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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

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.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The ADEA's protections apply to both employees and job applicants. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training.

It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on age or for filing an age discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the ADEA.

The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and labor organizations, as well as to the federal government. ADEA protections include:

Apprenticeship Programs
It is generally unlawful for apprenticeship programs, including joint labor-management apprenticeship programs, to discriminate on the basis of an individual's age. Age limitations in apprenticeship programs are valid only if they fall within certain specific exceptions under the ADEA or if the EEOC grants a specific exemption.
Job Notices and Advertisements
The ADEA generally makes it unlawful to include age preferences, limitations, or specifications in job notices or advertisements. A job notice or advertisement may specify an age limit only in the rare circumstances where age is shown to be a "bona fide occupational qualification" (BFOQ) reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business.
Pre-Employment Inquiries
The ADEA does not specifically prohibit an employer from asking an applicant's age or date of birth. However, because such inquiries may deter older workers from applying for employment or may otherwise indicate possible intent to discriminate based on age, requests for age information will be closely scrutinized to make sure that the inquiry was made for a lawful purpose, rather than for a purpose prohibited by the ADEA.
Benefits
The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (OWBPA) amended the ADEA to specifically prohibit employers from denying benefits to older employees. Congress recognized that the cost of providing certain benefits to older workers is greater than the cost of providing those same benefits to younger workers, and that those greater costs would create a disincentive to hire older workers. Therefore, in limited circumstances, an employer may be permitted to reduce benefits based on age, as long as the cost of providing the reduced benefits to older workers is the same as the cost of providing benefits to younger workers.
Waivers of ADEA Rights
An employer may ask an employee to waive his/her rights or claims under the ADEA either in the settlement of an ADEA administrative or court claim or in connection with an exit incentive program or other employment termination program. However, the ADEA, as amended by OWBPA, sets out specific minimum standards that must be met in order for a waiver to be considered knowing and voluntary and, therefore, valid. Among other requirements, a valid ADEA waiver must:
be in writing and be understandable;
specifically refer to ADEA rights or claims;
not waive rights or claims that may arise in the future;
be in exchange for valuable consideration;
advise the individual in writing to consult an attorney before signing the waiver; and
provide the individual at least 21 days to consider the agreement and at least seven days to revoke the agreement after signing it.
If an employer requests an ADEA waiver in connection with an exit incentive program or other employment termination program, the minimum requirements for a valid waiver are more extensive.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
Prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals who have disabilities, because of their disabilities.

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations. The ADA's nondiscrimination standards also apply to federal sector employees under section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, and its implementing rules.

An individual with a disability is a person who:

Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
Has a record of such an impairment; or
Is regarded as having such an impairment.
A qualified employee or applicant with a disability is an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job in question. Reasonable accommodation may include, but is not limited to:

Making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.
Job restructuring, modifying work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position;
Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices, adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies, and providing qualified readers or interpreters.
An employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the employer's business. Undue hardship is defined as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of factors such as an employer's size, financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operation.

An employer is not required to lower quality or production standards to make an accommodation; nor is an employer obligated to provide personal use items such as glasses or hearing aids.

Title I of the ADA also covers:

Medical Examinations and Inquiries
Employers may not ask job applicants about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability. Applicants may be asked about their ability to perform specific job functions. A job offer may be conditioned on the results of a medical examination, but only if the examination is required for all entering employees in similar jobs. Medical examinations of employees must be job related and consistent with the employer's business needs.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Employees and applicants currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs are not covered by the ADA when an employer acts on the basis of such use. Tests for illegal drugs are not subject to the ADA's restrictions on medical examinations. Employers may hold illegal drug users and alcoholics to the same performance standards as other employees.
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on disability or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the ADA.

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?
Many U.S. employers offer sick leave pay. Some even offer accrued sick leave pay when employees quit or get laid off. But there are no state laws that mandate sick leave pay, according to Nolo.com. It's strictly voluntary* for employers. They typically offer it as a benefit to attract and retain employees.

If employers do offer sick leave pay, then employees are entitled to it, if they comply with the terms and conditions in related policies or employment contracts. Since it's a voluntary benefit, employers may call the shots. For example, by policy, your employer can require you to submit a doctor's note to receive your sick leave pay. However, if employers don't apply their sick leave policies consistently to all employees, "cheated" employees might be able to sue.

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you might be entitled by Federal law to take up to 12 weeks of sick leave for your own or a family member's illness, without losing your job or group health benefits.

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