This essay discusses labour and employment law, and the various areas covered by each.
Labour and employment law are two different areas of the law. Employment law covers “all areas of the employer/employee relationship except the negotiation process covered by labour law and collective bargaining.” It also consists of both federal and state statutes, court decisions and other regulations. Some employment laws exist to protect workers while others “take the form of public insurance.” Unemployment compensation falls into this category. (“Employment Law,” PG).
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Labour law can fairly be described as a “subcategory” of employment law. It too consists of thousands of federal and state regulations and court decisions but deals mostly with relations between employers and unions, collective bargaining, and other labour-specific issues.
Some of the areas that are covered under employment law are employment discrimination, pensions, workplace safety, and worker’s compensation. (“Employment Law,” PG). I’ll try to give a brief description of the concerns of each field of the law.
Employment discrimination law is concerned with employment discrimination based on race, age, sex, national origin, physical disability and religion; there is a “growing body” of employment discrimination law dealing with cases based on sexual orientation. “Discrimination” includes bias in “hiring, promotion, job assignment, termination, [and] compensation,” and all types of harassment. (“Employment Discrimination,” PG). Some of the familiar legislation enacted in this field includes the Americans with Disabilities Act; the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Pensions are in the news these days, because of the corporate scandals, such as Enron, that have resulted in workers losing not only their jobs but their savings as well. There are generally two types of pensions, a “defined benefit plan” and a “defined contribution plan.” In the first, the employee receives benefits based on his salary and length of service; in the second, the employer makes deposits “into an account established for each employee.” (“Pension Law,” PG). From just these examples, it’s easy to see that pension law is very complex and detailed. It’s governed by federal law, specifically the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
Workplace safety is governed largely by the familiar Occupational and Safety Health Act (OSHA), which is a federal law. Its purpose is to reduce the number of injuries, illnesses and deaths in the workplace. It supersedes state and local laws, and many states have replaced their former laws with OSHA’s. (“Workplace Safety,” PG).
Worker’s compensation is designed to provide a fixed amount of money in compensation to workers injured on the job. The idea is to prevent the need for litigation by making the award available without the worker having to go to court. There are many different worker’s compensation laws, depending on whether the employee is a civilian or military worker, the type of injury, and many other variables. (“Worker’s Compensation,” PG).
The general category of labour law, like employment law, is comprised of many different areas. As its main objective, labour law seeks “to equalize the bargaining power between employers and employees. … Labor laws grant employees the right to unionize and allows employers and employees to engage in certain activities (e.g. strikes, picketing, seeking injunctions, lockouts) so as to have their demands fulfilled.” (“Labor,” PG).
Labour law was codified in 1935 with the passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA); it was modified by the Labor Management Relations (Taft-Hartley) Act in 1947 and again in 1959 by the labour-management Reporting and Disclosure (Landrum-Griffin) Act. The NLRA established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hear labour/management disputes. (“Labor,” PG).
The NLRA is also the act that established the right of employees to engage in collective bargaining. In addition, the NLRA delineates the principles under which collective bargaining can take place. For instance, it established procedures on negotiating in good faith; it allows employees to choose a “labour organization” to represent them, and it forbids the company to interfere with the selection of this organization. (“Collective Bargaining,” PG). The NLRA also dictates the tactics each side may use in trying to further their objective during negotiations.
Employment and labour law are closely related, but not the same thing. Employment law touches on such things as discrimination, pensions, and worker’s compensation, and tends to have broad applications.
Labour law is much more specific and deals almost exclusively with relations between labour and management.
“Collective Bargaining and Labor Arbitration: An Overview.” Hieros Gamos [Web site]. Undated. Accessed: 14 Mar 2003. http://www.hg.org/cgi-bin/redir.cgi?url=http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/employment.html
“Employment Discrimination: An Overview.” Hieros Gamos [Web site]. Undated. Accessed: 14 Mar 2003. http://www.hg.org/cgi-bin/redir.cgi?url=http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/employment_discrimination.html
“Employment Law: An Overview.” Hieros Gamos [Web site]. Undated. Accessed: 14 Mar 2003. http://www.hg.org/cgi-bin/redir.cgi?url=http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/employment.html
“Labor: An Overview.” Hieros Gamos [Web site]. Undated. Accessed: 14 Mar 2003. http://www.hg.org/cgi-bin/redir.cgi?url=http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/employment.html
“Pension Law: An Overview.” Hieros Gamos [Web site]. Undated. Accessed: 14 Mar 2003. http://www.hg.org/cgi-bin/redir.cgi?url=http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/employment.html
“Worker’s Compensation: An Overview.” Hieros Gamos [Web site]. Undated. Accessed: 14 Mar 2003. http://www.hg.org/cgi-bin/redir.cgi?url=http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/employment.html
“Workplace Safety: An Overview.” Hieros Gamos [Web site]. Undated. Accessed: 14 Mar 2003. http://www.hg.org/cgi-bin/redir.cgi?url=http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/employment.html
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