What Is Employment Law?

What Is Employment Law

The laws, including the regulations, rules and statutes that cover the relationship between an employer and his or her employees are collectively known as the employment law. These laws govern everything from collective bargaining agreements and contracts to laws about safety, discrimination and wages. Businesses are expected to be familiar with the laws and to follow them scrupulously. An experienced employment law attorney at Swartz Swidler helps workers whose employers have violated their rights by violating the employment laws.

What is the at-will presumption?

A majority of employees work in at-will employment, which means that the relationship between them and their employers is entered into voluntarily by both. With at-will employment, either the employee or the employer may end the relationship for any reason and at any time unless their relationship is governed by an employment contract. While employment is presumed to be at will, there are several exceptions to the presumption. Employers are not allowed to fire workers for any of the following reasons:

  • ‌Discriminatory purposes on the basis of an employee’s protected status
  • In retaliation for a worker filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • In retaliation for whistleblowing
  • In order to avoid paying large bonuses

Even when a worker’s relationship with his or her employer is at-will, the employer should be able to demonstrate good cause for terminating the employee so that the employer can avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Wages and hours

Federal law covers the hourly pay for workers who are not exempt. New Jersey has its own wage and hour law, which provides for a higher minimum wage than what is federally required. Pennsylvania’s wage and hour laws mirror those of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. There are also rules that are outlined regarding child labor, overtime pay and basic record-keeping requirements for employers.


There are numerous federal and state safety laws and regulations that are meant to protect employees from workplace hazards that could result in injuries or diseases. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 establishes workplace safety standards for employers. Companies that do not follow these laws and regulations may be civilly or criminally prosecuted.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania also have workers’ compensation laws so that employees who contract work-related diseases or who are injured while working may seek and recover benefits. These laws require employers to carry coverage to pay medical expenses and permanent or temporary disability benefits to employees who are injured.

Pensions and other benefits

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act governs employers who offer qualified pension plans or retirement accounts to their workers. The law has rules for vesting, participating, funding, disclosure, reporting and fiduciary responsibility. It also establishes enforcement rules for qualified retirement plans. Many companies that set up ERISA retirement plans seek out the advice of employment law attorneys to make certain that they comply with this act.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act covers businesses that have 50 or more employees. Under the FMLA, employees have the right to take up to 12 weeks of time off from work each year for medical reasons for themselves or to care for their family members. New Jersey also has its own leave law that provides some additional coverage. To learn more about your rights under one of the employment laws, contact Swartz Swidler today.