Law & Legal & Attorney Contract Law

What Laws Govern Employee at Will & Employee Rights?

    • Employments laws protect employee rights.Frauenportrait image by Yvonne Bogdanski from

      Without knowledge of your rights in the workplace, violations of these rights may happen more easily. In the United States, the doctrine of at-will employment offers a more casual business relationship between employee and employer, while specific labor laws have increased protection for U.S. employees. Having employee rights in mind along with the laws that support them can provide a complementary knowledge as you move ahead in your career.

    Employment at Will Law

    • The U.S. is the only major industrial power with an official doctrine stating that an employer can terminate an employee for no explicit reason.This common-law doctrine applies to all employees without a formal employment contract. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes three exceptions to this doctrine: a state's public policy, an implied contract, and a covenant of good faith.

      If a state's public policy requires a justifiable cause for dismissal, or an implied contract was offered by the employer and accepted by the employee, or the state backs a "covenant of good faith doctrine" (signifying that an employer gave an employee a sense of job security if he met job performance expectations), then an employee has specific protection from the traditional at-will employment law.

    Right to Privacy

    • One right given to employees is the right to privacy in the workplace. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 provides employees a measure of protection against interception of their electronic transmissions, such as email. However, under a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision, there are circumstances in which an employer can monitor employee communications.

      Complementing the ECPA is the Stored Communications Act (SCA), which protects employees from having their stored electronic communications invaded and revealed.

      If being considered for employment, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) protects prospective employees from unreasonable searches when employers perform background checks on them.

    Wage and Labor Laws

    • The Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA) ensures a minimum wage and standard overtime pay. This act does not, however, cover severance pay, vacations or sick leave.

      The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) establishes that an eligible employee may receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave within a 12-month period, if the leave is for medical and specific family reasons, such as an adoption. However, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, paid leave may be substituted with unpaid leave in many FMLA situations.

    Additional Laws

    • Additional laws protecting employee rights include anti-discrimination, health and safety, and worker's compensation laws. As with employment at will laws, states may offer different levels of protection.

      Whistleblower rights apply to employees witnessing severe misconduct at their places of employment and reporting such misconduct to proper authorities. State or federal whistleblower statues protect them against retaliatory action.

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