Employment law, also called the labor law, is the body made up of laws, administrative rulings, and precedents that safeguard the legal rights of the employers and the employees. Labor law mediates many aspects of the relationship between employers, employees, and trade unions. The main aim of the labor law is to equalize the bargaining power between employers and employees. Under the employment law, there are labor rights or workers’ rights. Labor rights are a group of legal rights and claimed human rights having to do with labor relations between workers and their employers. The right to unionize is the most important aspect of labor rights. Collective bargaining is a process of discussion between the employer and the representative of the unit of the employee. The main aim of the discussion is to reach an agreement that regulates working conditions. According to International Labor Organization (1), there should be an agreement between the people involved. These are mostly labor contracts between employers and the unions.
Labor Law History
Labor history is a field concerned with the development of the labor movement and labor unions. It is also concerned with the development of the working class. The history of labor law is concerned with the development of labor law. The labor historians are so much concerned with coming up with labor unions. A labor union is comprised of people in the work workforce objectives are similar. The common goal that brings workers together is that they are provided good working conditions by their employers.
The labor historians also try to develop strikes of the workers. A labor strike is a work stoppage caused by a group of workers who have refused to work. The employees air their grievances through labor strikes. They also develop lockouts and protest movements. Industrial relation also concerns labor historians. According to Kaufman (20), industrial relation is a multidisciplinary field that studies the employment relationship. Industrial relation is increasingly being called employment relations. This is because of the importance of non-industrial employment relationships.
The progress of the working class and socialist political parties is also the concern of the labor historians. Those studying the history of labor are interested in factors such as gender and race of people in the workforce. This shows they also concern themselves with other factors other than class.
Labor law arose because of the demands from the workers who wanted to be provided for better working conditions. The workers wanted the right to organize or alternatively they wanted the right to work without joining a trade union. The workers also complained about their employers trying to restrict their powers. They complained that their employers reduced the labor costs but the workload still remained high.
Reforms in the Labor Law
Before industrialization, the workday varied between 11 and 14 hours. With the growth of industrialization and introduction of machinery, longer hours became far more common. The eight-hour movement’s struggle led to the first law on the length of a working day. The 10-hour pay was established in 1848 in England. Shorter hours with the same pay were gradually accepted thereafter. The eight-hour day movement or 40-hour week movement, also known as the short-time movement, had its origin in the industrial revolution in Britain. This shows changes in the working time.
There is an important change in the child labor laws. Child labor refers to the employment of children at regular and sustained labor. This practice is considered exploitation by many international organizations. It is even illegal in many countries. An employer is usually not permitted to employ a child below a certain age. This minimum age depends on the country and the type of work involved. States ratifying the minimum age convention adopted by the international labor organization have adopted minimum ages. These ages are varying from 14 to 16. Child labor laws in the United States set the minimum age to work in an establishment without restrictions and without consent to be the age of 16. In the agricultural sector, children as young as 12 years of age can work in the fields for a limited number of non-school hours. This led to a decrease in the number of child laborers in the world from 25 to 10 percent. This decrease observed was between the years 1960 to 2003.
The occupational safety and health of workers have also improved. Occupational safety and health is a multi-faceted concept that deals with safe working conditions for those working in different employment environments. According to the occupation safety and health act (1), providing workers with a working environment that guarantees them their safety should be the ultimate goal of any employer. Other people living near the workplace that may be affected should also be considered for safety.
There has been an introduction of a contract of employment in the workplaces. A contract is where the rights and obligations of the worker and the employer between one another are mediated through. A contract was introduced since the collapse of feudalism and is the core reality of modern economic relations. Many terms and conditions of a contract are implied by legislation or common law. They are implied in a way to protect employees and facilitate a fluid labor market. In the United States, for example, many of the state laws allow employees to be of one’s free will. According to Keyshawn & Arn (25), this means that the employer can terminate the employee from a position for any reason, so long as the reason is not an illegal reason. Termination in violation of public policy is also included.
At-will employment have has been accepted in the workplaces. This is an employment contract that can be terminated by any of the parties. This can happen if there is no liability and provided there was no express contract for a definite governing the employment relationship. It can also happen if the employer does not belong to a collective bargaining group. This means that the owner should not have recognized a union under this legal doctrine.
There have been reforms in the wage and hour area. Wage and hour refer to how much one is going to be paid after being employed. Most countries have a minimum wage requirement. Those without minimum wage adopt the federal minimum wage requirements. The minimum wage could be defined as the legal minimum wage rate that one may pay his workers depending on the working period agreed. An employer is not allowed to hang to an employee cheque for several weeks. The minimum wage has an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage is that it increases the living standard of workers and reduces poverty. The disadvantage is that it is too high to be effective, hence increasing the rate of unemployment. The cases of minimum pay have been reduced. This is because all the working places are not paying their workers less than the required minimum wage.
The issue of benefits has been adopted in the workplace. Many benefits are governed by federal statutes. Such benefits include health insurance or pension plans. There are a number of laws that protect employees who rely on these benefits. One of the most important pieces of legislation on a benefit is the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). ERISA imposes various requirements on employers who offer pension and health benefits to employees. Protection for a vested pension benefit is one of the imposed requirements. ERISA guarantees employees the right to the continued option to buy health insurance at their employer’s discounted group rates. This goes on for a period of time after the employee is laid off.
Another area of employment law been hat has reformed is the workers compensation area. Workers’ compensation refers to the compensation that provides wage replacement and medical benefit for employers who are injured in the course of employment. Employers are compensating their employees when accidents occur in the workplaces. An employer who doesn’t follow this law is highly fined.
Discrimination sector has also reformed where discrimination cases have decreased. Discrimination involves hiring, firing and workplace harassment. Different countries have different punishments to those found breaking the discrimination law. There are two main areas of prohibited discrimination. One is race based discrimination and the other is gender based discrimination. Race discrimination is where an employee is ill treated because their race differs from that of the employer or from that of fellow employees. Gender discrimination is when one is discriminated on sexual orientation. Sexual discrimination involves being treated differently or harassed because of your real or perceived sexual orientation. These types of discrimination have reduced drastically in the work places.
Administration of the Labor Law in the Workplace
The labor law has been effectively applied in the workplaces in that the employees have started enjoying various rights as started by the employment law. The employees can now enjoy severance pay. This is the money paid when one is laid off, fired or forced to quit. The employees are also entitled sick leave pay and vacation pay. Sick leave pay is the money paid when one is out of work due to illness. The money paid when one is on a holiday is the vacation pay.
There are very rare cases of child labor reported. This shows that employers have adhered to the labor laws and are applying it in the places of work. The cases of employers paying their wages lower than the minimum have also reduced. The employees are even being paid overtime for any extra hour they work.
The employers have provided a good working condition for their employees. They have provided their employees with some protective measures and protective clothing. This protective clothing include gloves, aprons etc. This is done to protect the worker at the workplace as stated in the labor law. Providing a hostile environment or wrongful discharge claim is difficult without proper legal representation.
How to Change the Labor Law
In every working institution and company there should be one officer observing whether the labor laws are adhered to. The labor officer should know more about the labor laws so as to know when the law is broken. This is to protect and educate employees who don’t know their working rights. It also helps to get hold of employees who break labor law and are unnoticed. This will ensure that the laws of employment are followed in every workplace.
Pending Legislation in the Employment Law
One of the pending legislation is the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. This act prohibits employers of more than 15 employees. It also prohibits health insurers from making employment decisions. The health insurers are also prohibited from adjusting benefits solely on the basis of an individual’s genetic information. This bill will effectively eliminate genetic discrimination throughout the country.
Another pending legislation is Equal Remedy Act. The main aim of this legislation is to eliminate the caps on the amount of damages available in the discrimination cases. This proposed legislation would entirely remove the statutory caps. This would result in a great increase in employers’ potential liability in discrimination cases.
The basic feature of a labor law in almost every country is that the rights and obligations of the worker and the employer between one another, mediated through the contract of employment. A contract of employment is the category of contract used in labor law to attribute right and responsibilities between parties to bargain. The main purpose of the employment is to ensure that there was equity in the places of work. The labor law has the role of improving the relationship between the employee and the employer. There should be good communication between the two as this would lead to a higher productivity. Activities such as sporting and hiking should be introduced as it helps bring the workers and employers together.
International Labor Organization. Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at work. Geneva: International Labor Organization, 1998.
Kaufman, Bruce. The global evolution of Industrial Relations. Geneva: International Labor Office, 2004.
Keyshawn, Walker & Arn, Morell. Labor and employment. Georgia: Georgetown University Thesis, 2005.
Occupation Safety and Health Act. Occupation Safety and Health Administration. New York: Occupation safety and health Act, 1970.