Understanding The Difference Between Labor Law And Employment Law

labor law vs employment law work attorney

American workers are truly the backbone of this nation and are to thank for virtually everything we enjoy in modern life. The roads and interstates we rely on to get from one place to another? Built by workers. The automobiles we use to travel those roads? Also built by workers. Even the places we visit as we travel, the services we rely on to keep us fed and fueled, and the landscaping we enjoy as we drive past are all there because of the dedication, skill, and labor of American workers. 

Protecting the rights of American workers is an honor, and the primary focus of any skilled employment lawyer. This discussion of the differences between labor law and employment law is shared to help you better understand the ways you and your loved ones are protected. 

What Is The Difference Between Labor Law And Employment Law? 

If you're like many, you might assume that these terms essentially mean the same thing. They are often used interchangeably, and in many day-to-day circumstances, no harm comes from using either term to refer to the area of law focused on protecting workers. 

In reality, however, there are important differences between labor law and employment law. Perhaps the best way to think about the matter is to consider who is the subject of the legal action. 

When the subject is an individual worker, employment law is the area of practice best suited to address the legal matter. When the subject is a group of workers, labor law is the best way to meet those legal needs. 

A Deeper Look At Labor Law 

Labor law is a narrow area of legal practice. The matters that fall under this umbrella include things like relationships between unions and managers and collective bargaining rights. 

Labor laws are put into place to protect workers, unions and also employers. Labor laws came about when employers began to balk at the idea that workers wanted to band together to bargain with employers. Workers realized that there was strength in numbers, and that when they worked together to reach a shared goal, their efforts were more likely to yield results. 

Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and has continued to refine and expand worker protections ever since. 

Some of the issues that fall under the category of labor law include: 

• Union organizing 
• Collective bargaining negotiations 
• Union contracts 
• Labor strikes 
• Unfair labor practices 

Over the years, the number of workers in labor unions has steeply declined. Labor law issues continue to be complex and often make news, however, largely due to the fact that public labor unions continue to grow and exert strong pressures on employers. 

The Importance Of Employment Law 

Employment law encompasses all legal matters relating to workers that fall outside of the umbrella of labor law. There are literally hundreds of employment laws, including federal, state, and local laws that govern how workers and employers interact. 

Some of the more significant laws governing employee / employer interactions include: 

• Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 
• Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) 
• Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 
• Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) 
• Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) 

A great deal of focus within employment law is on employment contracts and the provisions held within. Because employment law is so expansive, and is always undergoing some form of change, employers and employees are often unaware of their rights and obligations under the law. 

There are many laws that shape the relationship between workers and employers. Some of the issues that fall under the category of employment law relate to: 

• Family and disability leave 
• Workplace safety standards 
• Harassment 
• Discrimination 
• Hostile work environments 
• Wage and hours matters 
• Employee privacy rights 
• Overtime 
• Breaks 
• Whistleblower laws 

This is far from a comprehensive list. Virtually every aspect of the relationship between employers and workers is subject to some form of employment law. 

When Would I Need To Work With An Employment Law Specialist? 

If you are having trouble at work and feel that your rights may be being violated, it's a good idea to consult an employment law specialist. Attorneys who focus on employment law are familiar with federal, state, and local laws governing workers and employers. Even more importantly, they know how various employment law issues are dealt with in local courts, which helps them shape their negotiations and build cases that are successful. 

In many cases, just having an attorney draft a letter or otherwise contact an employer who is breaking the law is enough to rectify the matter. In such cases the financial and time investment on the part of the worker is minimal, and the results can be lasting. 

Of course, there are always instances where an employer feels strongly that they are in the right when it comes to matters of employment law. In such cases, they might also benefit from working with an employment law specialist to protect their rights or defend an employment law claim. 

One of the best uses of an employment law attorney is when a new business is being created. Having a trusted legal advisor to turn to can help business owners create employment contracts and human resources that are fair to everyone involved. This can reduce the risk of an employment law claim down the line, and also helps employers understand their obligations to those in their employ, which can boost worker morale and help with worker retention. 

How Do I Secure The Services Of An Experienced Employment Law Attorney? 

If you or a family member has a question or concern about labor law or employment law, feel free to reach out to a skilled employment lawyer for guidance. Attorneys who focus on employment law are able to listen to the specifics of your case and advise you on your next steps. 

While the internet is certainly a valuable tool for many kinds of research, legal matters are highly specific and incredibly complex, and still require a personal touch from a trained professional. Feel free to research the laws that seem to be a good fit for your case but be sure to work with an attorney who can ensure your rights are upheld. 

It is helpful to prepare a list of questions prior to your visit. You can also outline the issues you're facing and provide details to help your attorney better understand your specific set of circumstances. Having a trusted legal professional to turn to can make it far easier to navigate a challenging employment law matter. It can also be instrumental in achieving a favorable outcome and preserving your rights under the law.

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