The Importance of Employment Laws

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

In recent years, there has been a negative response to employment laws. Some employers have been working to try and reduce the legal protections given to workers in the name of higher profits. Employment laws were put in place to protect workers from wrongdoing by their employers. Without those statutes, workers would be vulnerable to a number of threats. The key employment laws include discrimination, minimum wage, and workplace safety and health laws, as well as workers’ compensation and child labor laws.

Employment laws preventing discrimination

Workers are currently protected against many forms of discrimination by employment laws. Discrimination laws were put into place to stop employers from actively discriminating against certain employees. In the state of Texas, employees are protected by law against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and disability. Employees are also protected from discrimination due to being 40 or older, citizenship status, and genetic information. Most of the legal protections come from both the state and federal employment laws. Some key discrimination employment statutes apply to companies that employ fifteen or more people.

Discrimination can come in many forms. If a company refuses to hire someone because they are over 40 years old, that can be discrimination. If a company refuses to promote a person because they are of one race or another, that can be discrimination. If a company fires a person because they are a member of a certain religion, that is discrimination.

Employment laws and minimum wage

Before minimum wage employment laws came into place, it was completely in employers’ hands to determine what an employee was paid. During the Depression, many employers were paying wages that could not support a working man, let alone his family. The low wages were the reason the first federal minimum wage was set in 1938. Today, the minimum wage in the U.S., and the state of Texas, is $7.25. This employment law allows those employees who receive tips to have a base rate of $2.13.

Workplace safety and health employment laws

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is the entity that regulates workplace safety in the United States at the federal level. OSHA came into being in 1970. Before OSHA, there were a myriad of local, state, and federal laws that regulated workplace safety and health issues. However, the regulation and enforcement of these safety employment laws were sporadic and uneven. Workplace safety and health statutes cover a number of areas including unsafe working conditions, machinery, noise levels, temperature extremes, electrical hazards, and extreme vibrations. Workplace safety and health employment laws also cover repetitive work injuries, biological hazards, chemical hazards, and long work hours.

Workers’ compensation employment laws

In most U.S. states, employers of a certain size are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance covers the medical costs of the workers’ injuries. The insurance also provides a partial wage while the employee is recovering from the injury. In exchange for the protections of workers’ compensation, the employees have limited rights as far as suing their employer for negligence.

However, the state of Texas is a bit different in regards to workers’ compensation employment laws. Employers have the option of not subscribing to workers’ compensation insurance laws. These non-subscribing employers assume full risk for injuries sustained by their employees. If the employer does not provide compensation for injuries to the employee, the employee has full rights to sue the employer for compensation and negligence.

The Texas Supreme Court has limited employer risks in recent years, making it harder for employees to receive just compensation. In 2010, approximately 32 percent of employers in the state of Texas were non-subscribers to compensation employment law. The rest of the employers were covered by workers’ compensation insurance and regulation.

Employment laws about child labor

Before the Great Depression, there were no laws in place to prevent the use of children in hazardous jobs. In hard economic times, children as young as five or six were being used in very dangerous employment that adults were unsuited to perform. Many children were maimed and injured as a result of that employment. In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act into law. Besides setting the national minimum wage, child labor statutes set forward minimum working requirements for children in most industries outside of agriculture.

Without employment law protections, workers in the United States would be vulnerable to exploitation by unsavory employers. If you are an employer and have issues with your current or former employees, contact the attorneys here at Brown & Fortunato, P. C. by calling (806) 345-6300. You can also connect with us on our Contact Us page. Our website offers a full review of our other practice areas. Feel free to visit our law offices at 905 S. Fillmore, Suite 400, Amarillo, Texas.

This information is subject to change. Please check for updates that are more recent than the published date of this article.