Employment law concerns the legal relationship between employers and employees. Employment law regulates the entire relationship between employer and employee including the initial hiring process, job duties, wages, promotions, benefits, employment reviews, and termination of the employment relationship. It also includes litigation on the basis of unfair labor practices and discrimination.
All employees are entitled to basic rights in the workplace including the right to privacy, fair compensation, and freedom from discrimination. The other rights of employees include right to be free from discrimination and harassment, right to fair wages, right to a safe workplace free of dangerous conditions, toxic substances, and other potential safety hazards, right to be free from retaliation for filing a claim or complaint against an employer, or in other words "whistleblower" rights.
The right to privacy applies to the employee's personal possessions, including handbags or briefcases, storage lockers accessible only by the employee, as well as the monitoring telephone conversations, text or voicemail messages, internet use, e-mail, and postal mail.
An employer who wishes to monitor telephone calls or voicemail messages must warn employees that it is doing so, and establish that the monitoring is undertaken in the ordinary course of business. An employer who monitors phone calls or voice mail messages for any reason must stop monitoring as soon as it determines that a call or message is private.
E-mail messages using the employer's network and Internet access from the employer's computer are generally not protected. Many employers monitor employee internet use and e-mail messages. Employees should assume their e-mail messages and internet activities at work are not private.
Video surveillance of employees has been controversial. An employer who places a camera in the lunchroom or on a loading dock does not violate the law, but employers have been held liable for invasion of privacy, and sometimes for sexual harassment, after placing hidden cameras in bathrooms or in the ceilings of employees' offices.
If an employee has been fired without a good reason or in violation of federal or state law it could be a wrongful discharge which can be challenged. If the employee can bring a successful claim for wrongful discharge, employers can be made to pay back wages, fines, and possible punitive damages or even the employee can be reinstated. However, if the employee is an "at-will" employee there is little chance for the employee to succeed since the employer has the right to fire him/her for any or no reason at any time so as long as all protections afforded by state and federal law have been followed. Where no wrong has been committed, "at-will" employees have no remedy for employment termination.
Anti-discrimination law, prohibits an employer with fifteen or more employees from refusing to hire, discipline, fire, deny training, fail to promote, pay less or demote, or harass an employee on the basis of race, national origin, gender, or religion. Equal pay is also required for men and women who perform "equal work," unless the difference in pay is caused by differences in seniority, merit or some other factor that is not based upon sex. Discrimination against employees or applicants who are over the age of 40, by any employer with twenty or more employees is also prohibited. Employer with more than three employees are barred from discriminating against a U.S. citizen, or someone who may work legally but is not yet a citizen, on the basis of his or her national origin. Discrimination against those who are disabled by private employers with more than fifteen employees or any government entities and federal contractors is prohibited as well.