Employment Law

Employment law deals with the relationship between employers and employees and fair working conditions in the workplace. This includes employment at will, employment contracts, union employees and civil service employees.

Some employment law is governed by State, Federal or even Municipal law and regulations. In order to ensure safe and fair working conditions, the federal government, as well as states and municipalities pass employment laws that establish some specific rights for employees, such as the right to work free of unlawful discrimination or the right to receive a minimum wage.

Your rights and responsibilities may also be affected by agreement with your employer. You may also have additional rights as a result of particular policies adopted by your employer that may be published in an employee manual.

What kind of employee are you?

Employment at Will

If you are employed on an “at will” basis, your employer can fire you at any time and even for any reason, except when federal, state or municipal law prohibits you from being fired for that reason (for example, in New York you cannot be fired on the basis of age, disability, race, religious belief, ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity) or if the company has established that you cannot be fired for a particular reason not already prohibited by law.

Most employees in the United States, other than certain executives and professionals who have written contracts, are employed “at will.” Many employers ask employees to sign an agreement acknowledging they are employed “at will.” If you do not have a written employment contract with your employer that establishes you are not an “at will” employee, you are probably an “at will” employee.

Employment Contracts

Some employees work under a contract negotiated and signed by both employer and employee. The contract dictates the rights and obligations of the parties and the terms of employment, including salary, length of employment, and reasons for termination. Employees working under employment contracts are not “at will” employees. **Employment contracts are most common for executives, doctors and other professional employees.

Union Members

In New York, if the job you are applying for or have is governed by a union agreement, you must join the union and pay dues, and much of the relationship between you and your employer (such as hours, wages, benefits, and advancement) will be controlled by the terms of the union agreement, as long as that agreement does not violate federal or state employment law.

Civil Service Employees

If you work for the government, you are probably a civil service employee. The New York Constitution states that you have the right to be considered for employment by state and local governments based on merit and fitness for a particular position, and wherever possible by competitive examination. The New York Civil Service Law establishes your rights as a civil service employee, including appointment, hours, wages, benefits, promotion, transfer, termination, and reinstatement.

Independent Contractors

A person may enter into a contract to perform specific work for an employer, but the contractor performs the work according to his own **methods process, with his own tools, and outside the daily control of the employer. Independent contractors are not considered employees at all, and do not have most of the rights and benefits that employees receive, whether bestowed by company policies or federal and state law. However, civil rights law does apply to independent contractors in their relationship to employers.

I think I have an employment law problem:

  • What kind of employee are you? Check any documents you signed when you started working. Also check the employee manual if your employer gave you one. Does it say anything about your situation?
  • Get in touch with an experienced employment lawyer.
  • If you think your employer is violating state or federal law, make sure you discuss this with a lawyer.

What can an employment lawyer do for me?

Regardless of your situation, an experienced employment lawyer can help you learn whether your rights as an employee have been violated and whether you have a remedy or action that will help or protect you. An employment lawyer can help if you were wrongfully and unlawfully fired or passed over for promotion; if you are being harassed or discriminated against; if you cannot get paid for work you completed; if you were injured while doing your job and need workers compensation; and if you think your employer is violating state or federal law.

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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