Overview Of Employment Laws In The United States

Legislation that Protect Employees from Discrimination in the Workplace

Under the United States federal laws, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee either through disparate impact or based on the employees' religion, race, disability or genetic information. In 2008 the Americans with disabilities act amendments act (ADAA) was signed into law, the bill had a significant change to the definition of the word disability which means anyone with a physical or mental impairment that s limits one's performance in life activities. Americans with disabilities act is a federal law stopping discrimination against individuals with disabilities and require that a workplace provides a conducive environment to someone who is legally disabled as described by the law. The genetic information Non-discrimination act does not allow for the discrimination of employees based on their genetic information. The law which was enacted in 2008 also prevents employers from asking an employee about his/ her genetic information. Genetic information under the act means information about an individual’s genetic test or information about specific diseases or disorders within the family members of an individual. This law does not cover medical tests such as drug tests which might be required by some employers. Federal laws apply to all the states in the USA while state laws apply to only the states in which they are enacted. Many states that have laws that prevent discrimination often mirror the federal laws however in some instances the laws provide additional protection that is not required by the federal laws such as laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. In a state with a more expansive protection mechanism against bias, then the state law will often predominate as a ground for employment law claims.

Examination of Employment at Will Doctrine

According to the employment at will doctrine, an employee can leave a job whenever they want, and for whatever reason, it also implies that an employer can also terminate the services of an employee for any purpose without incurring any legal liabilities. However, certain exceptions apply, for example, a boss cannot fire an employee based on discriminatory reasons such as age, gender, religion, or in some states, sexual orientation. Moreover, an employee cannot be fired for filing compensation claims or asking for better wages or for engaging in legal activities such as union activities. Additionally, an employee cannot be fired if he or she has a contract which can be either verbal or written that limits the reasons for termination. Also, under the covenant of good faith and fair dealings an employee cannot be fired if the termination will lead to loss of certain services like pension or health benefits if he is gravely sick or old. Finally, an employee's cannot be fired if his or her termination will be contrary to public policy. The decision by Brenda to fire the worker who was protesting on the company website for employee grievances was not a smart decision because an employee was openly expressing herself in a forum created by Brenda for employee grievances and was advocating for the formation of a union. If she sues for wrongful termination, the exception that an employee cannot be fired for engaging in legal activities such as union activities, can apply in this case. In this scenario, Jason was right to right to fire his secretary Alice, and she cannot sue for wrongful termination based on religious discrimination as the clause explicitly states that discrimination statutes protect members belonging to certain groups only from adverse employment actions made because of their memberships to those groups. In other terms, Jason may fire Alice because she failed to perform the duties required in her job but not because she is a Christian. Brian's decision to fire Lori for being absent without permission would be a wrong decision. First of all, Lori asked for a leave to attend jury duty, which Brian refused to grant. Furthermore, Lori can sue for unlawful termination citing the public policy clause, which states that one cannot be fired for engaging in activities that are in public interest such as jury duty. In the fourth scenario, it will be wrong for Peter to be fired because he is sick and cannot perform; besides his sickness has been aggravated by his exposure to chemicals. Therefore Peter can sue the boss for unlawful termination based on having a long term contract with the employer, in this case, a year, the employer will also be breaching the fair dealing and covenant of good faith by terminating peters employment due to his illness.

Federal Law with regards to Undocumented Workers

In 1986 the American Congress enacted the Immigration Reform and Control act of 1986 to control the number of undocumented immigrants in the USA. It also limited the benefits an undocumented worker can receive concerning federal health and safety laws. Even though some states recognize the compensation of undocumented workers under state laws, federal laws restrict benefits available to illegal immigrant workers. I firmly believe that all workers should have access to compensation, regardless of immigration status. This is because a majority number represents undocumented workers in occupations that are highly hazardous such as construction. Undocumented workers account for 4 percent of the countries labor force. Moreover, they are at higher risk of incurring job-related injuries since their employment contracts are short term, and they are not given adequate training and protective gear. Some of these workers are also unfamiliar with local laws on health and safety. Finally awarding undocumented workers compensation benefits will not undermine the federal regulations to limit illegal immigration, it's just a way of society recognizing their contributions and giving them considerations where it’s due.


  1. Hoffman, S. (2017). Big Data and the Americans with Disabilities Act: Amending the Law to Cover Discrimination Based on Data-Driven Predictions of Future Illnesses.
  2. Pizer, J. C. , Sears, B. , Mallory, C. , & Hunter, N. D. (2011). Evidence of persistent and pervasive workplace discrimination against LGBT people: The need for federal legislation prohibiting discrimination and providing for equal employment benefits. Loy. LAL Rev. , 45, 715.
  3. Sarver, D. L. (2018). The Future of Tort Litigation for Undocumented Immigrants in Donald Trump's Great America. U. Miami Race & Soc. Just. L. Rev. , 8, 83.
  4. Stone, K. V. (2007). Revisiting the At-Will Employment Doctrine: Imposed Terms, Implied Terms, and the Normative World of the Workplace. Industrial Law Journal, 36(1), 84-101. doi:10. 1093/indlaw/dwl042
10 December 2020
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