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Kind of Employees

Private sector employees

Most private sector employees are governed by the “employment at will” doctrine. It states that both an employer and an employee have the privilege to end a working relationship without prior notice or explanation. As long as the motive is not illegal, an employer has the right to fire an employee at any time, with or without a reason.

However, there are number of exceptions to this general rule, under both state and federal laws. For example, state and federal law prohibits an employer from firing an employee because of age, sex, race, religion, national origin, or disability. Also, a woman employee cannot be fired because she is pregnant or has had an abortion.

Discrimination in the private sector is not directly constrained by the U.S. Constitution, but has become subject to a growing body of federal and state statutes.

Employees also have the same freedom of quitting a job at any time; they cannot be forced to work. In the same way, employers have no obligation to continue with an employee’s services. When the private sector employer hires a person, it is presumed that both parties have the right to end the working relationship at will. If the employee is fired without any good cause, he or she may be entitled to unemployment compensation benefits, but that, too, depends on certain terms and conditions.

Government employees

Government employees are not governed by the “employment at will” doctrine. All federal, state and local government employees are protected by the 5th and 14th Amendments. These prohibit the government from depriving any person of "life, liberty or property" without due process of law. Government employees enjoy job security, and their services cannot be terminated under circumstances that violate the United States Constitution or the constitution of the state in which they work.

These employees are presumed to have “property rights” in their jobs and the right to due process in cases of arbitrary dismissals not linked to job performance. Before termination, a government employer has to offer a reasonable explanation to the employee and also provide a proper channel for the employee to answer those charges. If the charges are going to impede future job prospects, the employee has the right to a “name clearing” hearing.

The government employer may form certain rules and regulations in the interest of the organization, which might limit the public employee's freedom of speech or conduct. In cases where the employee violates these rules, disrupts the proper functioning of the organization, and puts confidentiality at stake, the employee may be fired for this misdemeanor.

Most civil service employees cannot be terminated without a just cause, and the employer must prove that the termination is in the best interests of the agency or other organization. Unlike civil service employees, non-civil service employees have less job termination benefits or job security. However, there might be certain statutes to protect them from wrongful termination, or have employment contracts that help safeguard their interests.

Federal civil service employees—those who are in the competitive service and have completed a year-long probationary period, or are in the expected service, completing two years of service in the same or similar positions—have the right to appeal their termination to the United States Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). The appeal has to be filed within 30 days from the effective date of the termination.

Other government employees may have the right to file a claim against improper termination at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. If the employment has been terminated because of discrimination based on age, sex, religion, disability, race, color, or national origin, such employees should approach the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 45 days from the effective date of the termination notice. In most states, employees of the state, civil, or classified service can approach similar administrative bodies with their appeal. Public employees' unions covered by labor agreements may have alternate rights for settlement.

However, there are public sector employees who are not protected from wrongful expulsion. For example: political appointees, serving at the pleasure of a governmental unit; policy-making employees; fiduciary employees (holding a special independent position of trust); and employees with special political loyalty. These employees might be expelled without cause or due to political reasons.

Union employees

Union members are not “employment at will” employees. A union member’s employment depends upon the terms and conditions of the union contract. The employer cannot fire an employee at will. If the job termination was based on a just cause, the employee has full rights to a proper hearing before a neutral arbitrator. The arbitrator has the power to reinstate the employee with or without back pay, and usually the court upholds the arbitrator’s decision.

The collective bargaining agreements between labor unions and employers lay down guidelines for union employees' rights. The employer is tied to the Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) and the employee is protected under such an agreement. If the employee is fired illegally, he/she has full rights to challenge such termination. The employee has to be informed in writing and given appropriate reasons for his/her expulsion. The causes given must be just and not infringe on any of the CBA guidelines.

The agreement is formulated while keeping in mind the best interests of the employee, and to provide protection against any unlawful practices of the employer. Employees have the right to read the agreement and object to any of its provisions.

Contract employees

Certain employees—such as senior executives, academics, performers, athletes, and some “well-placed” employees—work under individual employment contracts that provide protection against unjust dismissal before completion of the contract period.

Independent contractors

Most federal and state laws do not apply to self-employed, independent contractors. Clearly, an independent contractor is not an employee. Independent contractors are different from employees in many respects and, depending on their status, will be treated differently under the law. If it is determined that the company does not have the right to supervise the person's time, performance, working conditions and other related activities, there is legally no employment relationship.

If there is a court hearing, the court decides— after considering the facts—whether the person is in business for his/her own purposes and profits, or is economically dependant on the company.

Temporary employees

Temporary employees may be part of an agency or a leasing or staffing company. They might be appointed for an uncertain period of time to complete a particular project or to carry out certain duties and responsibilities. Most of such appointments do not have job security or fringe benefits, and are not considered an employee of the worksite employer. There are occasions when the worksite employer is considered a “joint employer” and is considered responsible for discriminatory acts committed by its supervisors.

Day laborers

Day laborers are people employed on a day-to-day, temporary basis. They either get work through a day laborer agency, or by waiting at a designated location for employers to hire them. Workers often do not know from day to day whether they will get work or not. There is no union protection for them. Despite the non-standard nature of the day laborer/employer relationship, day laborers are entitled to the benefits of the minimumwage and overtime laws.

Probationary employee

Many career employees serve a probationary period of employment that might last anywhere from week or so to a year. This period is the most important and last stage of the selection process. During this period, employees are evaluated to see if they are suitable and capable of meeting the needs of the position for which they were hired. If it becomes apparent to the supervisor that an employee cannot satisfactorily perform the assigned duties, after reasonable efforts have been made to help, the services are terminated once the probationary contract period ends.

Federal probationary employees who are wrongfully fired may appeal such decisions with a government employment agency, or they can consult with an attorney to file a lawsuit. If they have been discharged because of discrimination based on race, color, age, national origin, sex, religion, or disability, they can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

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