Many Americans work full-time for several decades of their adult life. In fact, recent statistics indicate that many people work well over 1,700 hours annually. Almost 86% of men and nearly 67% of women far surpass the standard 40 hour work week. If work conditions are poor or employees do not receive proper treatment, many hours spent in these conditions can take an enormous toll on their mental and physical health. This is the main reason that laws governing the workplace and what goes on there exist today. These government implemented regulations are designed to protect both the employees and the employer from harm or from being sued. What are the regulations surrounding employment issues such as severance pay and employee contracts? The paragraphs below will take a closer look at some of the major laws governing employee and employer relationships.
Laws Protecting against Discrimination
Discrimination is a serious issue affecting many employees today to various degrees. There are several federal laws in place today that serve as a protection against this unfair offense. These laws make it illegal for any employer to discriminate against an employee due to their gender, race, socioeconomic background, religion, health conditions, or any other reason. Other similar laws provide protection for pregnant women, those with specific disabilities, employees over a certain age, and those with varying citizenship statuses. It is important that employees who have faced unlawful discrimination have a place to turn that can assist them in their actions for recourse on this unjust treatment. Discrimination cases can be hard to prove at times, so a qualified lawyer who has dealt with similar types of cases in very important.
Laws Regarding Hourly Wage and Overtime
There are also laws in place that ensure that all employees get paid a fair amount of money for their work. It is against the law to pay one type of employee more than another based on such criteria as age, gender, or disabilities that an employee may have. There is also a minimum wage requirement set forth by the government that serves as a protection for employees. It would, therefore, be unlawful for an employer to pay an employee less than the minimum wage set forth by the law governing this area. Minimum wage increases periodically as well to account for inflation and a general rise in the cost of living.
Other laws that fit into this category include those governing child labor, overtime, and recordkeeping of employee activities and hours worked. The Fair Labor Standards Act doesn’t limit or prevent an employee from working overtime. It does, however, require that employees working overtime receive a pay rate that is one and a half times their normal rate of pay. Different employers may measure over time in a slightly different way. For some, any hours worked in excess of the standard 40 hours a week may be considered overtime. For others, over time is measured by the day versus the entire week. Employee discounts are frequently offered as perks of the job. Laws also exist that prevent an employer from using these perks to apply toward the minimum wage requirement.
Laws Regarding Employee Contracts
In some cases, when an employee accepts a job, there is a written contract that is filled out and signed by both parties. This contract can include important details of the ensuing relationship such as job responsibilities, hours required to be worked, the rate of pay, vacation time details, benefits, and information regarding termination. On the contrary, many employees are also employed “at will.” This simply means that there was no written agreement entered into by the employer and the employee. Rather, it is understood that the employee may leave or quit his job at any time and for any reason. Likewise, the employer can choose to fire the employee at any time and for any reason, barring reasons of discrimination.
A valid employment agreement is required to contain three things. Number one, it has to offer provisions for the employee waiving their future rights to sue for discrimination. This provision could be a lump sum payment, for example, or a percentage of the employee’s salary overall. Secondly, the employer cannot ask the employee to waive rights that may arise down the line. Finally, the employment contract must abide by all federal and state laws surrounding the workplace.
Laws Protecting Disabled Employees
The Americans with Disabilities Act was instituted to protect disabled Americans from being treated unfairly in the workplace. Not only is it illegal for an employer to fire someone based on an existing disability, but it is also against the law to refuse to hire someone for the same reason. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act stipulates that an employer must actually make the workplace more conducive to allowing for the successful employment of the disabled individual. This could mean anything from installing a wheelchair ramp to lowering countertops so that an employee in a wheelchair can reach the things he needs while on the job. Many hard-working Americans with disabilities have strong work ethics and a desire to succeed on the job. As such, they deserve to have their rights protected and upheld by the law.
Laws Regarding Severance Pay
In the majority of cases, an employer is not required to pay severance to an employee who quits or is fired. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires that an employee who leaves a position must be paid for any work done up until the date of his departure from the job and for any vacation time that has accumulated. It does not require that an employer pay severance, but this is something that some employers voluntarily do.
Some job types, especially concerning union workers, do actually require that a severance pay policy be in place and followed. In almost all cases where an employer offers to pay severance, they will require that the employee sign a severance contract. This contract will usually stipulate that the employer is subsequently free from liability or discrimination claims down the line. By accepting severance pay, the employee agrees to abide by this.
Who is Jeremy Goldstein?
Jeremy Goldstein is a partner at Jeremy L. Goldstein and Associates. This is a boutique law firm that focuses heavily on advising clients on workplace laws, executive compensation, and corporate governance issues. Prior to successfully running his own firm, Jeremy Goldstein served as a partner with the Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz law firm.
Jeremy Goldstein has not only experienced a great deal of personal success, but he has also been privileged to be involved in some of the largest landmark legal cases of our time. These include cases involving The Dow Chemical Company, AT&T Wireless, Morgan Chase & Company, and Verizon Wireless. Jeremy Goldstein serves in a professional capacity as a member of the advisory board NYU Journal of Law and Business and several other organizations.
Mr. Goldstein earned his J.D. from New York University School of Law. He went on to earn his M.S. and B.A. from the University of Chicago and Cornell University. Jeremy Goldstein takes pride in assisting to protect the rights of American workers all over the country and enhancing employer/employee relationships. He continues to lend his legal expertise to these important issues that affect millions of people today.