What is Employment Law?
Employment law is a broad practice area encompassing all areas of the employer/employee relationship, except collective bargaining (which is covered under labor law). Employment law describes the practice of interpreting and enforcing the rights of employees and the obligations of employers within the employment relationship. Employment law covers the entire spectrum of the employment relationship, including advertising for candidates, interviewing, hiring, promoting, disciplining and even post- separation or termination. Employment lawyers research, litigate or provide advice on wage disputes, worker classifications, employment contracts, discrimination, leaves of absences, accommodations for employees with disabilities, and employee eligibility for unemployment or workers compensation.
Labor Law and Collective Bargaining
“Labor Law” similarly describes the practice of interpreting and enforcing the rights of employees and the obligations of employers, but typically includes negotiating (or “bargaining”) working conditions and interpreting the rights and obligations according to a final negotiated agreement.
“Collective Bargaining” is a process in which employers, employees and their respective representatives engage in statutorily or contractually- required negotiations aimed at reaching agreements to regulate working conditions. Collective bargaining for Ohio public employees is governed by O.R.C. Chapter 4117. The statute requires that parties collectively bargain “all matters pertaining to wages, hours, or terms and other conditions of employment.” R.C. §4117.08(A).
Employee vs. Independent Contractor
An “employee” includes a person in the service of another under any contract of hire, express or implied, oral or written, where the employer has the power or right to control and direct the employee in the material details of how the work is to be performed. By contrast, an “independent contractor” includes one who agrees to complete a piece of work according to her own methods and is subject to an employer’s control only as to the end product or final result of her work.
Authorities in Employment Law
Statutes: Constitutions and statutes at both the federal and state level govern various employment-related situations. Some examples include:
- The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”);
- The Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OSH Act”);
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”);
- The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”);
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”);
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”);
- The Family Medical and Leave Act (“FMLA”);
- The Ohio Civil Rights Act;
- The Ohio Wage and Hour Act;
- The Ohio Unemployment Act; and
- The Ohio Workers Compensation Act.
Common Law: The common law helps define employment relationships. Some example doctrines include:
- The “Control Test” and its 20 factors (a common law doctrine used by the IRS and other agencies to make employee vs. independent contractor determinations, under IRS Revenue Ruling 87–41);
- The “At-Will” Employment Doctrine (holding that an Ohio employee can be discharged at any time, with or without cause, absent certain exceptions, under Wright v. Honda of America Mfg., Inc., 73 Ohio St.3d 571 (1995));
- The “Stray Remarks” Doctrine, (discriminatory statements are not probative of discrimination if there is no direct nexus to the adverse employment decision, under Byrnes v. LCI Communication Holdings Co., 77 Ohio St.3d 125 (1996));
- The “Genaro” Doctrine (supervisors in private businesses are considered “employers” under O.R.C. Chapter 4112 and can be held individually liable for discrimination, under Genaro v. Central Transport, Inc., 84 Ohio St.3d 293 (1999)); and
- The “Greeley” Doctrine (recognizing the common law claim of public policy wrongful discharge, under Greeley v. Miami Valley Maintenance Contractors, Inc., 49 Ohio St.3d 228 (1990).
Jurisdiction for Employment Law Disputes
Employment law matters may be handled in mediation, arbitration, or before the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or federal and state court systems.