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In the United States, there are various laws in place designed to keep employees safe at work, fairly paid, and protected within contracts. The employment law space is extremely vast and takes many years for a lawyer to specialize in. Whether you are an employer, employee, or budding lawyer, it’s important to know the basics of employment law. 


In this article, we are going to discuss all the basics that you need to know about employment law, from the perspective of an employee. Use this article to understand your basic rights and understand whether you are being treated fairly at work or not. Read on to find out what you need to know about employment law.


Employment Contracts

In the United States, there is no minimum requirement for employment contracts. This means that you can commence work for someone with no written agreement in place. Your employment is automatically deemed to be “at-will” and terminable by either party at no notice. 


However, in most cases, you will receive an employment contract. This, of course, provides you with far more safety and security when it comes to your terms of employment. Most employment contracts are drawn up by professional employment lawyers to protect both the employer and employee. In a contract, you will likely be provided with your expected hours, salary, days of work, and various other terms and conditions. 


The benefits of having a contract far outweigh any negatives. Though you may feel that a contract means you are tied to a job with no quick exit, it also provides you with so much security. If you are not paid properly, overworked, or don’t feel your employer is keeping you safe, this contract will be essential in any fight against your employer.

Minimum Wage Requirements

In the USA, there are varying state minimum wage laws. The federal (nationwide) minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour. But, if a state chooses to, it can have its own minimum wage laws in place. In Minneapolis, for example, $9.86 is the minimum wage. In New York City, it is $15. Because there are minimum wage requirements, all employment must effectively be carried out “on the clock” to make sure you are being adequately paid for the hours you are putting in.

Overtime and Salary Deductions

Again, different states have different laws regarding overtime. But, federal law states that all hours worked over 40 per week are classed as overtime and must be paid at a time and a half. Any hours worked over 40, then, should be paid as time and a half by the employer. So, if your wage is $12 per hour, you should receive $18 per hour for any hours worked over 40. It is very easy to keep track of this as it should always be recorded on your hourly wage slip.

When it comes to salary deductions, there are legally allowed deductions a company can choose to make from your salary. These include debts to the company, travel, meals, taxes, and a few other items. These should always be agreed upon in advance to save any nasty surprises. The company can not take other, unauthorized deductions from your salary without prior agreement from yourself. They can’t decide to “punish” you by holding back salary, for example.

Reasons For Termination

When you are signed into a contract of employment, you will be secure in that job unless you don’t fulfil your duties. Your contract can then be terminated. Most commonly, the reasons for termination are incompetence, poor attendance, or negligence on an employee’s part. You can also be terminated for taking part in illegal activities in or outside of work.


However, it is important to note that your employer cannot terminate your contract for illegal reasons, either. For example, if you are fired and it is based on discrimination of age, sex, race, or disability, your employer has broken the law. You are also not allowed to be fired in retaliation for making a comment or complaint about your management. 

Safe Work Environments

When taking a job, one of your basic rights is the right to a safe working environment. This means that your employer must do everything possible to ensure you and all their staff are looked after properly in the workplace. They must accurately record hazards, provide protective equipment where appropriate, and have a proper process for dealing with any injuries or accidents that happen on their premises. If your employer does not provide you with a fair and safe space to work in, you would be able to sue them. In fact, injuries at work account for a huge percentage of employment-based lawsuits in the United States. 




Hostile Work Environments

You would hope that your work environment is both safe and professional. However, sadly, sometimes people are more than unprofessional. When we speak of hostile work environments we don’t mean an angry boss or childish teammate. When we talk about hostile environments we are talking about more serious, discriminatory behavior.


One of the most common kinds of hostile environment claims is sexual harassment. Sometimes, people in power in corporations use their power in a sexual way, causing great distress to affected employees. This is a hostile environment and could easily form the basis of a lawsuit against the individual and the company, for failing to provide you safe workspace.

Whistleblower Rights

Finally, we’d like to mention whistleblower rights. In effect, this rule means that you have the right to remain employed even if some of the nasty situations above arise. For example, if you are taking your immediate line manager to court over an alleged sexual harassment case, your employer should not - and can not legally - terminate your contract. The same applies to an injury claim or any other type of claim against your employer.


These basic rules should help you understand whether you are being treated fairly by your employer. If you think they are not fulfilling their duties to you, speak to an independent employment lawyer in your local area to get some advice on the matter. Make sure you are keeping track of your fair pay, employment rights, and work environment at all times.

Tags: Employment Law

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