Employment law covers the relationships between employers and their employees, as well as their potential 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 or the employee.

With all these variations to consider, it's clear that employment law is a very complex area. If you have an employment law concern, it makes sense to involve an experienced employment law attorney who can guide you through your case.

Independent Contractors

Independent contractors perform compensated work for businesses and individuals, but they are not considered to be employees. These non-employment relationships are based on an oral or written arrangement between the business and the contractor. If written, this contract may provide specific standards for the work in question and establish the pay rate for that work. Businesses who hire contractors do not withhold federal or state income taxes or social security from independent contractor payments, and they do not have unemployment or workers' compensation expenses for those workers. Independent contractors have more freedom over their work and the ability to contract with a range of businesses, but they do not receive many of the legal protections that employees do. If you are a business or a worker involved in or considering an independent contractor arrangement, you should learn all the legal consequences for both sides. Contact an experienced employment law attorney to discuss your situation.

Privacy Issues at Work

Technology is a boon to business, but it has also complicated privacy issues in the workplace. It is virtually impossible to conduct business today without using a computer, and technology has enabled employers to monitor virtually every aspect virtually all workplace communications made by employees using computers. Many companies today take advantage of technology to monitor their employees' use of the Internet and to check employee e-mail. While employees may feel this monitoring is a violation of their privacy, it is allowed by law. Other employee activities (such as private conversations) receive more protections, while certain physical spaces (like locked desk drawers) may also receive privacy protections. Specific activities (like drug use) may lead to legal employer testing. To help you determine what is and isn't private in the workplace, contact an employment lawyer to discuss the validity of your company's privacy policies and procedures.

Unions

Unions exist for the sole purpose of representing workers in collective bargaining agreements with their employers. Collective bargaining is the process of negotiations between an employer and a group of employees to determine the conditions of employment. The result of those efforts is the collective bargaining agreement. This collective bargaining agreement will be the starting place for resolving disputes between the employer and its employees. Collective bargaining and union organization is governed by a federal law, the 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 even before they become employees. Under federal law, an employer cannot illegally discriminate in its hiring process based on their race, national origin, gender, pregnancy, age, disability, or religion. State and local laws may specify additional protected classes based on issues such as sexual orientation. Employers must abide by anti-discrimination laws at each stage of their hiring process, from placing the ad to interviewing to the final selection of the candidate to hire. There are few exceptions to these rules, but an employer may discriminate on some bases if a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) exists. A valid BFOQ occurs when the trait subject to discrimination claims is a valid and necessary job requirement. If you are concerned about discrimination in hiring, contact an employment lawyer to discuss your situation.

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READ THIS CAREFULLY: These materials are intended to provide information on the firm and of general interest, but not legal advice. Readers should not rely or act on any information herein without legal counsel. The information contained herein does not create an attorney-client relationship. As to any articles appearing in these pages, the views expressed therein are those of the authors and are not necessarily the views of the firm or its clients