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What is Labor Law?

Definition of Labor Law

Labor law primarily concerns the rights and responsibilities of unionized employees. Some groups of employees find unions beneficial, since employees have a lot more power when they negotiate as a group rather than individually. Unions can negotiate for better pay, more convenient hours, and increased workplace safety. However, unions do not have limitless power. Leaders must treat all union members fairly and refrain from restricting union members' rights to speech, assembly, and voting powers.

Employers also must follow specific rules when dealing with union members. For example, employers may only negotiate with designated union representatives and must carefully any agreement between the union and the employer.

States are allowed to make their own laws concerning labor relations, but all of these laws must comply with the federal statute, known as the National Labor Relations Act.

Labor law can also refer to the set of standards for working conditions and wage laws. These laws, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, prohibits child labor, and sets a minimum wage.

Terms to Know

  • Collective Bargaining: The act of negotiating with a union.
  • Organize: When used in a labor context, "organize" means to form a union.
  • "Right to Work" Laws: Legislation that prohibits or restricts employees' abilities to unionize.

Practice Area Notes

Many labor attorneys are either hired by unions or by the corporations that hire unionized employees. Most individuals would not hire a labor attorney unless they were thinking of organizing their own union.

Since states can make their own laws about unions, labor laws vary greatly between the states, or between industries. Some industries are required to allow employees to organize, but in other industries employees are specifically prohibited from unionizing. To learn more about the labor laws in your state, contact a qualified local labor attorney using the search tool below.

Related Practice Areas

  • Employment Law: Labor law sets standards for employer and employee conduct in the workplace and can play a major role in many employment law cases.
  • Wage and Benefit Law: Wage and benefit cases often look to labor law to determine the relevant minimum wage.
  • Education Law: Teachers, along with other public sector employees, are much more likely to be union members than other professions. Contracts negotiated with teachers' unions often have a major impact on education policy.
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