Legal Guide

What Is Employment Law?

The term "employment law" typically refers to the legal requirements that employers must adhere to avoid lawsuits. All U.S. states have their employment laws, and the federal government has passed some of its own as well. These statutes define an employer or employee's rights and responsibilities for everything from pay calculations to safety conditions on the job.

Employment laws can be highly complicated, and they sometimes overlap with other legal areas such as civil rights law or tort law. For example, an employer who discriminates against an employee based on the employee's race could potentially be sued for violating both workplace discrimination and civil rights laws.

What are the legal rights of an employee?

Employees are generally guaranteed the following fundamental rights under U.S. employment laws:

  1. The right to be free from unlawful discrimination (in hiring, firing, promotions) based on specific characteristics such as race or gender
  2. The right to work in an environment safe for their health and free of harassment (based on specific characteristics such as gender or sexual orientation)
  3. The right to be paid at least the minimum wage, and sometimes the right to be paid for overtime work
  4. The right of retaliation against employees who complain about workplace mistreatment (such as harassment or unsafe working conditions) is illegal

The importance of red deer employment law:

  1. Employment law is primarily focused on protecting the rights of workers. Companies cannot treat their employees poorly because they can get away with it.
  2. Employment laws help ensure that businesses do not face unfair competition from companies that mistreat their workers.
  3. Employees cannot sue employers for every injustice; the laws specify what types of behavior are unacceptable and the legal process for making a complaint.

Employment law is a highly complicated area of the law, and people often need to consult with lawyers to find out their rights.

How are employment laws enforced?

  1. Workers can file lawsuits against employers who violate certain workplace protections.

2 Workplace safety boards at the state level investigate complaints and levy fines against companies who violate workplace safety protections.

  1. The federal government can hold hearings and levy fines against employers who have violated the terms of employment law.
  2. In some instances, state or federal agencies will investigate complaints or launch their lawsuits without a worker filing a formal complaint. For example, under the Americans With Disabilities Act, disability rights groups can file lawsuits to protect the rights of disabled workers.

How Is Employment Law Different from Civil Rights Law?

Employment law and civil rights law are similar in many ways. Still, they differ in one fundamental respect: employment laws typically deal with workplace issues, while civil rights laws focus on discrimination away from work. For example, it would be illegal to discriminate against an employee in promotions or termination under employment law.

Employment law is also different from tort law in that it deals with workplace conditions rather than personal injuries. For example, workplace discrimination would be if an employer refused to hire people of a certain race.

What does employment law mean for businesses?

Employers must take employment law seriously to avoid lawsuits or fines. Failing to meet the basic requirements of employment law could result in workers filing discrimination lawsuits against their employers.

Employers also need to be careful when making decisions that affect many employees, such as layoffs or hiring new staff members. Making a wrong decision could lead to wrongful termination or wrongful hiring claims.

Is it legal for an employer to terminate a worker because their family member made a formal complaint?

If the complaint were about harassment or discrimination, it would be illegal to fire the employee as retaliation. The company could also face fines from the federal government if it violated workplace protections.

Is it legal for an employer to make workers work overtime without paying?

Workers are entitled to receive time-and-a-half for each hour of overtime. Companies that refuse to pay workers for overtime could face fines from federal or state agencies.

Is it legal for an employer to force employees to do unsafe work?

Employees cannot be forced to perform dangerous work, and they are entitled to receive workers' compensation if they are injured on the job.

Is it legal for an employer to force employees to work under conditions that violate child labor laws?

No, employers cannot violate child labor laws by asking children under 18 to work more than certain hours or in unsafe conditions.


Employment law is enforced by different agencies, including civil rights groups. Some types of employment violations may lead to lawsuits. Employers in breach of workplace protections can face fines and lawsuits if they file complaints with relevant authorities.

More to Read: