The United States has a patchwork of employment laws, at the federal, state and local levels, pertaining to a variety of issues such as discrimination, unpaid wages and overtime, family leave, and whistleblowing.
The backdrop to all of the United States’ employment laws is the concept of “at will” employment. In most of the country, an employer can take whatever action it desires for any reason or even for no reason at all. An employee is only protected if there is a specific law that protects employees.
One group of employment laws relates to your right to be free from workplace discrimination. This means that you cannot be treated differently in the workplace because of your age, race, gender, disability, religion or other protected categories. You can assert these rights while you are still employed. You do not have to wait to be fired to address discrimination. These laws include Title VII and the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.
Another group of laws relates to how employees are paid. Employees are entitled to be paid for the actual time that they work, which means you must be paid for all of the hours you work and time and a half for the overtime hours you work. These laws include the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New York State Labor Law.
Another group of laws relates to family leave, including parental leave and time off for an illness of you or a family member. These laws include the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and New York State Paid Family Leave.
There is also a group of laws that protect whistleblowers. The Sarbanes-Oxley act protects employees of public corporations who complain about consumer fraud. The Bank Secrecy Act protects employees who complain about certain improper banking practices. New York State’s whistleblower law, Labor Law §740, protects employees who complain about violations of law relate to the public health and safety.
While there are certainly other laws not mentioned herein, these four categories of law represent the bulk of the United States’ employment laws.
Call Schwartz Perry & Heller if you would like to discuss your rights at work, and to see if we can help you stand up for your rights.