Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”)

A federal law that protects older employees from employment discrimination in hiring, promotions, wages, or termination of employment and layoffs on the basis of age.

Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)

Enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1990, signed into law on July 26, 1990 and later amended with changes effective January 1, 2009, The “ADA” is a federal law that protects employees from discrimination on the basis of disability, and requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for their employees’ disabilities.

At-will Employment

A type of employment relationship in which there was is express contract governing the employment relationship and either party may end the employment relationship at any time, for any reason or for no reason at all, without liability.

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (“COBRA”)

A federal law that requires employers (generally those with 20 or more full time equivalent employees) to allow employees to continue their health insurance coverage after termination, in the same insurance group, at the group rate, and providing the same benefits.

Constructive Discharge

A type of termination of the employment relationship in which the employee quits, but the employer is liable as if a wrongful termination occurred, because the employee was forced to resign due to intolerable working conditions. The employee may resign over a single serious incident or over a pattern of incidents and must prove that the behavior was unlawful.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”)

The independent federal administrative agency that enforces laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. The EEOC investigates discrimination complaints based on an individual’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, perceived intelligence, disability and retaliation for reporting and/or opposing a discriminatory practice. It is empowered to file discrimination suits against employers on behalf of alleged victims and to adjudicate claims of discrimination brought against federal agencies.

Equal Pay Act

A federal law that requires employers to pay the same to all employees who do the same work which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than gender.

Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”)

The federal law entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave to take care of their own or a family member’s illness, or to care for a newborn or adopted child with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.

Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment exists when an employee experiences workplace harassment and fears going to work because the atmosphere is so charged with harassment or similar unwanted behavior that it interferes with the ability to do one’s job and is said to violate anti-discrimination laws.

Minimum Wage

The set minimum hourly rate that employers are legally required to pay to employees in certain industries.

Sexual Harassment

The intimidation, bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors by an employer or supervisor that becomes a condition of the employee’s employment or represents a threat to the employee’s continued employment.

Wage Garnishment

Deducting or seizing money from an employee’s compensation, as part of the payroll process, pursuant to a court order. Common examples of debts that result in garnishments include: child support, defaulted student loans, taxes and unpaid court fines.

Whistleblower

The term for an employee who “blows the whistle” on the dishonest or illegal activities of an employer, i.e., who reports to the authorities an employer’s illegal action or practice. Whistleblowers are entitled to a number of protections under state and federal law.