The Federal Employment Law: Basic Employment Protections Provided to Workers

Federal employment law in the United States, embodied in various pieces of legislation and overseen by different government agencies, establishes and enforces the basic protections available to workers. It aims to ensure fair labor standards, workplace safety, equal employment opportunities, and rights to collective bargaining, among others.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). First enacted in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards for full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments. The FLSA generally requires employers to pay at least the federal minimum wage and overtime pay of one-and-one-half times the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 aims to assure safe and healthful working conditions for men and women. OSHA requires employers to maintain workplaces free from recognized hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm, and they must comply with standards, rules, and regulations issued under the OSH Act.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. This law applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, and local governments. Title VII also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to enforce these antidiscrimination provisions.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. It applies to private employers, as well as state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor organizations with 15 or more employees. It also mandates reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, unless such accommodations would pose an undue hardship on the employer.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 grants eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for specified family and medical reasons. This law applies to all public agencies, including local, state, and federal employers, and private sector employers who have 50 or more employees.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The ADEA, passed in 1967, forbids employment discrimination against individuals who are 40 years of age or older. This law applies to employers with 20 or more employees, including federal, state, and local governments, private employers, and employment agencies.

National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA, also known as the Wagner Act of 1935, safeguards employees’ rights to organize and to bargain collectively with their employers or to refrain from all such activity. It also established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to oversee these protections.

While these federal laws provide a basic framework of protections, it is important to note that states also have their own employment laws that may provide greater protections than federal law. Michigan for example has the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Workers should familiarize themselves with these laws to fully understand their rights. Employers, on the other hand, should strive to exceed these standards, promoting an environment of fairness, respect, and dignity for all employees. Violations of these laws can result in significant penalties, as well as reputational damage for businesses. As such, understanding and adhering to these laws is not just a legal obligation, but a sound business practice.

Note:  Zamzow Fabian PLLC does practice in some employment law and criminal law which may implicate some civil rights issues, however Zamzow Fabian is not a general civil rights law firm.