amount of charges throughout the U.S. The overall number is usually lower than the actual number of charges due to the fact that when individuals file charges claiming multiple types of discrimination, the overall number only increase by one, whereas each individual claim category will increase by one. For example, if Dave files a claim for sex, race, and age discrimination, Dave will only count as one claim to the overall number, but each claim will be counted individually towards each category. 

Common Types Of Employment Law Claims You Can File

As an employee, you might experience many different situations where you have been a part of or witnessed a fellow employee be wrongfully terminated or possibly even discriminated against because of a disability, their age, or even their sex. These situations are never to be taken lightly, and most can warrant some form of an employment lawsuit. We have listed below some of the most common employment claims in hopes that you can better recognize when you or someone you know have experienced an unfair situation and know when you can take legal action. 

Wage and Hour Violation - Wage and Hour Violations stem from employers failing to follow state laws that pertain to the amount of compensation that is deserved for someone's work. There are many forms of wage and hour violations, which can range from withholding a final paycheck to something as simple as incorrectly paying for overtime hours. Even though Wage and Hour laws can vary drastically from state to state, there are serious repercussions when those laws are violated and ignored. 

Wrongful Termination - When an employee is fired, they may allege that their employment contract or other public law was violated. Many states follow the "at-will employment" provision, which allows both the employee and the employer to end the relationship at any time without cause.

Harassment - Occurs when an employer behaves in a way that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Negative behavior by an employer, boss, or coworker based on race, religion, color, sex, age, disability, or national origin is prohibited when it becomes a condition of continuing employment or is severe enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would deem hostile or abusive. Offensive jokes, slurs, intimidation, mockery, insults, threats, or assaults, whether it is physical or sexual, are examples of negative behavior.

Employer Retaliation - When an employer (or employment agency) or a labor organization punishes an employee for engaging in an activity in which they have a lawful right to be doing, this is referred to as retaliation. For example, an employee may face retaliation if they file a discrimination lawsuit against their company or simply discuss filing such a claim. If an employee believes they are being discriminated against, they have the right to make a claim. The employer does not have the authority to retaliate against an employee for bringing a claim.

Workplace Discrimination

Discrimination as an entirety has plagued our country for decades now and continues to be a huge problem within our workforce. In 1964 the government enacted The Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the goal of making it illegal for an employer to discriminate against a person based on their gender and race in regard to their employment status. Not only is it illegal to discriminate against someone due to their race or gender it is equally as illegal to discriminate against someone based on their age, nation of origin, and disability. 

Per The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, workplace discrimination in 2021 alone accounts for 88,203 charges covering areas such as race, sex, disability, age, national origin, color, religion, and equal pay.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of racial, gender, or age discrimination and would like to learn more about your legal rights regarding discrimination, please contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at The Cochran Firm, with offices nationwide, today for your free, no-obligation consultation.

Discrimination During The Application Process

Job discrimination can come in many shapes and forms while you are an employee, and it can even happen during the interview process before you are hired. When you are in the middle of the interview process for a job, you might have to answer questions concerning your race, age, veteran status, and any disabilities you might have. Companies include these questions to make sure they are not discriminating against applicants with certain backgrounds. However, answering these questions can ultimately cause an employer to form a basis about you before you even make it to the interview process. This, as you might know, is illegal. 

Proving discrimination in the hiring process might be daunting and difficult. Simply because employers normally send a very blanket statement that might read, “we have chosen to move forward in the hiring process; we appreciate your time, and if there is another opening, please feel free to apply again.” This message is purposeful in the fact that they declined your application but did not provide an apparent reason behind the decision, leaving the rejection to speculation. 

There are some techniques you can use to avoid discrimination on your application and during your interview, such as:

  • Applying with a resume that does not disclose your age (which might include not stating what your you graduate high school)
  • Use a current email domain (Outlook, Gmail, iCloud)
  • Express your desire to work with people that are not like you
  • Stress influence and keep your professional experience recent
  • Highlight your enthusiasm for the role

Unfortunately, you may never know if you are being discriminated against, but there are ways that you can protect yourself and avoid being discriminated against by your employer. If you do, however, get the sense that you are being discriminated against, be proactive and report the incident to the appropriate authorities.

Steps For Filing A Employment Law Claim

There are several factors you must consider when you are looking to file an employment claim against your employer, such as what state you work in, your career profession, and the overall size of the company you work for. Each of these factors will directly affect the compensation you might be eligible for. 

We have listed three steps below that you will need to take to file a claim against your employer successfully. 

Step 1: Schedule a meeting with your employer - By setting a meeting with your employer, you can express your concerns about the issue at hand. This can also resolve the issue, being that the issue might not be caused directly by the employer but by a fellow coworker. During your meeting with your employer, be direct, make sure you stick to the facts at hand, and do not deviate from the main factor. Additionally, you will want to make sure you meet with the employer in a private setting so that it will eliminate the possibility of someone overhearing the conversation and taking what they (thought) they heard and spreading false information. 

Step 2: Document - Documenting the incident is one of the biggest steps to remember when dealing with filing an employment claim. This involves taking notes, gathering supporting documents (performance reviews, emails, company policies, etc.), and gathering names of coworkers who were present during the incident. 

Step 3: Seek Legal Guidance - This step should be taken if, at any point, your employer does not seem interested in resolving the issue at hand. There are often instances, such as when you are terminated, where this step might be your first action. Be mindful that if you are looking to seek legal assistance, there are statutes of limitations that might come into play. 

If you believe you or a loved one has been the victim of an employer not abiding by employment laws and would like to learn more about your legal rights regarding employment laws, please contact the experienced attorneys at The Cochran Firm, with offices nationwide, today for your free, no-obligation consultation. 

When To Hire An Attorney

Many of the employment and civil rights laws require you to reach out to the EEOC first before you file a lawsuit. However, in many jurisdictions, it is not required for you to hire an attorney. Still, it is strongly encouraged to seek advice in filing a claim with the EEOC, simply because filing a claim with the EEOC is a legal action, and you want to make sure you are taking the proper steps throughout the entire process. 

Additionally, when you hire an attorney, you will have more control. The EEOC will not fight nor negotiate for you, so hiring a lawyer will grant you more control over how the proceedings will go forward and help you obtain the maximum amount of compensation you deserve. 

Make sure you do not hesitate in filing a claim, no matter what you decide to do first, whether hiring an attorney before or after filing a claim with the EEOC. The longer you wait to file your claim, the more difficult it might be to win because witnesses' memories might not be as strong, certain evidence such as documents might not be available anymore, and there are certain situations where the statute of limitations might have passed. 

The Cochran Firm is a diverse group of highly skilled and experienced lawyers that are dedicated to bringing high-quality representation to injured people and their families. Our experienced attorneys at The Cochran Firm are among the nation's most recognized and successful attorneys in the country. When navigating through the legal process, you deserve to have an experienced attorney by your side. Our attorneys at The Cochran Firm know how to fight for you. Our attorneys are in the courtroom every day, fighting for the rights of individuals like you. To see the latest from our attorneys in their pursuit for equal justice, see our results.

Why The Cochran Firm

Our attorneys have extensive experience advocating on behalf of workers in nationwide collective actions involving thousands of employees. We are here to help combat instances of unfair and illegal treatment by employers. If you believe that you have experienced workplace discrimination and your employer has not taken the correct actions, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses.

To protect yourself from unfair or illegal treatment in the workplace, it is important to understand your rights and have a dedicated and experienced advocate on your side. At The Cochran Firm, we are committed to providing you and your family quality representation throughout your employment claim.If you or a loved one has been the victim of an employer violating employment laws and would like to learn more about your legal rights, please contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at The Cochran Firm, with offices nationwide, today for your free, no-obligation consultation.