Employment Law 101
The headings below introduce areas of American jurisprudence that impact employment law in one regard or another. Please note that this article is designed to give you an overview; we’ll address the details of each area later. What I want you to be able to do after reading this article is understand how employment law fits into our legal framework generally. If you have questions about this material, please ask, but I may request that you to table it until we get to the relevant chapter.
U.S. and State Constitutions
All laws in the United States exist courtesy of the U.S. Constitution. As I’m sure you know, the Constitution distributes federal powers across three branches: the executive (i.e., the President); legislative (i.e., Congress); and judicial (i.e., the courts). Congress makes the laws, the courts interpret them, and the President ensures their orderly operation via broad powers over the governmental agencies that enforce them. The executive branch is where we find agencies like the U.S. Department of Labor as well as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. By the way, because the President appoints the heads of these agencies, their agendas tend to be more employee-friendly during a Democratic administration and employer-friendly when a Republican is in power. This isn’t always the case, but it’s a pretty good rule of thumb.
Each state also has its own constitution. State constitutions can never contradict our federal constitution, but they may provide for rights and benefits that vary from federal constitutional protections. For example, California’s constitution affords each individual an express right to privacy. Believe it or not, there is no such right to privacy specifically stated anywhere in the U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights (i.e., the first ten amendments to the federal constitution) – although courts now consider privacy interests to fall under the Due Process...