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- HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
- LABOR LAW v EMPLOYMENT LAW
- US EMPLOYMENT AND LABOR LAW
- UK EMPLOYMENT AND LABOR LAW
- EUROPEAN LABOR LAW
I. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
- Less than a century ago, there was little or no protection for employees ;
- Employers were able to treat their employees however they wanted ;
- The Industrial Revolution changed things ;
- Employment law protects employees from any mistreatment by their employers ;
- Employment law also includes protection against discrimination in the workplace.
II. LABOR LAW v EMPLOYMENT LAW
- Labor law deals with the relationship concerning the employer and organized labor (syndicats) such as trade/ labor union.
There are 2 divisions in the labor law : collective labor law (it relates to the relationship between employee, employer and union) and individual labor law (concerns employees’ rights at work through a contract for work).
- Employment law refers to the relationship between individual employees and their employers.
- A trade union (organisation syndicale) is an organization of members consisting mainly of workers : its aim is to protect the interest of its members in the workplace.
- A collective gargaining agreement (convention collective) is a labor contract between an employer and one or more labor unions. It governs working conditions for employees.
III. US EMPLOYMENT AND LABOR LAW
- Employment at will (selon la volonté) – In the US, employees are generally employed at will, which means that they can be hired (embauchés) and fired (virés) as each party wishes ;
- The rule of at-will employment does not apply when there is a contract between the parties that establishes a definite period of employment ;
- The US is the major industrial power that maintains a general employment-at-will rule ;
- In the US, some states have recognized exceptions to the at will doctrine : for example, when an employee has received an explicit promise that termination will only occur for good cause ;
- The difference between an at will employee and an independent contractor – It is that employers of employees are obligated to withhold payroll taxes (taxes salariales), whereas independent contractors pay these individually ;
- Independent contractors are more « free » than employees : for example, they maintain control over their schedule ;
- Discrimination – In the US, it is illegal under federal law to discriminate against a person on the grounds of race, colour, sex, religion, disability (handicap), age, marital status etc.
- Remedies available under US law include equitable relief such as reinstatement (réintégration) or back pay (salaire rétroactif).
- Bona fide occupational qualification (exigences professionnelles justifiées) is a quality that employers are allowed to consider when making decisions on the hiring and retention of employees.
- Employee rights – Employees have the right to leave, for instance, for birth, adoption and health problems.
- Employees who denounce illegal activity – known as whistleblowers (dénonciateurs) – are protected both by state and federal laws.
- Termination of employment – Employment may be terminated either voluntarily (the employee chooses to leave his orher job) or involuntarily (it is the employee’s removal by the employer) ;
- Layoff as an economic termination (licenciement économique) is an involuntary termination due to economic reasons.
- Restrictive covenants in employment agreements (clauses restrictives dans les contrats de travail) – Employees may be required to sign a restrictive covenant as part of their employment contact, which may bind the employee to confidentiality, non-competition etc.
- Employee benefits – Some work contracts include benefits for the employee (holiday, health insurance etc.) but there is no obligation to do so.
- Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1970, employers are under a duty to provide a safe workplace for their employees.
- Various federal laws set minimum standards for salary and work-related conditions (la gestion des conditions de travail).
IV. UK EMPLOYMENT AND LABOR LAW
- Contract of employment – All employees are entitled to a basic statement of their terms and conditions of employment which must be provided within 2 months of commencing employment (salary, holidays, sick leave, hours of work, maternity leave, place of work etc), although they do not necessarily have to sign a written contract – that is, the employment contract could be an oral agreement.
- Implied terms in employment contracts – Some terms in employment contracts are implied and do not need to be written into the contract.
For example : the employee has a duty to be honest and loyal.
- Bullying (harcèlement) – It is a repeated behaviour which can intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate an employee. In this case, the employee can terminate his or her contract of employment without notice (préavis). It can lead to a finding (un verdict) by an Employment Tribunal. The employee may receive damages.
- Pay statement (bulletin de paie) – An employee has the right to receive an individual, detailed written pay statement from his or her employer.
- Dismissals (les renvois de salariés) – Dismissal occurs when an employer terminates an employee’s contract or when a fixed term contract ends and is not renewed. In both cases, the dismissal may be considered either fair or unfair.
- UK employment Tribunal process – An employee who believes that he or she is entitled to make a complaint to an employment tribunal should first seek to resolve the dispute through a conciliatory service ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), and then, if this fails, in front of an Employment Tribunal (ET).
- The ET is composed of a chairman who is a lawyer and two other members, one representing employers, the other representing employees.
- Both parties have a right to ask for a review of the decision and a right to appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).
V. EUROPEAN LABOR LAW
- While each European country has its own specific labor laws, the European Union (EU) establishes requirements that all EU countries must respect ;
- For instance, European law sets the framework (le cadre, la trame) that all EU countries must respect concerning the maximum number of hours in a working day, minimum standards of worker protection, and the guarantee of worker mobility.