Does the gender wage gap really grind your gears? Do you feel flushed at the thought of OSHA regulations? Have you always wanted to really stick it to the man? Then maybe employment law is the perfect career path for you.
You might already be familiar with law specialties like family law, which focuses on issues that affect the family, and environmental law, which works to protect the environment. Employment law is a less popular but exceedingly important area of law that deals with the employer-employee relationship. Considering recent monumental shifts regarding employee rights, the field of employment law is growing fast. If you are interested in making a major difference to the lives of employees and employers everywhere, you should all about employment law.
Definitions of Employment Law
Because employees are dependent on employers for dozens of benefits, including wages, healthcare, and more, employees need protection and aid from the government to ensure they receive what they need and deserve. Employment law works to benefit both employees and employers with fair rules that outline the relationship and protect everyone’s rights. For example, employment law commonly prevents discrimination in the workplace, promotes health and safety, establishes minimums of economic support, and prevents workplace disruptions.
It is important to mark a distinction between employment law and labor law. While both concern workers and workplaces, labor law specifically addresses the relationship between employers and organized labor, or unions. Labor law is much older than employment law; collective bargaining efforts in North America predate the formation of the United States. While employment law was established earlier in local municipalities — for example, Massachusetts developed the first minimum wage laws in 1912 — federal employment law didn’t begin in earnest until the second quarter of the 20th century.
Some of the most recognizable cases and acts of employment law include:
- Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which created a federal minimum wage and standards for overtime pay.
- Equal Pay Act of 1963, which attempted to end wage disparities between the sexes.
- Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prevents employers from discriminating in any way based on race, sex, religion, or national origin.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits employment-related discrimination against anyone of at least 40 years of age.
- Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988, which provides workers with at least 60 days’ notice of mass layoffs, workplace closing, and other largescale losses of employment.
- Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, which forbids discrimination based on physical or mental disability.
- Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which ensures that employees receive at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave after becoming parents.
Studying Employment Law
The track for becoming an employment lawyer isn’t terribly different from that of any other legal discipline. First, you need an undergraduate degree, ideally in a humanities field, which will prepare you with the research, communication, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills necessary to excel in law. Though some law specialties require specific backgrounds — for example, patent law demands a Bachelor of Science degree — employment law is not one. Therefore, you can study what you find most interesting, such as labor history, sociology, or political science.
Next, you should enroll in law school — ideally one with a reputation for employment law studies. Because law schools don’t have majors like other academic programs, finding a school that specializes in employment law isn’t essential. Instead, you should try to gain acceptance at a law school with a high ranking. Law firms pay attention to school rankings, and better programs will give you more opportunities to choose your employment after you graduate.
In your third year of law school, you will have more opportunity to choose the course of your study. It is during this time that you should learn more about employment law. Likely, you will learn important terms employment law, landmark cases, and ongoing employment struggles. The same issues continue to impact employment law; these are:
- Worker compensation
- Parental leave
- Safety and health
After you graduate, you should find a firm that primarily manages employment law cases. Though you can practice employment law anywhere in the United States — because every location is affected by the relationship between employers and employees — major legal centers are ideal. For example, you should gravitate toward state capitals and Washington, D.C., which more often see major employment law disputes. You might consider joining an organization known for impacting employment law, like the ACLU. Eventually, you will be involved in fighting for employees’ and employers’ rights, working to build a better America.
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