Frequently Asked Questions about Employment Law for the Employee
Q: What laws must employers follow when hiring new employees?
A: A prospective employer must avoid any illegal discrimination based on race, national origin, gender, pregnancy, age, disability or religion during the hiring process. Employers should also be sure to protect the privacy rights of applicants by protecting confidential or private information provided by the applicant and by disclosing to the applicant any background or credit checks that the employer wishes to perform. Employers are required to follow all applicable documentation rules regarding immigration and take care not to discriminate against applicants over 40 because of their age.
Q: Can employers monitor their employees’ Internet usage or read their e-mails?
A: The Supreme Court has found that employees have very limited rights to privacy in their employers’ computer systems. Employers may monitor Web sites visited by their employees and may block their employees from visiting certain Web sites. Employers can also limit employees’ Internet usage to business-related Web sites. If the employer has a company policy that its computer systems are to be used only for work-related activities, it may reprimand or punish an employee who used its equipment for personal purposes. E-mails are considered to be company property if they are sent using the company e-mail system, and many employers monitor or archive all incoming and outgoing e-mails sent through their systems.
Independent contractors are not treated the same as employees. While independent contractors have more freedom in their work, they also lack some of the protections enjoyed by traditional employees, such as workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits.
Employment Discrimination, Harassment Lawyer
Employment law covers a broad range of legal practice areas, from drafting and negotiating employment contracts to representing clients with wage and hour claims. At Stepter Law Office, we provide high quality legal services to employees who have been treated unlawfully by their employers, from those who were illegally denied Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave to those who suffered racial or sexual harassment at work.
To speak to our board certified employment law specialist, please contact our office today. To learn more about employment law, please review the general information below.
Employment Law, Employee – An Overview
Employment law covers the relationships between employers and their employees, as well as their potential employees and former employees. Both federal and state laws control various aspects of the employer-employee relationship, and each side’s rights and obligations. Because of the complexity of the employment relationship, this area of law involves issues as diverse as discrimination claims and record-keeping, taxation and workplace safety.
There are also different types of employment relationships. Employment relationships can be based on a contract, or they can be “at-will.” If the employment relationship is based on a valid contract entered into by the employer and the employee, the terms of that contract will govern the relationship. By contrast, an at-will employment arrangement can be terminated at any time, with or without reason, by either the employer (as long as the reason does not constitute illegal discrimination) or the employee.
With all these factors to consider, it is clear why employment law is such a complex area. If you have an employment law concern, contact an experienced employment law attorney who can provide sound advice and skilled representation in a range of workplace-related matters.
Independent contractors perform compensated work for businesses and individuals, but they are not considered to be employees. This non-employment relationship is based on an oral or written agreement between the business and the independent contractor. This contract may provide specific standards for the work product and establish the pay rate for that work. Businesses that hire independent contractors generally do not withhold federal or state income taxes or Social Security taxes from payments to independent contractors, and they do not maintain unemployment or workers’ compensation insurance for those workers. Most independent contractors, therefore, need to make their own quarterly tax payments.
Independent contractors are usually paid by the project, rather than by the hour. Independent contractors have a higher degree of control over the way they work, and they have the ability to contract with a range of businesses. They do not, however, receive many of the legal protections that employees enjoy. If you are a business or a worker involved in or considering an independent contractor arrangement, you should learn the legal consequences. Contact an experienced employment law attorney to discuss your situation.
Privacy Issues at Work
Technology is a boon to business, but it also raises complicated issues of privacy in the workplace. The vast majority of businesses use computers, and technology has enabled employers to monitor nearly every aspect of workplace communications involving employees’ computer and telephone usage. Indeed, many companies take advantage of technology to monitor their employees’ use of the Internet and e-mail. When an employee has a reasonable expectation of privacy, however, such as with a physical space like a locked office, the employee may receive privacy protection. Drug testing by an employer, on the other hand, when the testing is reasonable and not a highly offensive intrusion, is usually acceptable. To help you determine what is and is not private in the workplace, contact an employment lawyer to discuss the validity of your company’s privacy policies and procedures.
Unions exist for the sole purpose of representing the interests of workers, especially in collective bargaining with employers. Collective bargaining is the process of negotiation between the employer and the labor union representatives to determine the key conditions of employment. The result of these efforts is the collective bargaining agreement. This collective bargaining agreement is a contract that is the starting place for resolving conflicts between the employer and its employees. Collective bargaining and union organization is governed by the federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). If you are organizing a workplace or engaging in collective bargaining from either side of the table, contact a labor lawyer for experienced counsel on union issues.
The Hiring Process
Applicants for employment positions have rights whether or not they become employees. Under federal law, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate in its hiring process based on race, national origin, gender, pregnancy, age, disability or religion. State and local laws may specify additional protected classes based on categories such as sexual orientation. Employers must abide by anti-discrimination laws at each stage of the hiring process, from placing the ad to interviewing and the final selection of the candidate. There are few exceptions to these rules, but an employer may discriminate on some bases if a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) exists. A BFOQ can be based on a reasonable and necessary job requirement, but this is a narrow exception. If you are concerned about discrimination in hiring, contact an employment lawyer to discuss your situation.
Employment Law, Employee Resource Links
United States Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division