What does employment law encompass?
It might be more efficient to ask “what doesn’t employment law cover?”
Employment law encompasses safety standards for the workplace, ensuring that proper safety protocol is followed to avoid injury and accidents in the workplace. You’ve probably heard the term “OSHA” before; it stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
OSHA sets safety standards for things like personal protective equipment and hazard communication– meaning making sure things like goggles and respirators are used, and that employees are informed if they are coming into contact with hazardous materials.
They also conduct inspections to ensure that these standards and practices are being followed.
However, OSHA is just one small part of the broad expanse of issues that employment law covers. Just to name a few, employment law also covers wages and wage garnishment, child labor protections, health benefit and worker’s compensation plans, whistleblower and retaliation plans, and work authorization for non-U.S. citizens.
When should I seek out an employment lawyer?
One of the most basic instances in which an employment lawyer’s services would be useful is a job offer or employment contract. Your new employer might hand you a long, complicated contract full of deliberately confusing language, and because you need to make money and support yourself, you might sign it without a second thought.
However, that agreement might contain stipulations that you would not normally agree to, or that might even be illegal. Having an attorney take a look at any contract you sign is a good idea to protect yourself, your ability to earn a living, and your future employment.
If you’re experiencing a conflict at work, and have tried without success to resolve it by speaking to your employer or your company’s human resources department, it’s time to seek an employment lawyer.
For most situations, trying to speak with your employer in a non-confrontational way is a good first step. Some employers may be responsive and willing to accept fault and remedy the situation.
However, not all situations can be solved with a conversation– f you’re experiencing discrimination in the workplace on the basis of your gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation, you should seek a lawyer’s advice as soon as possible (and document everything in the meantime).
In discrimination cases, things can get messy quickly, and some employers may attempt to retaliate; retaliation is also illegal, and a lawyer can assist you with that as well.
A few other situations where you might seek out an employment lawyer: if you’re experiencing sexual harassment or assault in the workplace, if you’ve been wrongfully terminated, or if your employer is withholding pay, paying less than minimum wage, or refusing to pay overtime. An attorney can help you handle all of these situations and can help you avoid being intimidated into inaction by a combative boss who wants to seek retaliation.
There are also plenty of situations where an employer would benefit from seeking out the services of an employment lawyer. For example, if an employee accuses you of discrimination, or claims harassment or wrongful termination, you’ll want to obtain a lawyer as soon as possible to protect your reputation, assets, and company.
How will an employment lawyer help me?
An employment lawyer will be well-versed in the specific laws surrounding your situation, and will provide unbiased advice and support to help you through the often difficult, frustrating legal situations that can arise in the workplace.