Employment law covers all rights and obligations within the employer-employee relationship -- whether current employees, job applicants, or former employees. Because of the complexity of employment relationships and the wide variety of situations that can arise, employment law involves legal issues as diverse as discrimination, wrongful termination, wages and taxation, and workplace safety. Many of these issues are governed by applicable federal and state law. But, where the employment relationship is based on a valid contract entered into by the employer and the employee, state contract law alone may dictate the rights and duties of the parties.
Employee Rights in the Workplace
All employees have basic rights in the workplace -- including the right to privacy, fair compensation, and freedom from discrimination. A job applicant also has certain rights even prior to being hired as an employee. Those rights include the right to be free from discrimination based on age, gender, race, national origin, or religion during the hiring process. For example, a prospective employer cannot ask a job applicant certain family-related questions during the hiring process.
In most states, employees have a right to privacy in the workplace. This right to privacy applies to the employee's personal possessions, including handbags or briefcases, storage lockers accessible only by the employee, and private mail addressed only to employee. Employees may also have a right to privacy in their telephone conversations or voicemail messages. However, employees have very limited rights to privacy in their e-mail messages and Internet usage while using the employer's computer system.
There are certain pieces of information that an employer may not seek out concerning a potential job applicant or employee. An employer may not conduct a credit or background check of an employee or prospective employee unless the employer notifies the individual in writing and receives permission to do so.
Other important employee rights include:
Federal Regulations on Employment Relationships
Following is a quick summary of key federal laws related to employment. For more information, see Overview of Employment and Anti-Discrimination Laws.
Get a Legal Evaluation of Your Employment Rights Issue
Employees have a variety of rights in the workplace, established under both federal and state law. If you feel that your rights may have been violated in the context of your employment, it may be in your best interests to talk to an experienced employment attorney who will explain your options and protect your legal rights.
Contact a qualified employment discrimination attorney to make sure your rights are protected.