Employment Law is a vast and complex area of the law that dictates rules and standards for the relationship between employer and employee. It is governed at the Federal level by the United States Department of Labor, and at the state level by specialized local government bodies. In Pennsylvania, state employment and labor laws are administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry and in New Jersey by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
One of the reasons Employment Law is complex is there are different laws and exceptions for certain industries and occupations, including agricultural workers, healthcare workers and certain government workers.
Bringing a lawsuit is especially complicated when considering the interaction between the administrative and judicial process. In Pennsylvania, before an individual can bring a lawsuit before the court, they must exhaust their administrative remedies. This means that the employee must first file a claim with either the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If you file a claim in court without first filing with the PHRC or EEOC, your case will be dismissed.
Employees in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are protected from discrimination under both state and federal law. It is advised to dually file with both agencies in order to preserve your claim under both PA state and federal law. The PHRC grants employees protection and rights under PA state law, while the EEOC is the administrative agency of the federal government that investigates claims of discrimination under federal law. The purpose of these agencies is to investigate the claim and encourage the parties to reach a resolution of the case through a settlement before the need for litigation in court.
Employment Law may encompass Civil Rights, Discrimination, Affirmative Action, Sexual Harassment, Contracts, Wrongful Termination, and the recent legislation, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.
Employment Law often crosses into other areas of the law and government. It can include occupational safety and health regulations, workplace standards, minimum wage and overtime pay, child labor protection in both agricultural and nonagricultural employment, health benefits, retirement plans and pensions, workers with disabilities, family medical leave, closings and layoffs, and whistleblower and retaliation protection.
Employment Law also includes unemployment compensation and various other benefits. While unemployment compensation is funded partially by the federal government, it is administered by state government and the requirements of eligibility as well as the amount of compensation can vary from state to state.
Employment Law also covers appropriate and inappropriate action of both the employee and the employer as well as their rights and responsibilities, and their relationship with one another. This can also include action by other employees who may be in a managerial or supervisory position. Both employers and employees have rights, and there are standards, laws, governmental bureaus and arbitration agencies that define those rights.
Employment Law also covers the treatment of job applicants as well as former employees.
Employment attorneys can assist you with protecting your rights in the areas of discrimination, civil rights violations, sexual harassment, wrongful termination and other problems. Employment lawyers can also advise employers or businesses on federal, state and local laws and regulations, as well as suggest ways to reduce the potential for employment litigation.
Another area of Employment Law that Freundlich & Littman, LLC. has particular experience in, is the drafting and enforcement of restrictive covenants, also known as non-compete agreements. As in many states, non-competition covenants in Pennsylvania are seen as a restraint on trade and are not favored by the courts, particularly if drafted by the employer and not negotiated between the parties. Enforcement of non-competition clauses results in a balancing of the employer’s legitimate protectable interest(s) against the hardship imposed upon the employee by the restriction upon the employee’s ability to work.
Many employers understandably want to limit or eliminate the ability of all or certain key employees to compete with the their businesses, whether that employment is severed as the result of an amicable separation or a termination. Certain essential concepts must be kept in mind at the beginning (when entering into non-competition agreements) and at the end of an employment relationship (when deciding whether and how to attempt to enforce such agreements).
Austin R. Freundlich, Esquire and Gregory C. Littman, Esquire are attorneys experienced in Employment Law. If you are experiencing an employment problem with the potential for legal implications, find out your legal rights and options and contact us at (215) 545-8500 or info@FreundlichandLittman.com for a free consultation and case evaluation.