Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The History of Labor Law

Labor law, also referred to as employment law is the set of laws, regulations and articles that protect the rights of the working class. Labor law often ends up mediating employee relationships as they relate to their employer, labor unions, the government and even insurance companies. For employees working through a labor union, collective labor law applies, whereas the law entered into through working is considered individual labor law.

Back in the nineteenth century, labor law was instrumental in protecting the working class. Incidents during the Industrial Revolution such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire spawned the need for safer working conditions and rights that protected the worker. This has in turn helped evolve the workplace minimum quality standards and develop the economy.

Whereas child labor at the turn of the century might have seen children working in sweat shops or factories, today, the youth are an integral part of the workforce in industries such as fast-food and entertainment. However, child labor laws protect children and regulate their working hours, working days and occupational duties. Any business employing a youth under the age of 19 must post a labor law poster with child labor laws.

In 1938, minimum wage law was introduced in the United States. Today, minimum wage labor law posters must be posted by every employer. The federal government moderates the minimum wage, and states cannot pay hourly employees less. Currently, the federal labor law posters states that minimum wage is $7.25.

During the Industrial Revolution, workdays were much longer (typically 11 to 14 hours), whereas today, the maximum standard is 40 hours a week/8 hours a day, a result of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1950. There are some exceptions to this law for certain industries such as the agricultural industry, as crop harvesting is based on seasonality and weather conditions. Agricultural employers must post their own federal and state labor law posters and must comply with special health and safety regulations with their industry.

Other labor laws protect the rights of individuals for fair consideration and fair treatment on the job. These anti-discrimination laws make it illegal for businesses to discriminate on the basis of age, sex, religion, race, ethnicity, religion or political view. However, it wasn’t always this way. In fact, the Age Discrimination Act of 1967 made it illegal for employers to discriminate against potential new hires over the age of 40.

Today, labor laws are enforced through one main branch of government: the Department of Labor.

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