employee rights are protected under both Federal and state
laws in the U.S. Federal employee rights laws mandate
only the minimums to which employers in all states must
adhere. States are allowed to create their own employee
rights laws, that include or expand upon the minimum protections
afforded by the Federal laws.
rights laws are also called employment laws or labor laws.
Employment laws deal mostly with employer-employee relationships,
while labor laws deal mostly with employer-union relationships.
Labor laws is the term most commonly used when generally
referring to employment, labor and employee rights laws.
employee rights are protected by whichever law affords
the most protection in your state. For example, if your
state has its own minimum wage law and it mandates a higher
rate than the Federal law, then employers doing business
in your state must pay the higher minimum wage.
Your employee rights are also protected by sound morality
and public policy.
What constitutes an employer's violation of sound morality
or public policy is typically up the interpretation of
a court or arbitrator. For example, if your employer fires
you because you wouldn't break the law, a court might
decide that you have a legit case for wrongful termination
in violation of public policy (or other legalese).
there are no Federal employee rights laws that generally
protect you from everything that's unfair or unethical
in the workplace. As indicated, laws also vary by state,
and what constitutes a violation of sound morality or
public policy is not set in concrete. Additionally, U.S.
employers have their rights too. Consequently, what might
seem unfair or unethical in the workplace is not necessarily
example, if your boss unfairly fires you, it's not necessarily
a violation of your employee rights by law. That's because,
in the absence of contracts that say otherwise, employment
is presumed to be voluntary and indefinite under the Employment
At-Will Doctrine, which most states enforce. In turn,
your boss may fire you whenever he or she wants, just
as you may quit whenever you want. But, if your boss fires
you in retaliation for tactfully challenging his or her
questionable overtime-pay practices, that's a violation
of your employee rights under the Federal Fair Labor Standards
Act, if not an equivalent state law. You'll likely have
legal recourse, such as a lawsuit.
contractors are typically not protected by employee rights
laws. That's because they are essentially self-employed.
As such, they work for clients, not employers per se.
(The same goes for consultants and freelances.) Employee
rights laws usually protect only employees and not self-employed
individuals. However, other "rights" laws might
apply, depending on the wrongdoings clients commit. For
example, if a client breaches an independent contractor
agreement, then laws that cover contracts might apply.
the other hand, if employers misclassify employees as
independent contractors, then employee rights laws might
retroactively apply after misclassification is determined
by the proper authorities.