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Employee Rights - Glossary


Abuse of process - A cause of action that arises when one party misuses the legal process to injure the other.

Accessible - Easy to approach, enter, operate, participate in, or use safely, independently and with dignity by a person with disability (e.g., site, facility, work environment, service or program).

ADA - The Americans with Disabilities Act protects disabled individuals from employment discrimination, and requires employers to offer reasonable accommodation to employees with disability.

ADEA - The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects people age 40 and above from employers’ discriminatory practices based on age.

"At will" employment - An employment relationship where there is no contractual agreement or obligation, and an employer is free to fire an employee for any reason or no reason, and the employee is free to quit at any time.

Administrative remedy - A correction or award made through a governmental agency, such as the EEOC or DOL.

ADR - The Alternative Dispute Resolution employs various procedures for the resolution of disputes. Each ADR procedure is a fair and efficient alternative to court adjudication that must be voluntarily entered into by all parties. Some of the more common ADR procedures include arbitration, mediation, and conciliation. ADR is encouraged under the Americans with Disabilities Act to resolve conflicts between employer-employees without litigation.

Adverse Impact - A negative effect, especially work rules that have an adverse impact on a protected group.

Affirmative action - The policy that provides an advantage to accomplish the purpose of a program that is designed to increase employment opportunities of protected groups. It may involve goals, timetables, or specifically outlined steps to be undertaken to assure that objectives are reached.

After-acquired evidence - Evidence an employer discovers after an employee is fired wrongfully. It would have provided just cause to fire the person, and can be used to limit the employer’s damages.

Agency shop - It is a clause in a collective bargaining agreement which requires non-union members to pay the union an amount equal to the amount of members’ dues.

Allegations - Written statements of a party to a lawsuit, charging the other party with wrongdoings.

Anticipatory breach - A breach of contract that occurs when one party, such as the employee, states in advance of performance that he/she will definitely not perform under the terms of his/her contract.

Appeal - A proceeding whereby the losing party to a lawsuit requests that a higher court determine the correctness of a decision.

Arbitrator - A neutral person chosen to judge and decide on a disputed issue between an employee and an employer.

Arbitration - The hearing and determination of a dispute by an impartial referee agreed to by both an employee and an employer. The process is legally binding on both parties.

Assumption of risk - A legal theory, which states that the employee who is well aware of the risk at work but still engages in such activities without protest, cannot recover damages if he/she is injured by the hazard.

Auxiliary aids and services - Devices or services that accommodate a functional limitation of a person with a communication-related disability. The term includes qualified interpreters and communication devices for persons who are deaf or persons who are hard of hearing. For example: qualified readers, taped texts, Braille, or other devices for persons with visual impairments; adaptive equipment for persons with other communication disabilities; or similar services and actions.

Award - A decision made by a judicial body to compensate the winning party in a lawsuit.


Back pay - A damage awarded in a lawsuit allowing recovery of wages an employee would have earned, if he/she had not been wrongfully fired.

Base period - The minimum period of working time required to qualify for unemployment compensation benefits.

Base period wages - The minimum amount of base period earnings required to qualify for employment compensation benefits.

Blacklisting - Circulating or publishing a person’s name with the intention of interfering with his/her chances for employment.

Bill of particulars - A document used in a lawsuit that specifically details the loss alleged by the plaintiff.

Boycott - Employees’ refusal to work for or patronize an employer with whom a union is involved in a labor dispute.


COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) - It gives terminated employees the right to continuation of health insurance coverage.

Casual employee - A worker who performs a job that is not within the scope of the employer’s usual business.

Civil lawsuit - A lawsuit brought by one individual (or entity) against another, as opposed to a criminal lawsuit, which is brought by the government against an individual or entity.

Company union - A union supported by and effectively controlled by an employer, either financially or otherwise.

Compensatory damages - Damages awarded by a court to repay an individual for losses suffered.

Continuation - The right of employees under COBRA to remain on their employer’s group health insurance policy after termination, usually for up to a year and a half.

Conversion - The right of an employee, following the expiration of his/her right of continuation of group health insurance under COBRA, to convert to an individual policy.


DOL - Department of Labor

Defamation - An oral or written statement damaging a person’s character.

Defendant - The person (or entity) being sued by another.

Defined contribution plan - A pension plan in which the employer’s contribution is fixed, but the payout may vary depending on market conditions.


EEOC - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which administers and enforces civil rights laws.

Employee - A worker who is hired to perform a job.

Employer - One who has engaged or hired the services of another.

Employment agency - An agency that finds people to fill particular jobs, or finds jobs for unemployed people or employed people who wish to change jobs.

ERISA - The Employee Retirement Income Security Act. It outlines legal requirement for employer-sponsored retirement plans, pension plans, and other established plans for the benefit of employees.

Exempt employees - Employees who are not included in the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the FLSA, such as whitecollar employees.

Experience rate - An unemployment insurance premium based on an employer’s employee turnover rate.


FLSA - The Fair Labor Standard Act. It governs federal wage and hour laws.

FMLA - The Family and Medical Leave Act. It requires employers of 50 or more employees to allow eligible employees to take up to 20 weeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period, for family or medical emergencies, without risking loss of job.

Front Pay - A damage award that pays a discharged or notpromoted employee the additional pay he/she would have earned if reinstated. This happens when another person has been hired for the position and the employee cannot be reinstated.


Gross misconduct - A breach of work rules or behavioral standards that is so substantial as to warrant immediate discharge.


Handicap - A limitation in the capacity to perform one or more of life’s major activities.

Hostile working environment - An environment created by a pattern or practice of unwelcome behavior that unreasonably interferes with an individual’s job performance.

Hours worked - The hours that an employee is required to work or allowed to work and for which he/she is paid under the FLSA.


INS - Immigration and Naturalization Service. It administers and enforces the Immigration Reform and Control Act.

IRCA - The Immigration Reform and Control Act. It outlines eligibility and verification requirements for legal employment in the United States.

Illegal alien - A foreign national not legally eligible to work in the United States.


Just cause - A legitimate reason, as opposed to an illegal or discriminatory reason.


LMRA - The Labor Management Relations Act, also called the Taft- Harley Act. It governs the relationship between unions and employers.

Libel - Defamation that is in writing. (Also see slander.)

Lie detector - An electronic device used to help determine the truth or falsity of statements made by the individual being examined.

Liquidated damages - An amount of money agreed on in advance, by parties to a contract, to be paid in the event of a breach of the contract.

Lockout - A labor dispute in which the employer prevents employees from entering the workplace until the dispute is resolved.


NLRB - The National Labor Relations Board. It administers and enforces the National Labor Relations Act, the law which defines the relationship between employers and unions.

National Origin - Ethic background

Negligent hiring - Employing someone for a job that would provide him/her with an opportunity to commit a crime against a customer or a client, where an adequate background check would have revealed prior offenses and would not have resulted in a repeat of the offence.

Non-compete agreement - An agreement that limits an employee’s right to work for an employer’s competitor or open a competing business.


OSHA - Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It administers and enforces the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act.


Petition - A request filed in the court by one party.

Plaintiff - The party who initiates a lawsuit.

Pre-determination hearing - An initial, informal workers’ compensation hearing, conducted to determine the merits of a contested claim for benefits.

Private employer - A non-governmental employer.

Public employer - A federal, state, or municipal government unit or any subdivision or agency thereof.

Punitive damages - Money awarded as punishment for a party’s wrongful acts.


Sexual Harassment - Prohibited conduct of a sexual nature that occurs at a workplace.

Slander - Oral defamation of a party’s reputation. (Also see libel.)

"Speak English only" rule - A workplace rule that requires employees to speak only English on the job.

Stock options - A retirement plan or other benefit in which employees are either given stock in the company or an option to purchase stock in the company.


Title VII - The section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, color, religion, or national origin.


Validation - A means of verifying the alleged non-discriminatory effect of pre-employment tests or other selection process.

Vesting - The establishment of an absolute right of ownership.


Whistle-blower - An employee who reports his/her employer’s violation of the law.

Willful misconduct - Unsuitable behavior in which an employee is engaged intentionally or with reckless disregard for the consequences.

Witness - A person who testifies at a judicial proceeding.

Workers’ compensation - A process in which an employee receives compensation for injuries sustained in the course of the employment.

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