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Employer and Employee Relationship

When employers start a business (or open a branch of an existing business), they require employees to produce, administer, organize, publicize, sell, transport, maintain, repair, etc. They advertise job openings, conduct interviews, and hire individuals based on qualifications, requirements and wages. They usually provide training to newly-hired employees and make them aware of the company's policies, rules and goals. They assign tasks according to the job positions and employee profiles, and may offer vacations, health insurance coverage, workers’ compensation, and other benefits. But one day, sooner or later, the employer may serve an employee the dreaded pink slip, and terminate his/her employment without any valid reason or cause. The employee becomes an ex-employee and, usually but not always, is eligible for unemployment insurance. And his/her employment process begins again.

From the beginning of the employment to the end, the employee may have been treated unlawfully, discriminated against, harassed, denied his/her due wages or benefits, made to work in unsafe conditions, or wrongfully terminated.

Years ago, the relationship between employer and employee was governed by the assumption that employers were like kings and were free to offer any terms of employment and treat their employees in any way they dictated, and the employees were free to either accept or reject those terms (i.e., take it or leave it). There were few laws and protections available to employees that would safeguard their interests at times of manipulation, shabby treatment, defamation, discrepancies, retaliation, unfair practices, etc. Employees did not have a platform to voice theirprotests.

Initially, it was the unions that protested employers' unfair practices and demanded that employees be provided rights. In the 1930s, the federal government enacted the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which called for fair wages and safe workplaces. The NLRA set off a deluge of new laws governing the workplace.

With the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, the federal government, followed by many state governments, began to enact laws prohibiting discrimination against women and minority group members and barring discrimination against older employees. In 1970 the federal government enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), setting minimum workplace safety standards. By 1990 Congress had enacted laws prohibiting discrimination against disabled workers, and requiring employers to reasonably accommodate such workers if the accommodation did not cause undue hardship on the employer.

Today, employees and job applicants are protected by various federal and state laws. Many state courts have recognized additional employee rights that have not been set out in written statutes, but instead are part of common law, based solely upon earlier court rulings. Employers no longer have the right to treat their employees any way they desire. Employees have the right to protest, make claims, file litigation, and seek damages, if they believethey have been mistreated at any stage of the employment relationship.

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