Federal labor laws including the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and the Family Medical Leave Act pertain to regulations regarding pay, working conditions, working hours, and unpaid leave. Till this date there are no federal laws put in place to regulate the disciplinary and termination activities of the employer. Handling discipline and termination issues are totally under the discretion of the employer. Though the federal government does not intend to intervene in the decision of the employer in this connection, there are laws enacted to see that such processes once initiated are done fairly. Federal labor law posters 2013 will surely have this regulation included if you want to take a look.
Employers generally make the employees and job applicants understand that their employment with the firm is at-will. The expression ‘Employment-at-will’ means the employer reserves the right to sever the working association at any time either assigning reason or without assigning reason. In the same way, the employees also have their rights to end their working relationship with the employer. Often, the employment-at-will doctrine in misunderstood as a federal law. This is merely a guiding doctrine pertaining to a standard practice to which the employers adhere to while deciding to terminate employees on disciplinary actions.
The U.S. Department of Labor's webpage regarding issuing termination notice to employees says that the FLSA "has no requirements for notice to an employee prior to termination or layoff." Therefore, some employee terminations come under the purview of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, with due consideration to the size of the firm, reasons assigned for terminations or layoffs, and the number of employees affected by this measure. At the same time, WARN does not figure into the employer’s decision regarding disciplinary actions or terminations of employees. It only pronounces the processes and guidelines for employers to consider while they lay off or terminate employees on account of business slow down or closure.
Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws
The federal laws forbidding unfair employment practices include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination Act of 1967 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Talking in the context of decisions connected to employment, unfair practices might mean practices like issuing warnings to women while failing to discipline men, or firing someone on the basis of his or her race or national origin. No federal laws are enacted so far. However, there are laws that forbid employers from engaging in unfair ways of disciplining or terminating employees.
A few employers abide by formal disciplinary process like progressive discipline under which usually they give two to three warnings for poor performance, violating the company policies or misbehaving at workplace. If a given employee is noted to indulge in the same behavior actions for which he or she is served disciplinary warnings or write-ups, then the company might decide to terminate his or her services. However, employers need to implement the same set of disciplinary procedures in all cases of indiscipline issues failing which they shall be accused for unequal treatment. In other words, the department managers for instance should not demonstrate inconsistent practices while dealing with discipline and termination issues of same nature in two different cases.
The National Labor Relations Act forbids any discipline and termination of employees on the basis of whether the concerned employee is a union supporter. Especially during the six-week long representation campaign preceding a union election, NLRA requires that the employers should not implement disciplining or terminating activities giving an impression that the it was done since he or she favored a union support.