Employment Law 101

How workplace law works for you
If you've ever been paid for work, you've had some connection with the realm of employment law. This complex field deals with workplace rights and responsibilities for employees and employers. It covers all areas of that relationship with the exception of the negotiation process covered by labor law and collective bargaining.

See these profiles of employment law attorneys.

From the job hunt to signing a contract, to the company email policy and the rights you have if you're fired, employment law touches a wide range of workplace experiences.

Most of employment law's thousands of statutes and registrations fall into one of the following categories:
  • Personnel policies and practices

  • Job hunting

  • Discrimination and harassment

  • Health and safety

  • Losing or leaving a job

  • Workplace privacy
How does employment law affect me?

Employees have a right to a fair job selection process, a work environment free of discrimination and safety hazards, equitable pay, plus a certain amount of time off. Employers, even those with just one employee, are required to follow an array of laws when hiring, training, managing, paying and firing people. A solid understanding of workplace law can be key in avoiding legal fees, lawsuits and dwindling employee morale.

The U.S. Department of Labor administers and enforces around 200 federal laws. These laws and the regulations that implement them cover workplace activities for approximately 10 million employers and 125 million workers. State laws tend to include employers with fewer than 20 employees, so you might have to comply with the applicable state law even if the federal law doesn't cover you.

If you're considering legal action on an employment law issue, bear in mind that this is a highly regulated area with a great deal of changing laws.

You don't have forever to file. The law sets deadlines, called "statutes of limitations," for filing many types of employment claims or lawsuits.

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