Find an Employment Law / Employer Lawyer

The discipline of employment law covers nearly all of the issues that arise between employers and employees. The noted exceptions that employment law firms do not handle are issues pertaining to employment-related negotiation and collective bargaining; these specialties are covered by the specialty of labor law. The laws governing the workplace and employment extend outside of factories and offices to include agricultural workers, miners and anyone in an employee-employer relationship. In the United States, much legislation guiding employment law is federally controlled, but additional laws are state-based.

Employment discrimination

Many employment lawyers handle cases having to do with employment discrimination in hiring, pay rates, promotion and termination. Employment discrimination legislation attempts to provide equality in the workplace and prevent any discrimination against people based on sex, race, age, a physical disability, national origin or religion.

The U.S. constitution requires federal and state governments to treat employees fairly and equally in their employment practices; while these do not apply specifically to the private sector, there are a number of federal and state statutes that offer similar and more extensive protections. In recent years, workplace sexual harassment has been in the limelight and this has become a legal subspecialty of employment discrimination.

Workplace safety

Health and safety in the workplace is largely protected by the federal Occupational and Safety Health Act (OSHA). States may regulate any areas not covered by the OSHA statutes, but cannot overlap any legislation with items covered by OSHA. The interpretation and defense of OSHA and these other health and safety statutes are the specialty of workplace safety specialists within employment law. OSHA has specific standards for different industries dictating workplace policies and procedures; they specify everything from fire extinguisher placement to protective equipment requirements to safe electrical wiring configurations. Many industries are subject to regular safety inspections and may be monitored by OSHA for compliance.

Worker's compensation

Attorneys specializing in worker's compensation law handle claims for compensation by employees who have been injured on the job. Federal laws entitle workers to compensations when they are injured in the workplace, but the law also places limits on what workers may claim in order to protect companies. Some states have additional, more stringent regulations that provide more rights for employees, so worker's compensation attorneys must be familiar with the statutes in the applicable states for each case.


Employment law encompasses many general and human resources issues, such as overtime regulations, laws about employee breaks, benefits requirements and administration, child labor laws and individual worker contracts. Employment attorneys also handle issues pertaining to unemployment, termination, severance agreements and unemployment insurance. Federal contractors are subject to additional employment regulations and should seek the advice of employment attorneys to assist them with compliance.

Employment law firms may focus on representing only employees, employers or both. When locating an employment lawyer, it is important to find someone who is certified and experienced in the employment specialty your case requires. In addition, since laws vary by state, the attorney's practice should be in the area where the case is pending. If you are unsure if you need an employment lawyer, visit to the U.S. Department of labor web site or consult with a local attorney for more detailed information.

By Ann MacDonald           

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