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Federal Labor and Employment Laws

Specific labor and employment laws that define your rights as a US worker, and protect you from employer retaliation for exercising your rights under the laws or reporting violations to the proper authorities. Includes whistle blower laws.
Articles & Resources
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Am I Entitled to Severance Pay?
If you are laid off, fired or forced to quit, are you entitled to severance pay by state or Federal law?
Am I Entitled to Sick Leave Pay?
Find out if you're entitled to collect employer-provided sick leave pay and accrued sick leave pay under U.S. state or Federal law.
Am I Entitled to Vacation Pay?
Find out if you're entitled to collect employer-provided vacation pay and accrued vacation pay under state or Federal law.
COBRA Insurance FAQs
Answers to frequently-asked questions about COBRA continuation of health insurance coverage.
Drug Testing - Mandatory Federal Guidelines
The document entitled Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs, published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Includes drug testing cutoff levels and detection times.
Employee or Independent Contractor?
The IRS Common-Law Rules (formerly Twenty Common Law Factors), which include guidelines and examples for correctly classifying workers. If you think you've been misclassified to your disadvantage, you may file a form with the IRS. But it's probably a good idea to see an attorney first. See this article for more info.
Employee Rights
About your employee rights under U.S. state and Federal employment and labor laws.
Employee Rights in Plain English
EmployeeIssues.com helps employers and employees better understand employee rights in the U.S. Among others, topics include wrongful termination, overtime, minimum wage, sexual harassment, discrimination and whistleblower protection. Affiliated with a free lawyer referral service, where you may post your "case" confidentially and lawyers will respond.
Employment Discrimination
A simple explanation to help you determine whether or not an employer has illegally discriminated against you, plus tips for gaining relief and links to the related U.S. laws.
Employment Protection for Reservists
If you're a U.S. military reservist who has or will be called to active duty, you and your family are protected under The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
Illegal Interview Questions
What they are and tips for handling them, along with sample illegal questions and reasons employers may ask for the same information in other ways.
Interviewing while Pregnant
It is illegal for U.S. employers to ask if you're pregnant. Here are tips for maneuvering through job interviews while you're in the family way, and maternity benefits to research and negotiate.
Labor Laws - Employment Laws
You might be surprised to learn that there are virtually no U.S. employment or labor laws that specifically mandate how your employer must treat you. But there are some broad employment and labor laws that generally define and protect your rights as a worker.
Minimum Wage
How much the current minimum wage per hour is, who is eligible to receive it, and which U.S. law enforces it.
New Overtime Law
New Overtime Law - Summarizes changes to the U.S. Federal rules and regulations that enforce overtime law under the Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA.
Overtime FAQs
U.S. overtime lawsuits are on the rise, thanks to broad, aging laws and employers stretching productivity through mandatory overtime without pay. Find out if you are entitled to overtime pay, whether or not you must work forced, mandatory overtime hours, and much more, in these FAQs about overtime regulations under the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act. Includes tips about related state law.
Paid Sick Leave
Sick leave with pay is coming for most U.S. workers, if the Healthy Americans Act becomes law. Find out more about paid sick leave benefits here.
Right to Work
What right to work means at the state and Federal levels, a list of right to work states, and links to state and Federal right to work laws.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Read about what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace and how you may seek relief through a lawsuit.
Whistle Blower Protection Laws
Explains whistle blower protection from employer retaliation, provided by U.S. whistle blower laws.
Workplace and Occupational Safety and Health Standards
Workplace and occupational safety and health standards, laws and regulations are enforced by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Discover your rights under the OSH Act and what OSHA can do for you.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
Prohibits employment age discrimination against individuals who are at least forty, but less than sixty-five years old. Includes the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, a 1990 amendment which makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of age for employment benefit programs.
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
Prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals who have disabilities, because of their disabilities.
Child Labor
A collection of "Youth & Labor" resources from the US Department of Labor. Child labor is covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin, for employers with fifteen or more employees. See also the amendments to this act, in The Civil Rights Act of 1991.
COBRA - Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act
An amendment to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). If you lose your job or some other qualifying event occurs, COBRA allows you or your qualified beneficiaries to continue healthcare insurance coverage at group rates.
Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968
Protects employees from termination for garnishment of wages for any one indebtedness.
Drug Testing - Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988
The Act applies to drug testing in the workplace only for Federal employees and contractors, but states, local jurisdictions and private-sector employers have followed suit.
Drug Testing - Opposition to the Laws
Here's what the ACLU thinks about the "War on Drugs" and what you can do to support their stand.
Drug Testing Guidelines - DOT
Drug testing guidelines published by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Some private and government employers follow this model, which differs somewhat from SAMHSA's, listed below.
Drug Testing Guidelines - SAMHSA
Drug testing guidelines published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Some private and government employers follow this model instead of that published by the Department of Transportation (DOT), listed above.
Education Anti-Discrimination Laws
Explanations of the Federal laws that protect against discrimination in education, from the U.S. Department of Education.
Electronic Privacy Rights: The Workplace
A plain-English explanation of how the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 applies——or doesn't——to the workplace, especially email.
Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988
Prohibits most private-sector employers from conducting lie detector tests, or using the results of a test conducted elsewhere for discharging or disciplining employees. Also prohibits discharging or disciplining employees for refusing to take lie detector tests.
Equal Pay Act of 1963
Prohibits wage discrimination between men and women who work jobs that require equal skill, effort, and responsibility, in the same establishment and under similar working conditions.
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
ERISA assures that private-sector employee retirement plans are established and maintained in a fair and financially-sound manner. Also prohibits employers from terminating employees to prevent them from attaining vested pension rights.
Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1999
Although employers in your state might have the right to effectively discriminate against you based on a bad credit report, this Federal Act at least regulates how they must go about it fairly. If they don't, you might have legal recourse. For more information, see the article Background Check: Credit Report.
Fair Labor Standards Act
Establishes minimum wage, maximum hours, overtime pay, equal pay and child-labor requirements. It also covers related employee vs. independent contractor issues, and protects workers from retaliation for exercising their rights under the Act.
Family and Medical Leave Act
Provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year, without losing their jobs or group health benefits during the leave.
Federal Employees' Compensation Act
Gives Federal employees workers' compensation insurance protection. Most states also adhere to this Act. See also Workers' Compensation.
HIPAA - Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
An amendment to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Limits exclusions for preexisting conditions, prohibits discrimination against employees and their dependents based on health status, and allows a special opportunity to enroll in a new plan under certain circumstances, such as exhausting COBRA coverage.
Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
Requires employers to hire only U.S. citizens and aliens who are authorized to work in the U.S. Also prohibits employment discrimination against any individual (other than an unauthorized alien), based on national origin or citizenship status.
Judiciary and Judicial Procedure Act of 1948
Prohibits employers from terminating, intimidating, or coercing permanent employees for serving jury duty.
Labor Management Relations Act of 1947
Also known as the Taft-Hartley Act, it prohibits employment termination for union-related activity.
Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977
Section 815(c) protects employees from discharge and discrimination for reporting violations of the Act, refusing to engage in any action made unlawful by the Act, or participating in any proceedings under the Act.
Model Employment Termination Act
Prohibits wrongful termination by requiring employers to have "good cause" for discharging employees covered by this Act. Also protects employees from employer retaliation, if they participate in legal proceedings under this Act. States must have adopted this Act for employees to be protected.
National Apprenticeship Act of 1937
Commonly referred to as the Fitzgerald Act, it authorizes and directs the US Secretary of Labor to formulate and promote the furtherance of labor standards necessary to safeguard the welfare of apprentices, and bring together employers and labor for the formulation of programs of apprenticeship.
National Labor Relations Act of 1935
Protects your right to union representation, prohibits employment discrimination based on union membership and activities, and authorizes investigation into unfair labor practices by employers and unions.
Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970
OSHA requires employers to provide workplaces free of recognized health and safety hazards, and prohibits employee termination in reprisal for exercising rights protected by the Act.
Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity...Act
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 signed by President Clinton is more popularly known as the Welfare Reform Bill. It repealed the 60-year-old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program and replaced it with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
Amends section 701 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to prohibit sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
Railroad Safety Act of 1970
Section 20109 protects employees from discharge and discrimination for reporting violations of the Act, refusing to engage in any action made unlawful by the Act, or participating in any proceedings under the Act.
Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the Federal government and by contractors working on Federal government contracts in excess of $10,000.
Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
A "whistle blowing" law signed by President Bush, that protects employees of publicly-traded companies for reporting fraud to the proper authorities.
Social Security Act of 1935 and Amendments
Instituted Social Security (FICA) and Medicare taxes, and provides for retirement, disability, Medicare health insurance, Supplemental Security Income, family and survivors' benefits through the Social Security Administration. You don't have to be of retirement age to qualify for most of them.
Ticket To Work And Work Incentives Improvement Act Of 1999
Assures that more Americans with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in the workforce and lessen their dependence on public benefits.
Trade Act Programs
North American Free Trade Agreement - Transitional Adjustment Assistance (NAFTA-TAA), also known as the Trade Act, provides assistance to U.S. workers who have lost their jobs due to increased imports or shifts in production to Mexico or Canada. The Trade Adjustment Assistance Reform Act of 2002 (TAA Reform Act) reauthorizes and amends TAA to include the provisions of NAFTA-TAA, plus enhancements.
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
Eliminates or minimizes disadvantages to civilian careers and employment which can result from military service, and prohibits job discrimination against veterans.
Veterans' Employment Opportunities Act of 1998
Requires a government agency to allow eligible veterans to apply, when the agency will accept applications from individuals outside its own workforce. Also provides avenues for veterans to file formal complaints about such.
Veterans' Preference Advisor
Helps veterans and disabled veterans determine if they are eligible for preferred status when applying for US Government jobs.
Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act
Provides equal opportunity and affirmative action for Vietnam-era veterans, special disabled veterans, and veterans who served on active duty during a war or in a campaign or expedition, for which a campaign badge has been authorized.
Whistle Blower Laws
Several laws enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor, that protect employees from retaliation for exercising their rights under the laws or reporting violations to the proper authorities.
Whistle Blower Protection
From WhistleBlowers.org, about the laws that shield employees from retaliation for reporting employer actions that are illegal, unhealthy or contrary to specific public policies.
Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations
Chapter 27 in Title 29 of the US Code provides technical assistance to employers and labor unions to encourage employment of women in apprenticeships and nontraditional occupations.
Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act
Provides protection to workers, their families and communities by requiring employers to provide notification 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs, with few exceptions. A simpler explanation is in the fact sheet.
Workers' Compensation
An overview of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act, the Act in full, and related statutes, regulations and judicial decisions. From Cornell Law School.

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